Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Happy December! I can't believe it's finally one of my favourite months in the entire year. I just love the cozy, festive atmosphere--not to mention it's the perfect season to curl up under fleece blankets, a cup of warm milk and a couple of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies by your side, and read a good book! And what better way to start the most magical holiday than an equally magical fantasy novel? One of my friends, who goes through fantasy books in impossible speeds, recommended "The Kingkiller Chronicle" series to me, saying that the narrative voice is unique and compelling. He sure wasn't wrong there! "The Name of the Wind", despite its daunting length, sucks you in and keeps you engaged through each and every page.

Kvothe the Kingkiller, Kvothe the Bloodless, has always had a talent for Sympathy--drawing on the energy of the surroundings and transforming it into magic. Now an innkeeper in a small, out-of-ways village, he calls himself Kote and lives a secluded, quiet life. When the famous Chronicler stumbles into town, bloodied from an encounter with demon creatures, the silent peace the world-renowned Kvothe had constructed for himself is disturbed, and the mysterious innkeeper finds himself conjuring up memories that had been pushed away into the deep crevices of his mind: memories of his childhood in a troupe of travelling actors, of his years spent as a broken, near-feral orphan in a corrupt city, of his daringly brazen bid to enter the legendary school of magic. And, above all, memories of seeking revenge upon the infamous, legendary creature who had ruined his life: the Chandrian.

One of the most compelling elements of "The Name of the Wind" is, without a doubt, its narrative voice. The majority of the book is told in Kvothe's voice, and readers are presented with an intimate narrative that draws them in and weaves an enchanting web around them. The fact that we see Kvothe as a character from a third-person point of view as well as from his own first-person point of view creates a whole other layer to our understanding of him, and you end up bonding with him even more. On top of that, it feels as if Kvothe is telling his story to you directly, as if you're sitting there in the inn, listening rapturously to his words and watching him animate his tale. One thing that maybe would've helped the narrative voice is a little humour, so that you get a little more of his character. Sometimes I completely forgot that it was narrated by Kvothe and instead we had a more objective narrator.

The other characters were fairly interesting, though they tended to be more of stock characters rather than characters who developed and changed as the book progressed. For example, Ambrose Jakis was ever the snobby, evil bully, while Wil and Sim were the jocular buddies who had Kvothe's back. Denna was pretty intriguing, with her complicated life and the challenge she presents to Kvothe. The relationship between the two is sweet and at the same time complex, and I'm interested to see how it unfolds in the sequel. Another thing about the characters that bugged me a little was the fact that many of them didn't make many appearances after a while. This could do with the fact that the entire novel is pretty much about Kvothe's childhood and memories, and, like in real life, sometimes you don't see someone who had been a part of your life once any longer.

The language used by Mr. Rothfuss can be beautiful. I particularly loved it when Kvothe brings Auri salt, he said that it was made out of "the dreams of fish and sailor's songs". It's just incredibly whimsical and lends a magical undertone to the story. The prose is flowing and eloquent, and, while not something outstandingly breathtaking, helps to transform a boy's coming-of-age story into something of a fantastical adventure.

Because "The Name of the Wind" consists mostly of Kvothe recounting the events of his childhood, there's a lot that happens, and it's no wonder that the book is this huge. Despite its formidable length, though, I enjoyed most of the story, though I did end up skimming some parts that went on longer than they needed to. Nonetheless, the plot remains engaging throughout, and doesn't get too boring.

Overall, "The Name of the Wind" is a great fantasy novel with a protagonist you learn to understand and become invested in, and other characters who help to enhance our understanding even more. Admittedly, the story can get a little too long, but it's still an enjoyable read throughout. I'd recommend it for readers who love fantasy books and a good journey.

Rating: 4/5

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