The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is one of those books that people have been telling me I should read for ages. Recently, however, multiple people in a very short period of time told me about it. That, in addition to seeing Patrick Rothfuss on panels at NerdCon and liking what he had to say, convinced me that it was time to pick up the book and give it a go. My friends are rarely wrong when they tell me I’ll enjoy a book and this was no exception. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book so firmly planted in the fantasy genre and this one filled me the type of nostalgic joy only someone who ate up fantasy books as a child and hasn’t read them in while will understand.
The Name of the Wind is the story of Kvothe as told by him, many years later. The book tells the story of present day Kvothe, now an innkeeper and going by Kote, and how a chronicler (think historian/biographer) convinces him to tell the story of how he essentially became a legend. He’s a hero, a musician, an adventurer, an academic, and, in my mind anyway, he’s dreamy. What struck me most about The Name of the Wind is how it revels and thrives in stories. It’s the story of Kvothe telling his story, which is, a lot of the times, propelled forward by stories told to him. I was absolutely giddy reading it.
The appreciation of the influence of stories is umbrella’d by a general appreciation of the arts. Kvothe’s childhood was spent with the Edema Ruth which was a troupe of traveling performers. Here’s where he begins to learn a little bit of everything via the troupe itself and fellow travelers. While it’s not harped on, the arts are definitely a powerful presence in this story, which is always such a beautiful thing to see.
The appreciation of the arts is a presence throughout, however there is a period of time where we see tragedy strike and young Kvothe wonders, lost and learning harder lessons and truths. From this point forward I had to occasionally remind myself of Kvothes age. It’s mentioned throughout the book several times that he’s very young to be doing most of the things he does. Without these reminders and sometimes even with them, it would be difficult to remember that he is very young. I know this is a pet peeve for some people and occasionally I agree. In this case however, I think it’s important to remember two things: First, he’s telling the story as an adult to other adults. Because of his background with the Edema Ruth a higher expectation is set for story telling, however I think this is an important context to remember whilst reading. Second, we’re shown over and over again that Kvothe is more intelligent and quicker than your average hero. Not just by a little, but by a significant amount. Throughout the story we get indications of this and because of these indications it’s hard to remember how old he is, and his age is important. The most intelligent and world weary teen in the world is still a teen. Kvothe as a teen is witty and smart and sometimes snarky and has a lot of pride and a temper and acts on it. There were moments when I just couldn’t connect why a character that had lived so self sufficiently on the streets was letting such small slights anger him until I remembered, he is a teen. Honestly this just makes me more excited for the next two books because I’ll get to see him grow into the adult he when we see him at the inn at the beginning of the story.
Another part of this story that made my heart so incredibly happy was the women in it and the conversations that happen because of them. There is Kvothe’s love interest, Denna, who is a force to be reckoned with, but there is a conversation that sticks in my mind as being very important. Denna makes her living from gifts and money that wealthy men that all want to attach themselves to her give her. Kvothe mentions to the owner of a tavern that he plays music at that he wishes Denna found better work for herself. It was a type of put down and the owner, Deoch, reminds Kvothe that the options for Denna are extremely limited. There were very few positions that let her be an independent person and the ones that did exist were not particularly desirable by anyone’s standards. This was a revelation for Kvothe and he realized his mistake in thinking ill of Denna’s choices. This in addition to a few other very impressive female characters made me beam with feminist pride contentment which is far too rare a feeling when reading fantasy fiction.
I could go on and on about how well developed the characters, even seemingly small ones, were, and how beautifully the world was built, and how magical and still gritty it is, but really, most of all, I just want to say this is a great book. There’s a second book out that I just can’t wait to crack open and the third, and from what I understand final, book should be out soon. If you’ve liked fantasy be it Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, anything by Tamora Pierce, or any other fantastic fantasy that I’ve missed out in my life, you will eat up The Name of the Wind.