The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss
"It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story."
This was one of those books that everyone told me that I should read, and that I would love. And they were right! But it was not what I expected at all.
The book intrigued me from the first page, a beautiful poetic construction which I won't spoil here. It begins with our hero as a humble innkeeper, trying to keep his head down. When trouble comes to him, I expected the story to explode, as he throws off his disguise and goes off to kick some evil ass. However that is not what happens. A Chronicler comes and the innkeeper, Kvothe, tells his life story.
It has all my favorite elements, a childhood in a group of traveling players, meeting an old arcanist (scientistwizard) and learning from him, urchin-ing on the streets of a city, going to a scientistwizard university. Training montages galore! He develops into a resourceful, powerful wizard with a flare for showmanship and a disregard for authority. He therefore becomes the most notorious arcanist in the region! At times, it seemed like the book should be titled "How to Succeed in Arcanist University Without Really Trying."
With brief moments of shock and excitement, it is actually a very leisurely narrative. Yes, bad things happen, and in the first half of the book, life sucks for him. But by the second half, you know he'll get out of trouble through sheer dumb luck and cockiness. And he does. Every time. I almost wished something would blow up in his face once in a while. And I think it will, but that is for another book.
His female characters intrigue me. They are idealistic in the best sense of the word. These women are beautiful, funny, brave, and intelligent, and I want to be all of them. However, they have very few flaws. And there are so many women with whom he has a close relationship, that you have no idea who he will end up with. My hope is that he will get together with the delicate, elf-like, potentially-a-student-gone-mad girl who lives in the tunnels under the university and has a delightful way of looking at the world.
Often what struck me the most was his descriptions of love or women. I'll leave you with two examples, as they speak for themselves:
"My parents danced together, her head on his chest. Both had their eyes closed. They seemed so perfectly content. If you can find someone like that, someone who you can hold and close your eyes to the world with, then you're lucky. Even if it only lasts for a minute or a day. The image of them gently swaying to the music is how I picture love in my mind even after all these years."
"You see, women are like fires, like flames. Some women are like candles, bright and friendly. Some are like single sparks, or embers, like fireflies for chasing on summer nights. Some are like campfires, all light and heat for a night and willing to be left after. Some women are like hearthfires, not much to look at but underneath they are all warm red coal that burns a long, long while."
All in all, it is an entertaining and well-written story, but, again, it read like the first half of a book. Actually, it reads like he ran out of paper, realized he had already written 662 pages and was only partially through the story, so he tacked on an ending and started Volume II. Which I am looking forward to immensely.
This story ends with them still in the inn, having told part of the life story. I am hoping the next book will have at least mentioned a king, if not killed him (as it is called the King Killer Chronicles), and I hope Kvothe will stop telling us about his life and start doing something about the demon spiders that threaten his town. Maybe even go fight the Big Bad evil. Something to get him out of the house.
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