I went into The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss completely blind. I had no idea what it was about. I didn’t even read the back of the book. I did know it was fantasy and that it had been well received. There’s truly nothing better than having your expectations exceeded. The Name of the Wind pretty much blew me away. What a refreshing exploration of the hero’s journey and the fantasy genre.
The Name of the Wind is written in two periods: the present and flashback. Our hero Kvothe, great, mighty, wondrous, and terrible, reveals his past to us, telling his story. It’s a tale of joy, intense grief, sadness, magic, music, art, and personal growth. This first book is basically the prologue. It covers Kvothe’s childhood and early adolescence. Though he is an unusual child, very mature and observant even at a young age, circumstance makes him grow up even faster. The book covers his education and early relationships, bringing us to the edge of his hero’s journey. That’s not to say the book isn’t chalk full of adventure. It is. All great characters have to start somewhere.
Rothfuss is a beautiful writer. His words are a delight to read and the tone and cadence of Kvothe’s voice are a pleasure to inhabit. It pulls you deep into the story. I hardly wanted to put it down. The pace is comfortable, ranging from luxurious to breakneck depending on the circumstances. Also the world Rothfuss has created is concrete and clear: the geography, languages, mythology, and lore are extremely vivid, real, and thoroughly developed. No stone has been left unturned.
It’s just damn good storytelling. Rothfuss is a damn good storyteller. The feel of the novel hearkens back to the age-old oral tradition of weaving tales, making the reader feel like they are not so much reading a book as sitting by the hearth and listening to Kvothe tell his tale over the course of many hours, hanging on his every word. His voice is so clear and the story so visceral, it’s like you’re there.
I cannot recommend this book enough. I can’t wait to pick up the second installment and anxiously anticipate the publication of the third and final book. This series is a classic in the making.
On a related note, I had the good fortune of attending the NerdCon: Stories conference this past weekend (9-10 October) in Minneapolis, where I was able to hear Rothfuss (among many talented others) speak about writing and storytelling. It was a privilege to hear the people I admire so much talk about process and dole out advice. It was a really informative, beneficial, and fun two days. I hope they do it again.
Until next time!