Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Format: Mass Market Paperback
MY NAME IS KVOTHE
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 a tale unequaled in fantasy literature–the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man’s search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.
This is probably going to come as a surprise, but I didn’t love The Name of the Wind as much as I expected to. It’s still one of the better high fantasy books I’ve read but some things about the story just didn’t quite do it for me.
If I could split the book in three parts, I’d say the initial 1/3 was the best. I love origin stories and particularly enjoy them when the character starts off as a young boy. I was fascinated by Kvothe (Quothe) as a mysterious character with an intriguing reputation but I was more invested in his story growing up: what it was like to be in a troupe and things he learned when he had a mentor.
Kvothe is written as an incredibly clever character. He excels in just about anything he puts his mind to. This was fun at first, but when he’s good at everything and surpasses any challenge set before him (either through wit or skill), his story becomes predictable. Someone could argue that since he’s telling his own story, he may be purposely biased and leave things out. I agree with this and hope it’s the case. Otherwise, Kvothe is a character who can overcome just about anything, and in a way that surpasses many who came before him.
While Kvothe is amazing in many things, he at least had realistic and foolish tendencies. I was glad for this, if only to prove he wasn’t perfect. I appreciated Rothfuss writing this part of Kvothe’s character and I look forward to seeing how he develops from here. That being said, the romance aspect of Kvothe’s adolescence was probably where it started going south for me. The last third of the book mainly consisted of his romantic interest and a storyline that 1) barely moved the plot along and 2) didn’t need the amount of pages allotted to it. By the time I reached this point, the book became an obligation instead of something I looked forward to. I admit I was also not invested in Kvothe as a character, so this was a big factor in how much I cared for his story.
I did enjoy reading about his time at the University. I loved learning about the Masters and what they taught, and how they designed the process for applications, exams, and tuition fees. It reminded me of going to a wizarding school and I was excited to live vicariously through Kvothe. Ironically, despite my 700+ page copy, I feel like Rothfuss didn’t really provide a lot of depth for Kvothe’s education. Part of it was Kvothe being good at his studies but another was the story diverging to other areas of his life. School became secondary and while Kvothe spent his time with other interesting matters, his time at the University felt under developed.
Overall, The Name of the Wind started strongly and full of promise. Kvothe had goals and a mystery to find answers to and while he achieved some of what he wanted to do, the book left me wanting in the area I was most interested in at the beginning. As debut novels go, it’s been a while since I’ve read one this good. I hope Rothfuss only gets better and better as the series goes on.