My first reaction on seeing this book was how thick it was. It’s over 600 pages as a paperback, and I will admit that I was daunted at first by its size. So many fantasy books of this size are often filled with fluff, and the core of the story isn’t seen until late into the final third.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case for Patrick Rothfuss’s first published book, and the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles series.
It follows the story of a young boy named Kvothe (pronounced like Quothe) as he travels with his family, performers and actors much like our idealized gypsies. When his father makes a mistake while learning stories of ancient evils in order to make a new song, Kvothe comes back to his family and finds them dead, the Seven, the ancient evils his father was researching, still there, sitting around what remains of his family and their fire.
For some reason, they leave him alive, and thus truly begins the tale of Kvothe. He spends a number of years with just his lute for company, wandering the forests and avoiding human contact. When he eventually makes his way to a city, he finds himself living as a beggar and a pickpocket, trying to survive. After being almost beaten, bloodied, and bruised for being on the wrong side of town, Kvothe takes matters into his own hands and begins a travel that takes him to the University, a place where mathematics, medicine, academics and magic are studied, learned, and practiced.
He finds himself making enemies of several powerful people within the University, students and professors alike, but he makes his friends as well, a new experience for a boy who had otherwise been on his own since the death of his family. Reminders of what happened to them still haunt him though, and his access to the University comes as two fold: to learn true magic and to learn all he can about the Seven.
What really marks this book as different from other fantasy coming-of-age tales is the Story-within-a-story feel it has. Kvothe’s story is being told by an innkeeper, a man known as Kote with bright red hair, a Fae student, and living in a town that has seen better times. When the Chronicler for the King comes, tracking down Kvothe’s story, it is revealed that Kote is Kvothe, and there is none better–in his mind–to tell his tale than himself.
In a world that is quickly going to hell in a handbasket, where demons are being seen more and more, and a great war is raging, Kvothe’s story is told.
When I borrowed this book from a friend, I didn’t expect to tear through it so quickly, nor to enjoy it as much as I did. It’s very easy to get lost in the world that Rothfuss created, slipping far enough into it that it’s almost jolting to return to our own when break is done. Staying up late to finish just one more chapter before bed is something that isn’t unexpected, and becomes the norm when you’re reading the tale of Kvothe.
There are two other books in the series: The Wise Man’s Fear and The Stone Door. Wise Man came out in March of 2011, and as of yet there is no date of publication for The Stone Door. This is both good and bad, as it makes it very hard to wait once you’ve devoured these first two books.
The world is richly diverse, well created, and seems to truly breathe with a life of its own. I highly suggest giving The Name of the Wind a read. Just don’t expect to do anything else while you have it in your hands!
Learn more about Patrick Rothfuss and his books here: http://www.patrickrothfuss.com/content/index.asp
Book cover from Rothfuss’ site.