Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not another fantasy novel

But not just any fantasy novel, this one has endeared itself to me, and I'm not even big on this genre. Patrick Rothfuss's debut novel, The Name of the Wind, will appeal to just about any reader. There's adventure, romance, magic, and a coming-of-age tale in Rothfuss's doorstop of a book. (Question to you, dear reader: Why do fantasy novels always have to run for more than 500 pages?)

In The Name of the Wind, we meet Kvothe (pronounced "quothe"), a reclusive inkeeper in the provincial town of Newarre. Rothfuss makes it clear from the start that Kvothe and his assistant, Bast, are not the characters they appear to be. It turns out that Kvothe is something of a legend, one who has been labelled as "the kingkiller" among other things. Kvothe, all red hair and green eyes, is simply whiling away his days in Newarre, which appears as an insignificant speck on the map. (Another question for you, dear reader: Why do fantasy novels always have a spread-out map?)

However, terrible things are slowly happening in Newarre too. One day, a scribe who is more famously known as the Chronicler stumbles into Newarre and recognizes Kvothe. Kvothe offers a deal -- he will tell his entire life story to the Chronicler in a span of three days. Kvothe begins to account the early part of his life on the first day. Thus, The Name of the Wind is just the first part of the trilogy. (And yet another question for you: Why do fantasy novels always have to be part of a trilogy or a series?)

To say that Kvothe's life is one of endless trials and tribulations is an understatement. We learn that his family was of the Edema Ruh, a well-known and respected troupe of performers. One unfortunate day while Kvothe was running an errand, an evil force called the Chandrian kills the entire troupe, including Kvothe's parents. Orphaned and with no money, Kvothe is forced to live as a beggar and as a thief in the city. Then he remembers what his guardian, a Merlin-like character, told him -- to go to the University and learn to be an arcanist. (Question: Why do fantasy novels always have a character like Merlin?)

In the University, Kvothe earns a reputation for being a prodigy. He easily masters the principles of a form of magic called sympathy among other things. But of course, all is not well in this place of learning. He manages to get the ire of the first-born son of a nobleman. And also, Kvothe falls in love. But Kvothe never strays farther from his goal -- to learn more about the Chandrian and possibly avenge his parents' death. Of course, there has to be a dragon somewhere in the novel. (Another question: Why do fantasy novels always feature dragons?)

I was pleasantly surprised how I found myself totally liking this novel. Unlike other fantasy novels, The Name of the Wind has some parts that are lighthearted and funny. Rothfuss thus makes the entire narrative somehow engaging. There's a pervading element of thread, yes; but the reader is always hopeful that Kvothe will get what he so truly deserves. I learned that it took a few years for Rothfuss to finish this novel. I guess that explains the beard. (And my last question: Why do fantasy novelists always have to look like the person below?)

Patrick Rothfuss

Read this book if:
  1. You love fantasy novels.
  2. You're still waiting for the next book in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.
  3. You're patient.


Mrs. B. said...

Sounds good! I finished the first Game of Thrones but somehow I'm not in a rush to start book 2. It was a fun read though.

Peter S. said...

Oh, yes, A Game of Thrones is definitely a fun read. But I think I had more fun reading The Name of the Wind! You should try it, Mrs. B!