Book Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle #1
Publisher: Penguin Group (March 2007)
Wendy’s Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Kote is an intriguing man. To his patrons, he is merely a friendly barkeep, but some spy what lies beneath the vibrant red hair and haunted eyes. But even those who believe they know him best, do not know everything. When the Chronicler arrives, recognizing Kote as the hero of many more names and feats, he convinces the man to tell his story. A story of strange demon spiders, of the angelic woman who stole his heart, of deadly assassins, murdered kings, tragedy and loss, and the magic of the wind.
Well, those are the things I expected this 700 page book to tell me about. Instead, I got Harry Potter goes to alchemy school, but without any focus or the depth of interesting supporting characters and events that Rowlings offers along with her main protagonist.
Chronicler is skilled in shorthand, which is a good thing, since Kvothe seems to have a perfect memory and thus details every moment of his life surrounding his university life. I’m wary of the concept of first person stories that retell their life history in such perfect detail, but in this case, one of Kvothe’s many talents is his genius mind. His recall is superb, and he is a progeny in just about everything he sets his mind to. Thankfully, Rothfuss manages to balance this with tragedy that leaves Kvothe orphaned and starving on the streets, but it becomes obvious early on that Kvothe is going to make it out of anything thrown at him during this coming of age story. Oh there will be scars, both inside and out, but very little drama and suspense for the reader to enjoy. Many of the events and encounters promise of follow up, like carrots dangled before the reader, but then the carrots kind of dissolve into the wind (whose name apparently isn’t all that important).
Then there is the girl, Denna, whose beauty Kvothe takes great pains to describe to Chronicler and Kvothe’s unique companion, Bast. At one point, he likens her unto a selas flower:
“It is a deep red flower that grows on a strong vine. Its leaves are dark and delicate. They grow best in shadowy places, but the flower itself finds stray sunbeams to bloom in. There is much of you that is both shadow and light. It grows in deep forests and is rare because only skilled folk can tend one without harming it. It has a wonderous smell and is much sought and seldom found.”
Like so many things in this story, there is all this build up and promise, but very little pay off. I’m certain Denna was a perfect angel to a young boy in love, but his swooning and her eventual accompaniment on what was meant to be the climactic event of the story were rather dull.
While this book did disappoint me, I will praise Rothfuss on two things: first is the lore interjected throughout, often told by storytellers within the book, or by Kvothe himself. I found myself far more interested in these tellings than in Kvothe’s story, and would love a collection of short stories based on these alone.
I also loved Rothfuss’ obvious appreciation for music. Whether or not he himself is a musician, when he writes about music, his love for the art form fills the pages with the depth that is lacking in the rest of the story.