Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss


About the Book

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins the tale of Kvothe-from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician, and an infamous assassin. But The Name Of The Wind is so much more-for the story it tells reveals the truth behind Kvothe's legend.


722 pages (paperback)
Published on: March 27, 2007
Published by: DAW
Author’s webpage - blog

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There are a few books I’ve never had any intention of ever reviewing on my blog. The reason isn’t what you’d probably expect. I usually don’t review a book, not because it’s horrible, but because I think there are already umpteen reviews out there on said book, so why add one more to the pile? A few on my list of books I won’t review are anything from A Song of Ice and FireMalazan books and, until now, The Name of the Wind.

The reason I’m changing my tune on The Name of the Wind has nothing to do with anything besides profound boredom. You see, my nurse practitioner called me about two days ago and basically gave me a lecture on how I have 8-10 weeks left of being pregnant and, “you better not be getting off your back to do anything but go to the bathroom, Sarah!” My job, as she put it, is to enthrone myself on a comfortable couch/bed, keep good books, my laptop and a television nearby and pray that time goes by fast. The more relaxed I am, the less pain I feel, and the healthier the baby is – it also keeps me out of the hospital.

I realized, after I hung up the phone, that this is going to be the most boring 8-10 weeks of my life. I came to the conclusion that I can either feel sorry for myself and waste away with my boredom, or I can read something I’ve wanted to reread for a while. Thus, I started my The Name of the Wind reread and now, since I’m feeling restless and haven’t reviewed in a while, I’m going to pump out a review of it, despite it being on my list of books I will never review.

The Name of the Wind is a hard book for me to write about, as I have quite a few conflicting thoughts regarding it. However, on the surface, The Name of the Wind is one of those rare debut novels that most authors’ only dream of having their name tacked onto. The writing is, quite simply, stunning. The prose are lyrical and flowing, thick with emotion and feeling and rife with enough details to turn The Name of the Wind into an amazing feat of world building. The interesting thing regarding this book is the balance Rothfuss struck between detail laden world building and rife, raw emotions. This is one of those rare books that has a little of both details and emotions, but not too much of either. Due to this, the base of individuals who will read it and enjoy it will be much wider than books that seem to primarily focus on just one or the other.

However, nothing is perfect, not even this. There are times when Rothfuss waxes a bit too poetic, or his details get a little too detailed and can bog down the overall plot and progression of the story. While emotions and details are wonderful and incredibly humanizing in a book such as this, there are times when it gets to be a bit too much and seems to hover on the edge of redundant and tedious. Thankfully, the book recovers quickly and easily from these parts, but they may leave some readers twiddling their thumbs and thinking, “can we please get on with it yet?”

That being said, the plot is an interesting divergence among readers. Some feel as though it is quickly moving and nicely measured while others feel that a rather slow, but interesting. The start leads to a very slow and rather week middle. I fall somewhere between the two camps. On the one hand, the plot in The Name of the Wind is very well measured and nicely paced, despite some plot lags in a few places. On the other hand, toward the middle and end I was wishing Rothfuss didn’t feel the need to be so redundant on many of the points he was making. Many aspects of Kvothe’s life, especially those revolving around Denna and earning money for tuition, seemed to circle around and around in the book to an almost exhausting degree. I doubt the book would have been so long if many of the redundant side-stories involving Denna and tuition had been added to the book once, and maybe referred to a few times besides that, rather than discussed at length.

Furthermore, the events revolving around Tarbean, while interesting, seemed incredibly contrived to me and weren’t nearly as well done as other events in the book. The whole section almost read as an unnecessary aside. It was well written and interesting, but I’m not exactly sure why it was there other than to fulfill some of Kvothe’s life deeds he discussed at the beginning of the book and to highlight his obsession with learning why what happened to his parents, happened. Thus, the ending of Kvothe’s story seemed to drag on longer than it needed to.

Due to this, some readers may find fault with the length of the book, and there have been numerous complaints that, while The Name of the Wind is a great book, it really didn’t need to be over 700 pages long. However, despite the redundancy of some of the plot that did drag the book on longer than necessary, the writing style truly is eloquent and flowing and is enough to pull even the most jaded reader through those more frustrating sections.

Another point I should mention is the characterization. While it’s obvious that in a first-person tale, the narrator will always seem the most real and alive, Kvothe perhaps shines a bit too brightly in comparison to the secondary characters in the book. Kvothe is a wonderfully developed character, and that wonderful development seems to make the secondary characters seem all the more two-dimensional and gray in comparison. While Kvothe does deserve the stolen limelight, I did regret the somewhat washed out secondary characters. In such an emotionally compelling book, the washed out characters were slightly jarring to the work as a whole.

Despite the elements I have picked on here, The Name of the Wind doesn’t pay too heavy a price for any of its flaws. The work as a whole outshines any of its minor flaws and because of this, Rothfuss has made a huge, well deserved splash in the speculative fiction community. The Name of the Wind is one of those rare books that seems to strike a perfect balance between pure artistry and an amazingly entertaining, engaging tale.

4/5 stars

5 comments:

  1. I experienced something I seldom feel in my dotage (ahem): I was swept away by a new "voice". I guess I looked like those kids listening to Bilbo and the trolls in Peter Jackson's film : totally and perfectly engrossed with the storytelling.
    So, I hope you'll find other books to enjoy while waiting and waiting!

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  2. sorry about the enforced boredom (a good friend of mine was on bed rest the last 2 months of her recent pregnancy as well), but I'm happy you decided to reread and review Name of the Wind!

    the first book isn't perfect, but it is very, very, very good. Yes, it has slow bits. readers looking for an action adventure are going to be dissapointed, because it's just not that kind of book.

    do you have plans to read the second? or have you already, and I missed it on your blog?

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  3. I hope the next few weeks go by quickly for you and the outcome is perfect!

    I have mixed feeling about The Name of the Wind. I was certainly caught up in it while I was reading it (probably because the writing is just that good), but a couple of days after I finished I found it left kind of a bland taste in my brain. Kvothe is just too Gary Stu-ey.

    I was really looking forward to the sequel, then I read some interviews with Rothfuss and found him a bit off-putting. I should never read interviews. The sequel has been sitting unread on my kindle since the day it released. Oh well. Maybe I'll get to it this summer!

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  4. I really enjoyed your review. I guess few books are perfect, but The Name of the Wind was just about as perfect as a book gets for me. I thought it was absolutely fabulous and the best fantasy story I have read in the past decade.

    "Thankfully, the book recovers quickly and easily from these parts, but they may leave some readers twiddling their thumbs and thinking, “can we please get on with it yet?”

    I personally never had that feeling during this book. I never found myself bored and was slightly saddened when I had finished the story as I always am upon completing anything as entertaining as this was. That being said, I definitely was saying "Can we please get on with it yet?" during The Wise Man's Fears. I enjoyed it, but my goodness, I think this is one book that could have been shortened by about 200 pages.

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  5. @Miss Jane: I'm curious, what interview did you dislike Rothfuss in? I've always found him to be an incredibly nice guy on his blog and in interviews (as well as in my six seconds of face time with him at a signing.

    I do agree with you, to a rather large extent, about the potential stu-levels exhibited by Kvothe, but Rothfuss's voice is strong enough to generally overcome them, for me. The only point that was too much was during one of Kvothe's lessons in The Wise Man's Fear, and I daresay that anyone who's read WMF knows which one I mean...

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