The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

cover_ukThis is another victim of the Sabriel pile-up, but one I dealt with sensibly at the time. I wrote most of a review and saved it, ready to post, and then never got round to it. So I finished it today, as I’m trying to get caught up on my jabberings. Expect a brief post on The Wise Man’s Fear (sequel to this one) soon, which will be the last of the pile-up’s victims I’ll be dealing with. For the rest, it’s just been too long for me to write anything meaningful and interesting. Other than that, there’s The Way of Kings (which I’ll probably do tonight) and Words of Radiance to come soon.

Post was written some time in November, I believe:

Another reread, but this time, I may actually finish writing about it. I read this a couple of years ago… probably in 2009? I was absolutely mad for it at the time, and couldn’t wait for the sequel (The Wise Man’s Fear) to come out. I pre-ordered it pretty much as soon as I could. But what with one thing and another, the release date got put back and back, and by the time it arrived, well… I’d sort of forgotten the plot of the first book. And both books are so hefty, I never quite got round to reading them.

But I finally saw fit to get back into it, and though I can’t for the life of me figure out why, I am completely in love again. It is most puzzling. Since I started this blog, I’ve been sort of thinking about my blog posts as I read my books, so I’m constantly analysing why stuff appeals to me. And normally, this is really good for me, and works really well, so by the time I’m finished I have a coherent idea of why a book feels to me as it does. But the Name of the Wind is completely eluding me. I’ve been addicted to it, barely able to put it down to play Civ 5 with the boyfriend (sorry about that), missing my mouth when eating a sandwich on the train because I can’t take my eyes off it (thank god I was sat alone in a corner; I must have looked a right numpty), staying up late for just one more chapter… but I can’t really see what I love about it. It’s not amazingly original, it’s not completely unpredictable, or fabulously well-written. But it is really really good. I’m stumped.

As for what it is, it’s a fairly typical young-boy coming of age fantasy novel, with some magic and monsters and a medievalish setting. Nothing new or amazing. The magic is done neatly, and the main character is appealing, but also partly realistically a teenage boy, which is a bit of a feat. But the story telling is quite tropey, and there are some flaws in how Kvothe (lead) is written… he tends to come across a bit older than his years. The author does try to deal with this, and he does in part make Kvothe convincingly fifteen… but his success is patchy. The style tends to overdrama, and the descriptions to flowery. The prose is a bit too archaic for what it is (and this is me saying this) too, which just stinks a bit of some more overdrama.

I’m really not sounding very positive am I? But the thing is, despite all this, despite the book being, as far as science (okay, my reviewing, shush) can detect, not great, it really is. And all I can think of to explain it that while it falls into holes and goes too far/not far enough in some stuff, somehow, the combination manages to hit it just right. All things in good measure, as it were, to make it just… work. I am aware this is a lame excuse for a reason, but I’m stumped. If you have any better ideas, answers on a postcard…

Possibly, and this can’t be all of it, otherwise I’d love a lot more books than I do, it is just the mystery. Rothfuss leaves a lot to be left guessing, and a lot left to be told (considering how big the books are, and the fact that there are multiple sequels, it’s a heckdamn of lot) and that is incredibly compelling. He also chooses just the right bits to leave mysterious, and in just the right ways. It’s not just “mysterious jazz hands” sort of unsubtlety; that’s just annoying and a lot of books do it. It is the more frustrating flavour where things get interrupted or the character doesn’t know yet or just… mystery getting played out very very naturally so it doesn’t feel at all wedged into the plot, and so doesn’t make you get all contrary and insist you don’t care… or is that just me?

Aforementioned compelling-ness aside, it is quite a hefty read, and the pacing does drag occasionally. I am fairly convinced more heavy-handed editing could have been a boon to the book, though I imagine that may already have happened. Maybe just not enough. I got to about two thirds through and got a little fed up of having to keep on going… not because I wasn’t enjoying myself or anything just because, I think, the mind is used to books only being so long, and so it starts to expect endings to be forthcoming… and so when none are, annoyance. It doesn’t overly detract from my enjoyment, but I can imagine for someone who doesn’t read as stupidly quickly as I do, or as dedicatedly (when I’m interested in a book, it will get a good four or five hours a day at least, and not everyone has that much time to spare for reading), this could become quite problematic. I can certainly forsee being busier than I currently am, and forgetting the beginning of the book by the time I got to the end.

As I say, on paper, it’s not selling itself well, but somehow, it pulls through and is a stunning read. Even the bits that feel a bit teenage-boy-wish-fulfillment manage to suck you in. Somehow, Rothfuss has the magic, so who am I to pick fault when what he’s doing really, really seems to work?

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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2 Responses to The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

  1. Rabindranauth says:

    Preach it. These books have so much I don’t like, especially the whole Denna – Kvothe romance that boils over into the second book, and at the end of it? I still would be lying if I didn’t give em 5 stars and thereabouts. The second book is Wheel-of-Time-esque; 1100 pages and almost nothing happens. The Doors of Stone is either going to be one of the fattest, most action packed books I’ve ever read, to wrap up the storyline, or there’s going to be another book after that. That’s the general opinion. I’m pretty sure that it’s actually something else entirely; The Doors of Stone is going to give Kvothe’s tale an ending unlike anything seen in fantasy so far. For one main reason; the chosen one doesn’t necessarily have to defeat the dark lord :D

    PS. Have you heard about the novella coming out in November? It’s going to feature Auri. The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

  2. readerofelse says:

    I had not heard about that… though experience of Rothfuss and proposed release dates of things tells me that it won’t come out in November. But the novella might be a good move for him… or it might completely wreck what’s good about his style, so I suspect I’ll either absolutely love it or completely detest it. Auri-perspective will be good though. Time away from teenage boy will be time much appreciated.

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