Thursday, November 13, 2008

'The Name of the Wind'

Iimage just finished Patrick Rothfuss' 'The Name of the Wind'. I've read many, many fantasy novels. Some of them are just bad. Most are middle of the road : not great, but not a complete waste of my time. I started reading Rothfuss' blog some time ago. I'm not sure how I ended up there; linked from some blog that I found from some other blog that I found... you get the idea. His blog is refreshing. Here's this fairly regular guy who has struggled along writing this novel for years, and suddenly it's picked up and published and people like it. Really like it. And all of the notoriety and recognition and promotion and accolades are new to him, and his reaction is great to read. Very unassuming, very low-key.

And he hasn't forgotten from whence he came. He's currently giving away a slew of stuff if you'll donate to charity.

And to top it off he lives in Wisconsin, which is like my second home now (soon maybe my first!) and I ran across some signed copies of the book when the paperback came out at the giant Barnes and Nobles in Madison. Which was very cool for a book nerd like myself.

imageSo it was with some amount of hope and a great amount of trepidation that I finally approached "The Name of the Wind". I needn't have worried. This thing is _great_. It is the reason we read, to discover new and wondrous things, to be transported to worlds we know not and behold their magic. To say "I could not put it down" would be an understatement. It is quite simply the best fantasy novel I've read in years and years, and I'll be recommending it to everyone I know that reads. I'll let Kvothe tell you about it:

My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as "quothe." Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I've had more names than anyone has a right to. The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it's spoken, can mean The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree.
"The Flame" is obvious if you've ever seen me. I have red hair, bright. If I had been born a couple of hundred years ago I would probably have been burned as a demon. I keep it short but it's unruly. When left to its own devices, it sticks up and makes me look as if I have been set afire.
"The Thunder" I attribute to a strong baritone and a great deal of stage training at an early age.
I've never thought of "The Broken Tree" as very significant. Although in retrospect, I suppose it could be considered at least partially prophetic.
My first mentor called me E'lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them.
But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant "to know."
I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
So begins the tale of Kvothe—from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician, and an infamous assassin. But The Name of the Wind is so much more—for the story it tells reveals the truth behind Kvothe's legend.

Rothfuss displays a love for music, a high regard for craftsmanship, and places the female on a high, high pedestal. He also makes us completely empathize with Kvothe through his trials. It's clear Rothfuss knows what it is to pinch pennies. Kvothe is constantly concerned with money. He's terribly under informed about women.  He is both a genius and a fish entirely out of water at school. I kept wondering how much of Kvothe was Rothfuss, and how much was projection of his dreams and desires. All of us at one time have wanted to win the battle of wits, make a fortune, slay the dragon, rescue the maiden, win the fair damsel. Kvothe does them all, and ends up nearly where he started.

If you read, you must read "The Name of the Wind". If you stopped reading fantasy because of where it's gone over the last dozen or so years, this is the book that will bring you back. The best thing that I can say is that, for the first time in a long time, I can't wait for the next one in the series.

Go get it now.

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