I know I’m a little late with this review but all in all I had a lot to catch up with this year, most of it probably due to “switching countries” but now I’m finally having some time to get caught up with my rather vast reading list.
In a nutshell, the Name of the Wind is the coming of age-story of Kvothe who is destined to eventually become the greatest Arcanist the world has ever seen. It begins with his childhood among a troup of artists and musicians and his time as a beggar/thief in the streets of Tarbean where he has to make his living by any means left to him after his troupe is killed by the mysterious Chandrian, fairy tale creatures come to life, until he eventually enters the University to become an Arcanist.
So far we have a rather “traditional” fantasy outline: we have a boy of extraordinary intelligence and cleverness, we have a tragedy that makes him an orphan and fend for himself, we have the Hogwarts-like school of Magic and his destiny to become someone great. Nothing new if you just look at those elements. What, however, makes the story interestingly different is the way it is told: beginning in the past with the innkeeper Kote telling his story to Chronicler. During the book we get back to the present in interludes which make us pose even more questions for all the time we know that there is something mysterious going on and that Kvothe’s life must have gone all wrong at some point, but throughout the book we won’t learn what it was that let it all go downhill. The explanation of this is rather simple for it lies in the order Pat Rothfuss is going to write this series, which will consist of a triology featuring Kvothe’s past while the next three book after that will reveal what happens in his present.
While Kvothe’s past is narrated from his first-person point of view, the present interludes are in third person, though there are few of those just to warn everyone who has such a profound dislike for first person narratives as some of you who have recently contributed to the first vs. third person narrative discussion at the westeros.org boards. I personally consider Rothfuss’ choice of using first person for Kvothe’s story as a major plus of the book itself for he manages to write the story as if somebody is actually telling it, which makes it more alive and brings you much closer to the character.
Of course there is one major problem in the whole book, one you’ll doubtlessly find in every first person narrative: you won’t like it unless you get to like the narrator, but in my opinion Kvothe is likeable and complex enough to want to know more about him. The only sightly annoying part about him is his “brilliance” that gets him out of most of the trouble he’s in. It remains rather unexplained, or solely based on his early education under Abenthy, his mentor among the travelling troupe and his stage experience there. I don’t think it’s that great a minus, but at times it just gets a little irritating.
Two other aspects that come rather short next to Kvothe’s life and development are worldbuilding and secondary characters. While worldbuilding drifts a bit into the background and towns are portrayed rather sketchy and mostly in opposition to the University, it is the latter, the aspect of secondary characters that disappoints more. Everyone around Kvothe is rather superficially portrayed and remains rather flat in comparison to him. We have his friends, his enemies, the Masters of the University, but none of them, with the exception of Denna and Elodin (loved his crazyness) really stick out too much. Hopefully we’ll see a bit more of this in the next book 🙂
It might also help the story itself if Rothfuss wouldn’t stretch it out so much for some parts related to the University, but also the bit about the Draccus are just too long and over-written, a shortening would certainly helped to keep suspense and the readers’ attention more focused. At the end we don’t really know where the story is going other than that it must lead to Kvothe’s greatness. The end itself was rather disappointing for it lacks a real climax, which is replaced by hints for what is yet to come in the following books and I can only say that I’m personally not a fan of “But that is a story for another day” endings. It actually rather irritates me, but still I’ll buy the next book, because he definitely got me hooked on the story with book 1 and it’s imaginative and in a way innovative story telling.
As for a final rating: 8/10