I’m writing this from the advantage of reading it for the second time. If you read fantasy at all chances are you have heard of this by now, or have read it and the sequel, and are anxiously wringing your hands waiting for the third.
When I first picked up The Name of the Wind I was dubious, as I am with most new authors. I read it all too quickly and went out to by the hardback, the only format available, of the second book. Yes it’s that good and the hype is warranted. I’ll tell you a little about it, and why you may or may not like it personally.
The back blurb reads like every other Hero saga, full of braggery (new word) and ridiculous feats (stealing princesses, burning cities) but that’s the inside joke you see, and the brilliance I think of the main character. He’s a bit of a self-made man you might say, albeit incredibly intelligent and gifted. I wouldn’t want him any other way. Through a strange and tragic path, we follow Kvothe from his upbringing in a traveling performance group to his struggle and gain at the highest academic University in the land.
A large component of the tale is something called Sympathy, which is a neat way of working with the elements and tied to real things like iron, fire or water. I much prefer this to hocus-pocus magic because it doesn’t feel so silly or demon-y. You know.
I would read about Kvothe at the University forever, that’s how well Rothfuss wraps you up inside Kvothe’s head, that the entire book can span his time there. I can’t call it adventure or learning per-se, more like How Kvothe Became a Legend, and Other Days When Things Really Didn’t Go Well. People who don’t mind spending an entire story without a resolution should love this, especially so if you like the ‘learning process’ of characters.
You will not like this if you want a quick answer to any single one of the questions you and Kvothe both form from pretty much page two. Kvothe is at once cocky, unsure, poetic and grand, poor and crappy with women. He has been called a bit of a Mary Sue, a character who is a bit too perfect, but I think Rothfuss doesn’t make it easy on Kvothe, anything but.
Kvothe overcomes a childhood tragedy and years of living as a street rat in deplorable conditions, to wiggle his way into the University at a much younger age than students are usually admitted. He immediately creates trouble, is nearly expelled, gathers admiration and a few good friends, while earning the enmity of a dangerous man, getting publicly whipped, meeting a beautiful but elusive girl, all the while quietly rehearsing his lute to make a splashy debut across the river hoping to get a bit of money to afford the next semester’s tuition.
You can find more in-depth reviews about the exact contents of the book, but I prefer to avoid even the mildest of spoilers. That all being said, this is high fantasy, so not too many silly names and the world is recognizable to us. Give it a go, you shan’t regret it.