Book Review: The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1) by Patrick Rothfuss
The Name of the Wind is the first book in the fantasy Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss. This book is the story of Kvothe, told alternately in the first and third person, with Kvothe telling the majority of the story - his story. It's a completely different spin on tales of heroes and villains, told by the hero himself, from his own perspective.
When we're first introduced to Kvothe, it is as Kote, the owner of the Wayside Inn. He's convinced by a traveling scribe, who recognizes him as Kvothe, the man of many legends, to tell his story. Kvothe begins his narration with himself as an 11-year-old boy, traveling with his family's troupe of actors and entertainers. He has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and learns at a nearly unheard of speed. His life was simple and good up until that point, surrounded by people who loved him, cared for him, and who fed his desire to learn. When a traveling arcanist, Abenthy, joins the troupe, Kvothe's education takes a different, more complex direction, and he dreams of going to the far-off University to study.
When Kvothe's entire troupe is murdered by the Chandrian, a group of demons thought to only exist in legends and faerie stories, Kvothe makes his way slowly, in a grief-induced stupor, to Tarbean, a vast city divided into the rich and the poor. He spends the next three years on the streets of Tarbean, and the lessons he learns there are of a completely different nature than his previous education. He learns how to fend for himself, how to fight, beg, steal, and how to just simply survive from day to day.
When he finally finds a way out of Tarbean and makes his way to the University, life doesn't get any easier, even though he's finally living his dream of attending the school and learning under the masters. It's mostly during this time that he starts to become the stuff of legends, and we see how luck, accidents, quick thinking and skill can turn a man into a hero, at least in other's eyes. He moves up through the ranks of the University quickly, but has many obstacles to overcome in his mission to learn as much as possible about the Chandrian, and why they killed his family.
What I thought of this book
Although I am a fan of fantasy, and this book received really good reviews, especially for a debut novel, I'm on the fence about it. It was good, certainly, but at 722 pages, I think it was far too long. At times, I felt like it was one long ramble, and I found myself wishing he would get on with the story. There were unnecessary side-trips that didn't really have much to do with the story itself, and I figure that without those, the book could have been much shorter and easier to handle.
That being said, I really enjoyed the style of writing, and I liked Kvothe very much. He's an intelligent, independent, strong character that is very relatable in many ways. The heartache he experiences, along with the disappointment and pain he feels are very strong and very real. Your heart goes out to him while he's grieving, and when he has small triumphs, you cheer him on, and sometimes just have to laugh at his quick thinking and pure dumb luck. He's a classic case of the saying "fake it till you make it" - there are times when he has to exude confidence while he's really shaking inside, and often just makes things up as he goes along. He's rash and arrogant, but these qualities make him seem much more human than if he were some perfect character who never made any mistakes, and who got everything right all the time.
The Name of the Wind was definitely original, and I did enjoy it, despite the fact that I think it was too long and at times drawn out. I plan to read the second book - The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2) - because my curiosity is piqued. I want to know how Kvothe made it to where he is now, if he succeeded in his quests, and why he's content to live under an assumed identity as the proprietor of the Waystone Inn, when he's a hero of legendary proportions.
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