The Name Of The Wind is the first book in Patrick Rothfuss’ bestselling fantasy series, The Kingkiller Chronicles. Amazingly, The Name Of The Wind is Rothfuss’ debut, and the series has reached critical acclaim without even being finished yet.
This book is a little different to most fantasy books: rather than follow some powerful hero on an epic and noble quest, we meet simple innkeeper Kote, who does not turn out to be the chosen one destined to save the world. However, he does turn out to be Kvothe, killer of kings and feature of many myths and rumours. Dismayed though he is to have been discovered in the remote part of the world he has chosen to hide in, he is persuaded to tell his life story, and finally reveal the truth behind all the far-fetched stories about him.
In The Name Of The Wind, Kvothe tells of his childhood in a performing troupe, of his time at the famed University, and of the beginning of his search for the fearsome magical creatures known as the Chandrian, hinting all the while at the grand and infamous future that is to come.
Slow but Intriguing
It starts off quite slowly, but rather than being a boring sort of slow, this is an atmospheric sort of slow that pulls the reader in just as much as an action-filled beginning would. The book does continue slowly, as well, but Rothfuss’ masterful writing style keeps it engaging and the slowly rising tension makes up for the pace.
Meanwhile, the hints of what’s to come really pull the reader onward to find out the ‘how’s and ‘why’s of the vague ‘what’s we’ve been given. Besides, the slow pace is refreshing in a world full of fast-paced fantasy, and it allows for plenty of detail to enrich the world Rothfuss has created.
The World & the Magic
At first glance, it seems like quite a generic world, for the most part seeming to be based on the usual Western Medieval setting. Rothfuss even goes so far as to use standard English names or slightly altered English names for characters. But it’s a little darker, a little more grounded in reality than the usual Western-Medieval-inspired fantasy worlds. And the familiarity of the setting allows us to fully appreciate all the extra, unique details Rothfuss has woven in to enrich the setting.
There are two things, however, that make Rothfuss’ world – Temerant, though I’m not sure the name is ever actually mentioned in this book – unique as well as believable: the magic and the mythology. The magic system is actually two magic systems: the first, sympathy, is more a science than a magic, while the second, naming, is a legendary power thought to be fictional by most, and beyond difficult and mysterious by those that do know that it is real.
The mythology, meanwhile, is rich and deep. Legends and stories are hinted at right from the first page, which is good considering how integral they are to Kvothe’s search for the Chandrian. We hear several stories throughout, adding to the present story and helping us to understand the history of the world. I really loved the inclusion of all the folklore, and its integration into the rest of the book, and how real it made the world feel.
The Name Of The Wind isn’t all folklore, though – Kvothe’s story is just as fascinating, and just as full of interesting players.
A Whole Host of Engaging Characters
With much of the book – excluding the small segments of the present day, in Kote’s inn in the middle of nowhere – in first person, told from Kvothe’s point of view, it’s unsurprising that Kvothe is the one we get to know best, especially since we follow him all the way from his childhood, up until he’s about fifteen. He has a really distinctive voice, and I really love how his perspective from the present colours his storytelling.
But the inquisitive, enigmatic, and often arrogant Kvothe is far from the only interesting character. Every secondary character has their own subtly unique, distinctive personality, which obviously makes them more relatable, the book more enjoyable, and the world much more vivid and immersive.
There are also a noticeable amount more significant female characters in this book than in some other fantasy books, though it doesn’t seem that way at first. They’re a diverse bunch – from fierce, powerful Devi to soft, lost Auri – and some of them are among my favourite characters. It’s nice to come across a fantasy book that isn’t completely dominated by male characters, and also doesn’t put down or exclude its female characters, or restrict them to their roles as love interests. While there is, unsurprisingly, some romance involved, Rothfuss treats the women Kvothe meets throughout the story – most notably at the University – with all the respect that they deserve.
I didn’t realise how much I loved this book until I started reading something else and found that I missed Rothfuss’ writing style and the subtlties of the immersive world and believable characters he’d created. More than that, though, I couldn’t get Kvothe’s story out of my head: I simply had to know how the fifteen-year old student from the end of this book became the hero we’ve heard only hints of, and how he became the meek innkeeper hiding from the world in the present day.
It has pretty much something for everyone: plenty of mystery, a good sprinkling of funny moments, a bit of romance, and a healthy dose of drama. Though it’s relatively long, it’s an easy, engaging read, just as suited to being read in small chunks as it is to being binge-read.
I’d recommend this series to literally anyone looking for a good read, especially if you enjoy character-driven stories. The Name Of The Wind eases you into the world rather gently, so it’s perfectly suitable for first-time fantasy readers, while also being unique and extensive enough for veterans of the genre to enjoy as well.
To conclude: this is a new favourite and I simply had to pick the sequel – The Wise Man’s Fear – up as soon as I finished it. Look out for my review of that – I’ll be posting it next Wednesday!