Patrick Rothfuss‘ astounding first novel captivated me. It took a few chapters for me to get into it. As with any epic, we begin in medias res, without much context, so it took me a chapter or two to really get hooked. It’s all about stories and the power words can have.
From the Goodreads blurb:
Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet’s hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.
We first meet Kvothe long after the events of the bulk of the novel, when he is known simply at Kote, the unassuming keeper of a quiet inn in a quiet town. However, he has been tracked down by the Chronicler, a historian who keeps records of people’s stories, and Kote’s story is his grail. Kote is Kvothe, a notorious, powerful wizard who has done many deeds both great and terrible–they are much alluded to, though we only know a few details for sure. After much persuasion, the tale begins, and we spend most of the novel following Kvothe before his great fame (or infamy).
It’s a bildungsroman, in many ways, as Kvothe grows up in all ways, both physically and mentally, learning to develop his powers and to temper them. He is a prodigy, potentially the greatest intellect of his age, and when tragedy strikes (over and over again), he must find the strength to press onward to achieve his greatness. At the same time, it isn’t just about his greatness, but about all the things he learns along the way to achieving that greatness. This novel lays the groundwork for things to come. Kvothe can often react rashly and dangerously; he’s kind and good, but his sense of justice may be his downfall in the end.
What I most loved about this novel, however, is the storytelling. That’s what it’s all about: the power of words. A storyteller captivates his audience, he holds sway over them and can impact them. This holds true with Kvothe and his tale. The world is lush, composed with a poet’s eye for detail and turn of phrase. I could easily see many, many stories set in this vibrant land, populated with Rothfuss’ unique characters. It’s richly drawn through and through, with an intricate system of magic and steeped in deep layers of mythology.
There really isn’t enough I can say about Rothfuss’ first installment of his epic. This vies for my favorite book of 2011, but it’s easily in my top 5. I’m looking forward to the sequel with bated breath.