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Review: “The Name Of The Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss

I’ve been meaning to pick up “The Name Of The Wind”  by Patrick Rothfuss for some time. I’d heard that it was written in first person but framed in third, and that it was just brilliant in general. But would it live up my expectations?

Yes. Oh yes indeed.

I could summarise the story as; young boy’s family and community are wiped by out by demons. Wizard school follows with promises of revenge, plus love interest.

I could do this, but I really, really don’t want to because it would be slanderous to the author. Even the suggestion makes me ashamed.

Therefore, instead of such a sub-standard synopsis, here is the back cover blurb;

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.

The back cover and the first chapter promise much, and the book goes on to deliver in spades.

First, there’s characterisation. Rothfuss’ characters live and breathe. I felt as though they really had lived their own lives; they had their own perspectives, their own agendas, their own demons. For a book written almost entirely in the first person, this is quite a feat.

Second, there’s worldbuilding. Rothfuss is a master of subtly here. Careful thought has gone into every aspect of the world, but because it all seems so normal to its inhabitants and because the interesting elements aren’t being thrust in your face, the details sink in gradually over time.

Third, there’s plotting. The protagonist’s behaviour, desires, and solutions to problems are entirely consistent with his life experience. So consistent, that someone reading with a writer’s eye might think it a little convenient. That suits me just fine, though – if the protagonist were to pull something out of nowhere, and it was just because of a hole in the plot that needs patched, then I call that plain lazy. My guess is that Rothfuss agrees, eschewing patchwork storytelling for weaving the narrative well to begin with.

Fourth, there’s the craft. The third-person framing around the main story appears only very occasionally, yet the tone and style of the main piece reminds you that someone is actually relating this tale. This could have been done poorly, but Ruthfuss has a deft touch. His protagonist will agonise over words when trying to describe his lost love, and occasionally glosses over details that aren’t relevant to his delivering an autobiography. The frame and the picture are not separate, if you like, and again this draws in the reader.

The end result is a story that’s desperately beautiful, even when the protagonist has hit rock bottom for the umpteenth time, especially then, and all the time you’re aware that the tale is building, and building. In Rothfuss’ world, his hero is the subject of many tavern tales, but none are as exciting as the hero’s own biography.

Patrick Rothfuss has me under his spell. You owe it to yourself to read this.

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