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.
How do I write a review for The Name of the Wind?
The answer, of course, is I don’t really write a review in the way I usually write reviews, since The Name of the Wind is a fantasy book in the way fantasy books usually are.
This is a re-read for me. I read it back in grade nine or ten, borrowed from the school library because I was afraid to go into the fantasy section of the bookstore because all the book covers had guys on them and all the authors were guys and I was not a guy. (One day, I will write a post addressing the way I feel fantasy is, to a certain extent, divided between fantasy-fantasy and YA-fantasy along gender lines instead of age, but IT IS NOT THIS DAY. This day, I get on with this review/rumination/thing.)
You should know that I had been having a hard time getting into books for a while leading up to my reading of NotW, and I was wondering if my earlier love affairs with books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and Divergent were just flukes. And then I started reading The Name of the Wind.
I’ll have you know that The Name of the Wind is 722 pages. I’ll also have you know that I read it in one night.
This is all to establish just how much I like this book, by the way. Now I’ll get into actually telling you why I like this book. There’s actually a very simple, straightforward answer. It’s what pulled me in in the first place and what makes me continue to think that this book is amazing. The framing device.
Fun fact: I usually think framing devices are annoying and irrelevant, interrupting the actual action to add absolutely nothing to the narrative. That’s not the case with the framing device for The Name of the Wind. If it wasn’t for the framing device, The Name of the Wind would be a very different book, and not even close to being good.
Without the framing device, The Name of the Wind is a story about the adventures of an overpowerd Gary Stu who never encounters any real resistance, is perfect at everything, a bit of an arrogant ass, and generally infuriating and unendearing. With the framing device, you know this is a tragedy. The story has gravitas. You keep reading because you know that at some point, this prodigy, this genius, this living legend is going to become this washed-up tavern owner who looks ten years older than he actually is.
There’s a lot more I can say about this book: the worldbuilding is stellar, the writing is superb, and, yes, Rothfuss could do a little better by his female characters, but I will always come back to the framing device. Because of it, throughout the story, you can feel the slow, inevitable pull of time, drawing Kvothe towards his ultimate failure. You can speculate all you want about clues and theories (and do it, because it’s fascinating – try here for some really in-depth shit), but, for me, the genius of The Name of the Wind is distilled on the first page in the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die . From that moment, you know that this is no ordinary story.