the Little Red Reviewer

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

Posted on: August 18, 2010

Legends can change us as much as we change them. Truth can be lost in legends, but it can also be found. The Name of the Wind is a story about legends. It is epic in that George R R Martin kind of way, elegant in that Lord Valentine kind of way, and alluring and heartbreaking in that “I don’t ever want to let this book out of my sight” kind of way. Although the 600+ pages looked daunting, especially in heavy hardback form, I knew 20 pages in that I would not be able to put this book down. Not only was I was right, but Name of the Wind is quickly turning into my favorite book I’ve read this year. All the hype surrounding Rothfuss? One look at how he bends subtleties of characterization and world building to his will, and you’ll know he hasn’t been hyped enough.

I find it hard to put into words how powerful, how transcendent , how moving The Name of the Wind was for me. Patrick Rothfuss uses simple language to weave a tale of beauty and heartbreak. You’d think I was talking about one of those annoying Jonathan Sparks novels except that this novel contains magic, revenge, mythological creatures come to life, demons, and gigantic metal spiders that kill you.

The story starts out simply enough, Kvothe (or “Kote” as he goes by) runs a small rural Inn, along with his student/assisstant Bast. One day, they get a visit from a travelling scribe named Chronicler. Chronicler makes it clear that he knows who Kote really is, and that he has travelled long and far for the honor of writing down Kvothe’s story.

When Name of the Wind first came out, someone asked Rothfuss what it was all about, he said he couldn’t talk about the plot without spoiling all the surprises, so he didn’t. That said, I’m not going to go much into plot either. Not only would it spoil everything, but I’d be tempted to tell you all my favorite parts and then this review would run about 10 pages.

No child could ask for a better upbringing than Kvothe. Raised by the travelling acting troup that his father leads, young Kvothe is never bored. An unusually bright child, his parents are thrilled when Arcanist Abenthy joins their troup. Abenthy takes Kvothe under his wing, teaching him the basics of sympathy and magical bindings. Before Abenthy leaves the troupe, he mentions to Kvothe’s parents that the best place for the boy to be is at the University. But how is a poverty stricken lute-playing gypsy child to afford the university?

The magic of this world is known as “sympathy”, it is a mental excercise requiring much training and focus. The most powerful sympathy is that of naming: what you call something isn’t anywhere near as important as it’s true name. According to legend, if you know the true names of things, you may call on them and they will obey. Kvothe knows about naming from Abenthy, but Abenthy would only teach him so much.

Kvothe’s father, a well known bard, is working on an epic song about the myth of the Chandrian. The entire troupe is excited for the fame this could bring them, as no one sings songs about the Chandrian. One evening Kvothe returns to camp to find his family and friends slaughtered, the Chandrian themselves standing over their bloody bodies.

In shock, Kvothe runs for his life. And I’m not going to tell you what happens right after, because it would be a spoiler.

However, Kvothe does eventually make his way to the University, and practically gets kicked out his first day there. This is where the legend of Kvothe begins. Did his body refuse to bleed under the whip? Did he fly through fire to save a woman? Did he get kicked out of the university at a younger age than most are admitted? Yes, yes, and yes, or at least sort of. Doesn’t every legend contain a grain of truth?

In this world of traders, and caravans, and gypsies and magic and nobles, no one believes the old legends, they are just stories to frighten children and inspire warriors. Kvothe saw the Chandrian kill his family, and now he must find the truth behind the myth.

Maybe Abenthy had some prescience? Maybe he knew songs about the Chandrian could only end badly, and he wanted Kvothe someplace safe when it happened? Maybe that’s why he planted that seed of attending the University in Kvothe’s head? Regardless, Kvothe believes the answers can be found deep in the Library Archives, and he becomes obsessed with accessing them. This spoke to me, as I am an ardent library lover.

“I was perfectly content, lost among the endless books. It made me feel safe, knowing that the answers to all my questions were here, somewhere waiting”.

I felt something similar the first time I was in a university library, the comfort, the awe, the wonder, the realization of what was at my fingertips. All the answers of the universe were in that building, if I only chose to look for them. I really need to laminate my university library guest user card one of these days.

Much of Kvothe’s time at the University is spent building bridges and burning to them. He takes out loans to pay his tuition, plays the lute at taverns in town to pay back the loans, chases girls (or at least, a girl), gets chased by another girl, pisses off a rich bully, you know, the normal high school experience. I’m not going to go into the details, because again, it would just spoil so many enlightening and hilarious moments. Kvothe is always scheming to access the archives for information on the mythical creatures that killed his family for the crime of singing songs, the crime of having and passing on knowledge about the mythical Chandrian. What truth could be so powerful that it is worth killing over?

I was about 100 pages from the end when I realized there was no way Rothfuss could possibly wrap this all up. The novel ends a little abruptly with the promise that Kvothe will continue his tale the next day. The next book in the series, The Wise Man’s Fear is due out in March 2011.

I am severly guilty of always trying to figure out what an author is up to. Where are they leading me, and why do they insist we go there? My guesses are nearly always wrong, and in this case, I prefer to be wrong, to be surprised. So here is my guess about what Rothfuss is up to: Every legend has a grain of truth. The Chandrian seek and destroy those who perpetuate knowledge of them. Because if you were to come across their true name, you would have power over them.

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12 Responses to "The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss"

Nicely and passionately written review, Redhead. I agree that the story of Kvothe has tapped directly into emotions that many fantasy readers share. I enjoyed it, too.

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[…] my favorite review I’ve written lately? would have to be The Name of the Wind by Patrick […]

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Very well-written review! 🙂 I met Pat Rothfuss about 2 years ago, when I was halfway through this book — he’s such a cool person — and I was totally enjoying the book. When I finished the book, I couldn’t believe I had to wait for the next one … and it’s been a long wait. Reading what you wrote here makes me want to re-read it all over again!

Now that the second book is finally (hopefully) going to come out, I’d have to re-read this first one to remember everything, anyway. 🙂

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Jo, I am SO jealous!!! So, so, so SO jealous. but in a really good I want to bring you cookies and hear all about it kind of way! Reading his blog he seems like a pretty cool, chilled out person. Supposedly March 2011 is set for release of book 2, but according to Pat’s blog it’s still in the editing stages????

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A really in-depth, passionate review. Thanks for sharing through Read My Review!

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Yikes, wall of text! Cut down the summation, girl. One paragraph is plenty before getting to the review. ^_^

-LupLun
Lupines and Lunatics

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i had a lot to say. 😉

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[…] Fear, book two of his Kingkiller Chronicles. When it comes to epic fantasy, Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind was a game changer for me, even more so than George R R Martin. Excitement for this title is so […]

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[…] said, if you enjoyed the Name of the Wind (reviewed here), you will enjoy Wise Man’s Fear more so. If Name if the Wind didn’t really do it for you, Wise […]

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[…] I finally got my other half to read Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind (reviewed here) and The Wise Man’s Fear (reviewed here), which, for the uninitiated are books one and two in […]

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I’ve come a little late to the Rothfuss party, but I too enjoyed The Name of the Wind (with some substantial reservations). I can’t quite grasp the level of excitement about him that seems to have gripped the fantasy-reading polity, but encountering your delightfully enthusiastic post has definitely swayed me towards reading the follow up:) Thanks!

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It looks like you somewhat enjoyed The Name of the Wind, so be warned – the follow up, Wise Man’s Fear is more of the same. More of Kvothe bragging, more of his very, very, detailed adventures, more learning about mythical bad guys and other groups who populate the land, and such. you may want to skip the sequel.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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