Title: The Name of the Wind – The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day One
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Publishing Date: First edition, 2007.
Paperback: 672 pages
Stand Alone or series: book one the Kingkiller Chronicle’ trilogy.
Summary: 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.
Why did I read the book: I bought the book months ago because of the awesome reviews it got online. It has been gathering dust in my giant TBR shelf for ages until I recently read The Painted Man by Peter V.Brett, also because of awesome reviews and found it was a good, solid book but not an awe-inspiring one. I then decided to read The Name of the Wind to see how it would compare. And boy, talk about awe-inspiring.
A man walks into an inn – let’s call it the Waystone Inn – and he sees its owner behind the bar – let’s call him Kote . Kote is a quiet man who keeps to himself, full of lines on his face and scars in his body; He looks old but he is not yet thirty. He is a man who has seen things, known things, far too many to count. A man who has longings which he does not listen and regrets that consume him. His hair is red – but not the flame red that once was. His eyes are of a dull green – not the bright green –grass they used to be. He is a man with a Past. He is our hero.
A man walks into the Waystone Inn disrupting the conversation its (few) regulars are having, claiming that he has been attacked by a giant spider. He was able to kill the animal and its carcass is brought forward – what could this be? Is it a demon? Surprisingly, the unassuming Kote voices that it is a scrael and helps them getting rid of it properly. He also knows that scraelings come in bands and he, alone and quietly prepares for another battle. Kote makes his way into the forest and proceeds to exterminate the scraelings.
A man – let’s call him Chronicler – walks into this scene and finds the one he has been looking for: the mythical hero known as Kvothe. A man who has stolen princesses , burnt towns, attended The University at an early age, talked to Gods, loved women, written amazing songs, killed an angel – and disappeared from public life suddenly. Chronicler, who is a History keeper, wants to document Kvothe’s (pronounced QUOTHE) life and separate the truth from the lies and exaggerations that surround his story. Kvothe is initially against the idea but upon persuasive arguments decides to tell his own story: the way it happened. He offers Chronicler the opportunity of a lifetime – the man whose very best stories about him are the ones HE told is about to tell all – in three days( hence the name of the novel: the Kingkiller Chronicle, Day One).
As they sit down , the narrative shifts from third person to first person (and back again to third whenever the need for a break arises : nature call, meal breaks, demon attack , etc) as Kvothe tells his adventures starting from his childhood as a member of a loving, amazing travelling troupe when he learnt to love music, acting (both define who he is and come in handy several times in his life) and above all about magic when an Arcanist joins the group and teaches him about Sympathy. Until tragedy strikes and alone, he must make his way into the world. This first day follows the story of Kvothe in his early years until he joins The University at the early age of 14 as he seeks Knowledge. But not any Knowledge – Kvothe is fuelled by his need to know everything and anything about the mysterious evil Chandrian (“when the hearthfire turns to blue, what to do? What to do? Run outside. Run and hide”) and learn the….name of the wind. (And if he learns the seven words to make a woman love you in the process, all the better right? )
And this is only but a small glimpse into the world of The Name of the Wind. I LOVE this book with every cell of my being.
The story itself is tremendously interesting. There are mysteries within mysteries, stories within stories, all relating to the Chandrian and to Kvothe’s parents. (I will say no more on the subject. )
The details of the world building with its places (there is even a map ) , peoples, languages, currencies and the magic that in here is called Sympathy and its practitioners, arcanists and all the sympathies and bindings and how they work are EXPLAINED in minutiae. There is History, Chemistry, Religion, Myth , Music and Poetry. And of course, the cryptic power of the namers – those few who can call the name of things.
The characters are amazing. None more than Kvothe – an extremely clever and cunning young boy who gets away from many scuffles with his intelligence and quick thinking and who at the same time is naïve and prone to suffer for his emotional vulnerability. I absolutely ADORE him and I cried and I laughed many times over his story. I loved that Patrick Rothfuss gave him a happy childhood with loving parents who loved him AND each other (and their love was also a very sensual one). I find myself grateful for a Fantasy author who chooses to make love the mark of a hero’s past instead of hate. It is all the more poignant when a hero is grief-stricken with the loss of something GOOD. Isn’t the absence of love as hurtful as the presence of hate? Kvothe’s University friends are good enough to make me want to read about them and of course there is Bast – his student who at the present follows his master as he wastes his life at the Waystone Inn and who worries and waits for something, anything to help his master to be over this god-forsaken, apparently self-inflicted misery. At the end of Day One, there is still no clue as to how the child that was Kvothe became the man that is Kote.
Then finally there is the cherry in the cake: the writing. Patrick Rothfuss’ prose is absurdly stunning, the type that makes me cry at its sheer beauty. To illustrate my point, I present you with a quote from a story within the story. Part of the tale of Lanre (a warrior) and his beloved Lyra (who was a namer and could call the name of things and command them). Lanre falls into battle and dies. Lyra is devastated. This is what follows:
“In the midst of silence Lyra stood by Lanre’s body and spoke his name. Her voice was a commandment. Her voice was steel and stone. Her voice told him to live again. But Lanre lay motionless and dead.
In the midst of fear Lyra knelt by Lanre’s body and breathed his name. Her voice was a beckoning. Her voice was love and longing. Her voice called him to live again. But Lanre lay cold and dead.
In the midst of despair Lyra fell across Lanre’s body and wept his name. Her voice was a whisper. Her voice was echo and emptiness. Her voice begged him to live again. But Lanre lay breathless and dead.”
So there you have it: good writing of an amazing hero’s journey and an in-depth world building. There is only one thing missing here and as Kvothe says himself: no story is a good story if there isn’t romance. And it’s here as well folks, in the figure of a young girl called Denna, Dianne or any other alias she can think of. I will be cryptic again and shut up so you can find and follow Denna along with Kvothe.
Is the book perfect? Of course not – although it’s close enough. Some may think that Kvothe is too perfect a character, the male equivalent of a Mary Sue. One could argue that The University resembles Hogwarts and that the Ambrose-Kvothe animosity is reminiscent of the Harry-Draco one (but hey every hero needs his nemesis) . You can even say that Kvothe’s struggles to get money to be able to remain at the University are repeated too frequently. Even though the critical part of me is willing to acknowledge all of the above, I can honestly say that I did not care one IOTA about these: they are only but tiny droplets in the vast ocean of awesomeness that is this book.
If I had any talent for poetry I would write an Ode. If I could compose songs, I would make one for the lute and call it “The name of the Wind knocked my socks off”. But I don’t. As it stands, the ONLY thing I can do to convey how much I love this book, is to write this review, hoping against hope that it will be enough, and say that whenever Patrick Rothfuss takes Kvothe next, I will follow, blindly and willingly.
And I will finish by saying the following: I don’t want to run into any rushed declarations but The Name of the Wind may well be the best book I read since The Book Smugglers’ inception.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
I read this one-page prologue that opens the book and I knew I was in for a treat:
A Silence of Three Parts
It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.
The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighed through the trees, set the inn’s sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumns leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with conversation and laughter, the clatter and clamour one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of night. If there had been music….but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.
Inside the Waystone a pair of men huddled at one corner of the bar. They drank with quiet determination, avoiding serious discussions of troubling news. In doing this they added a small, sullen silence to the larger, hollow one. It made an alloy of sorts, a counterpoint.
The third silence was not an easy thing to notice. If you listened for an hour, you might begin to feel it in the wooden floor underfoot and in the rough, splintering barrels behind the bar. It was in the weight of the black stone hearth that held the heat of a long-dead fire. It was in the slow back and forth of a white linen cloth rubbing along the grain of the bar. And it was in the hands of the man who stood there, polishing a stretch of mahogany that already gleamed in the lamplight.
The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distant, and he moved with the subtle certainty that comes from knowing many things.
The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. This was appropriate as it was the greatest silence of the three, wrapping the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumn’s ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.
The Name of the Wind was published back in 2007 and has won many prizes and keen followers. The second book Day Two: The Wise Man’s Fear was first set to be published in 2008…except, it wasn’t.
It is already May 2009 and the book has no release date as of yet. It seems that this has been the cause for an internet brouhaha where angered fans have been pestering the author to finish the book already or else and I find myself wondering what the hell are people thinking when they assume a writer can just you know, come up with amazing stories like this easily. Writing to me, is art, and no artist, as far as I understand can write under pressure. I mean, I can certainly sympathise with the tension of the wait and I would love to read The Wise Man’s Fear sooner rather than later. I do however, prefer to read the best book Patrick Rothfuss can come up with and if that can only happen if we give the man the time he needs, I believe I should oblige and sit quietly.
Patrick Rothfuss wrote a blog post concerning the release of book 2 where he unleashes his frustration: he explores how he is not a writing machine, how his life changed from being an unknown aspiring writer to a success practically overnight and how that is stressful even if of course, also a good thing. How he feels tired and frustrated at the hate mail he receives and I feel for the guy.
Although part of me thinks that this avid anticipation can also be hurtful to the book’s chances: I mean, can you imagine the expectation people will have? Look at me: if the next book is only 0.000001% better than The Name of the Wind , I will have to officially enter a petition to Thea for a revision of our grading system but how can there be something better than a 10 rated book? If the book is 0.000001% worse than The Name of the Wind, I am afraid I will be disappointed and that’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I wonder if the Internet and blogging is partly to blame for higher expectations with regards to books. The more blogs talk about one book and the more blogs we read, the more it seems we become part of a group that want it all and NOW. Maybe the closer we get to authors (by reading their website and their own blog), the worse it is?
But is this fair to authors? What about readers – is the wait fair to them? What do you think?
Verdict: simply one of the books I have EVER read.
Rating: a solid, perfect 10 which just set the bar higher for everything I read henceforth
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