A short opening chapter describes only the silence of a room – Boring, right? (And only seventeen million words to go) It’s quite the opposite, actually. I have never read a book that is so long that is never boring, and this opening chapter, less than a page long, is my favourite ever beginning to a novel. It is gripping, poetic and mysterious, and that is how I would describe The Name of the Wind as a whole.
The opening of the book sees Kvothe, our, somewhat rumour-distorted, hero, who has set up retirement in hiding as an innkeeper. What lures the reader this early is the smooth and flawless writing style of Rothfuss, who can seemingly write about anything, adding flare, wit, poetry and meaning to the otherwise latent, bland and passive.
It doesn’t take long though for us to be gripped by a mystery. We know something is happening in the present-day, third-person narrative, but that is for now only a whisper in the background… an eerie and intriguing shadow behind our main story: Kvothe’s autobiography – a true first-person account of the life of a mythical hero.
Before I let off the slightest whiff of a criticism in this review, I will say that The Name of the Wind is an exceptional novel. The characters are captivating yet extraordinarily tangible. The world and its history, though only touched upon, are realistic and consuming. The magic and the fantasy are beautiful, imaginative and, for an aspiring writer, edifying.
What I did find though is that… yeah, it is long… but it wasn’t at any time droning or complacent. Because of its length, there were parts of the book where the direction of the story was pushed onto the backburner. For either a slow reader or someone who can only manage a chapter or two a night, you may find that you go a couple of days forgetting about Kvothe’s ultimate goal of investigating the Chandrian. But this is not a normal criticism. This style of narrative that Rothfuss pulls off demands an unabridged life story, and that’s what you get (well… the first third of one anyway). I come to a similar conclusion to that of my review of the Lord of the Rings: to write this kind of story shorter and more direct would sacrifice more than it gains. In the case of The Name of the Wind, a few more fight scenes, creature encounters etc. would have disturbed the realism that makes this such a unique fantasy experience.
I urge you, fantasy readers, to read a modern classic. Read ‘The Name of the Wind’.
By D. C. Ward.
Looking for a new fantasy read before the Doors of Stone, the third book in the Kingkiller Chronicle, is released? You might enjoy The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence, or The Lies of Locke Lamora (The first book in the Gentlemen Bastard series), by Scott Lynch. And don’t forget Sentient Ink’s own stories: The Yesterday Key (Fantasy Short), The Demons’ Cry (Fantasy Series) and The Bleak Streets of Carrada (Mafia Thriller/Fantasy).
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