In June I bought my first Audible audio book and it was The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
To save myself and you from having to read another long and inarticulate description, why not just read about it where justice is served chilled. Instead, I’ll tell you what I thought of it.
The best cover art for the book yet - mysterious and cold blue
I rate this book 4.5 stars out of 5, or on Amazon’s star rating, 4 out of 5. The book is repetitive in some parts and the initial setup is long and almost overwhelming, but after that, it gets better.
I suggest you pick up a copy and read it slowly. There are light spoilers below (e.g. what happens but not how it happens).
The book’s split time lines do nothing to confuse me. I know exactly when something is taking place – there is a definite distinction between the keeper-Kvothe and hipster-Kvothe in their style of talking and what is taking place. For instance, in the inn, nothing exciting happens except the two instances of mystical attacks from spider things and a possessed mercenary. Something like that, at any rate.
Kvothe reads his past out loud to his audience of both the scribe and his fairy helper Bast. It might seem odd at first to tell a story this way, but it essentially becomes its own book as if it were written in first person narrative form anyway. In fact, it might be better that the majority of the book is in the first person when listening in audio form. It feels as if Kvothe is telling you the story.
The most repetitive section is of Kvothe’s living the giant city, Tarbean. His poverty and depressing attitude was almost enough to make me lose interest in the long run. It feels as if it takes forever because there is no scientific magic in that part, but once it ends, the magic comes into the story pretty well.
You can imagine the book comprised of three parts, the first part of Tarbean, the second is comprised of his first struggles at the University where he gets kicked out of the library, meets his humanoid arch-nemesis and meets his girlfriend, and the third where Kvothe defeats a dragon of sorts. The ending is actually after the third part in his narration, but it feels as if the climax lies somewhere within heart of the dragon.
The struggles with Kvothe’s lover is interesting. She is mysterious and has men surrounding her most of the time, but she accepts none of them and she says it is because they are not understanding of her either. Kvothe tries to hide his feeling from her and she toys with him in a whimsical way, but neither admit their love for each other, although Kvothe is known to admire her in more than one way.
The magic introduced, sympathy as it is named, is unique from any other type of magic scheme I have encountered in my many years of reading fiction. It’s unlike the rhyming nature of Stile in the Apprentice Adept series and it is not elemental like that of the magic in Golden Sun’s Weyard. Of course in addition of the scientific magic sympathy, there is runic magic that rely on the same principles and alchemy but it is more than just slapping their hands together. The true mysterious magic is the magic of absolutely understanding so well, to know it’s name. Kvothe has a brief glimpse of the name of the wind late in the story and even while fleeting, it wields it powerfully.
The Name of the Wind is a long book full of exciting tales except for a few areas of prolonged engagement. It maintains a high standard of writing, excellent descriptions and well formed character interaction. In my case of the Audible audio book version, Nick Podehl voices Kvothe’s old and younger self differently making the transition points easier. His masterful interpretation of the forgien voices from Kvothe’s teenage friends from other countries also had depth to otherwise simple words on a page.
Fantasy is a hard genre. Harry Potter has ruined magic for children and many young adults and sparkling vampires have ruined the fairy creatures for the same audience. There is no book that will appease everyone, but this makes a great stab at penetrating the mind for the kids beyond their years.