I just finished reading The Name of the Wind for the second time. It’s that good. As the cover proudly proclaims, it won a Quill award, whatever that is. This is one of those books that has gotten positive reviews damn near everywhere but it’s worth talking about one more time out of sheer admiration. It’s simply one of the best fantasy books I have ever read.
If I were doing a writer review, Rothfuss would fall amongst the greats and not just in the fantasy genre. The reviews you read on this particular masterpiece naturally compare him to Tolkien. His writing style glows with metaphor, natural dialog and that rare gift of environmental awareness that has the ability to put you in the scene with the hero Kvothe. I think he comes close to Hemingway and Vonnegut in these critical elements of writing.
What I love about the book is that it carries you along with the main character throughout the entire tale. It does not split into multiple parts every three chapters funneling you down an off ramp to a new group of characters right when the story was getting good. Kvothe is interesting enough to have a Dos Equis commercial made about him. He doesn’t need a supporting cast to draw attention away from him.
The other strength of the book is how quickly it establishes the villain of the tale. The Chandrian is the mystical evil baseline that drives Kvothe to become the most interesting man in the world. In true master style, Rothfuss only feeds you tidbits about who and what the Chandrian might be. Every new tidbit leaves you longing for more. Kvothe makes his share of enemies along the way but none hold the captivity of the immortal or supernatural that the Chandrian does.
He also does a great job of keeping the number of characters in the book manageable. This is not always the case in fantasy – Tolkien being the worst of the lot. There is something to be said about creating a deep and immersive world based on story and character development – there is something else to be said about turning it into Mr. Miller’s History Lecture. Rothfuss keeps the small roles small and to the point. They accomplish what they are meant to without any obligation to somehow include the personal history of everyone the hero meets. Tolkien was a genius but you get the sense that he was a bit of a blowhard. Rothfuss happily shrugs off this part of Tolkien’s legacy.
He also treats magic, or sympathy, like science. I couldn’t help but lap this up. He has a way of bringing this into the story that allows you to peer behind the scenes in a logical fashion that makes the reader believe that if you were a character in the story, you might have a shot at being a sympathy master yourself. It’s magic for the layman but not insulting in anyway. It’s like reading about physics as described by Hawkins. He doesn’t assume that you can solve the Schrodinger equation yourself, but he has the passion to describe why solving such a thing can be so damn cool.
I can’t wait for the next installment.