One of my goals for 2011 is to read two novel-length pieces of fiction a month and the first one I finished for January was The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It was recommended to me by my good friend N after he and I stopped in a bookstore to have a look around. He’s generally been pretty good about making suggestions to me regarding books, I think he’s got my tastes in fiction figured out pretty well, so I picked it up. Once again, he was proven right and I really enjoyed this novel.
Many stories start at the beginning of the main character’s life and follow them as they proceed along their path to whatever destiny has in store. Often this goes hand-in-hand with characters growing substantially in power and ability as a novel series progresses, especially if the genre is fantasy, because they have to in order to meet and defeat the newer, more dangerous challenges (just like in video and role-playing games). Sometimes this gaining of power and ability is understandable and gradual, taking place over the entire span of a person’s lifetime and makes sense based on the narrative, in other novels it is so quick as to be ridiculous with a character gaining a new, uber-power or ability every other week *pointed look at certain vampire-slaying necromancer characters*; TNotW takes a slightly different tack and approaches the fantasy story from the point-of-view of the person who has already done it all and got the t-shirt.
TNotW is the story of Kvothe, also known as Kvothe the Bloodless or Kvothe the King-Killer. Sought out by a man known as Chronicler, Kvothe is enticed to give his biography in an effort to present his own case on the actions he’s taken throughout his life and to bring some first-person honesty to the legends that surround his exploits. TNotW is the first book in the King-Killer series and makes up the first of three days that Kvothe tells Chronicler it will take to adequately tell his life story.
One thing I found that I enjoyed about TNotW is that I liked Kvothe as a character. Rothfuss, IMO, does a good job of fleshing out all of his points and has him both succeed and fail, do good and bad things, and showcases his many flaws as well as his outstanding attributes; Kvothe to me is a well-rounded character. Beyond that though I liked him, as in if I were to some how meet Kvothe I might find myself liking the man as a person. He’s quick witted, charming, and a bit of a rogue but he is also, despite the many messed up things he does, a good person in this first book. Since the entire focus of TNotW is Kvothe’s life, he’s responsible for carrying the entire story on his his shoulders and I think the character supports it just fine.
Another thing I like is that Rothfuss does a very good job of describing the environments and scenes that Kvothe encounters. While he doesn’t go in for over-whelming levels of detail or purple prose, he more than adequately flushes out what’s happening to Kvothe at the time so you can get a picture of it in your mind. He makes you care about Kvothe and what happens to him and brings out the comedy, tragedy, and drama in such a way that I found myself pitying and cheering for Kvothe.
If there’s one complaint I have about the book it’s that Kvothe is almost too brilliant at times. I understand that he is a prodigy in some degree but, just like I have an issue with the fundamental premise of the Necroscope, I think there should be some limits to what a character can learn or they should have some kind of flaw within their nature to balance out their brilliance lest they become a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. Kvothe effortlessly learns things to the point where he masters years of study in months. While I do think it’s possible for some people to do this, proven by the fact that we have child prodigies who complete university by the time they’re fourteen and are doctors by the time they can vote, I believe even such real-life examples have some kind of flaw or difficulty that they have to over-come. Kvothe’s only real flaws are minor personality issues and the fact that he starts at the bottom and barely manages to scrape by for most of the book.
Despite this complaint, I really enjoyed The Name of the Wind in a way I haven’t enjoyed a book in months and if you like fantasy stories, I’d recommend it to you the way N did to me. The sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, is due in March and I will be picking it up.