Friday Flashback is hosted by Jen @ The Introverted Reader.
This review was originally published on Goodreads.com on September 27, 2009. Since the second book in the series, The Wise Man's Fear, will be released soon (March 1st, I believe), I thought that I would share my original review. :)
I haven't read a LOT of fantasy. I've read a lot, to me, but when I look at the amount of fantasy that some people have on their shelves here, I am daunted and feel like I've read practically nothing at all. But there is a reason for this: I tend to rely really heavily on recommendations with fantasy because 1) there's so much of it! and 2) browsing the bookstore and looking for fantasy is an effort in frustration for me. They all sound the same from their description, and they all have (in my opinion) awful cover-art that makes the book look as though it would be a Harlequin romance with Elves and dragons, etc.
So, I generally steer clear of the fantasy section in the bookstore and rely on recommendations. Goodreads has helped immensely with this, and lately I have been reading a lot more fantasy, and it's been good. But I don't think I've read anything like The Name of the Wind before.
Before we really get down to business, I have to mention that I'd had no intention of reading this book for a long time (at least until the series is finished). I loathe waiting for the next installment of a series that has hooked me, for one. And two, I had, as much as I hate to admit it, some preconceived notions about this book that made me think that people were exaggerating how much they liked it.
These preconceived notions were:
- That the book was set in a single day. I couldn't see how a book set in a single day could possibly be THAT interesting without being ridiculously frantic and overwhelming. Kind of like the TV show "24". O_o
- I pictured Kvothe as a brilliant mini-assassin/spy/wizard/student/expert-at-everything/wise-beyond-his-incredibly-few-years hero. Boring. I'm tired of the "Wow. My life is effortless because I am good at EVERYTHING and I make no mistakes" hero.
So, thanks to a friend of mine who probably would have surgically attached this book to my hand if she could, I read it. And I was pleasantly surprised.
The writing was... I don't know how to describe it. I would read a handful of words, and then suddenly I wasn't in my room, or laying on my bed any longer, I was tagging along with Kvothe like his shadow. I'd take a break from the book, and then when I'd pick it up again, POOF! Like a freakin' vortex I was sucked right back into the story.
That is the main reason that this book is getting 4 stars. The writing was fantastic. It feels like it was a labor of love. That Rothfuss didn't just want to tell his story, he wanted for the reader to feel it, to live it, and breathe it, and BE IN IT. The way that Rothfuss writes the complex feelings and emotions and thoughts that Kvothe had was no more effort to read than any popular author could write. But after reading it, I felt like I hadn't just read words, I felt like I held Kvothe's soul in my hands. It just felt so much more profound than mere words can convey.
But, I don't want you to think that this was some gimmicky new style. This was straight prose, with full sentences and complete paragraphs and correctly used punctuation. But it just felt effortless. Like Kvothe rubbed his heart on the pages and words appeared.
At the same time, though, Rothfuss' sense of humor shines through the pages. He has exactly the kind of sense of humor that I love, cherish, and adore. Dry, deadpan, sarcastic wit. I love it. And he uses it sparingly, so that when it comes, it's like a little ray of sunshine through the clouds, not a blindingly sunny day that makes you wish for sunglasses.
That being said, I can't give this book 5 stars. In reality, the entire book felt like a prologue. (And perhaps that's what it was meant as.) We meet Kvothe as an innkeeper trying to protect and hide his true identity (whoops, sorry!), and he begins to tell his story, which is how the entire book can be set in one day. Clever.
We learn about Kvothe's childhood with a traveling troupe of performers, about his early education, about his early teen years spent homeless and destitute in a major city after tragedy strikes the troupe, then about his life in the University where he goes to study. We see Kvothe succeed beyond any reasonable expectation, but he also fails, and makes mistake after mistake after mistake. He's brilliant, but stupid at the same time.
Early on, I was a little worried about the way that the story was told. At one point, it was a story within a story within a story. I am not a huge fan of this technique, but I have to admit it was done well. I am actually quite surprised that I liked this book as much as I did, considering that two of the major themes in the book are ones that I'm not exactly a fan of. Those would be storytelling within the story and music within the story.
But, too often, I think that authors get a bit carried away and go on for pages and pages and pages of songs or lays, and I lose interest around line 4 and start looking for something shiny in the couch cushions. Rothfuss handled his storytelling and music perfectly. He managed to convey the importance of each to the overall story, but didn't whack me over the head with a thousand-line long song of lost love. *Yawn*.
I did like the story overall. It had the classic fantasy feel, while at the same time being somehow more. There were a lot of little adventures that Kvothe had, but you could tell that this book is just prologue to the larger story of Kvothe's life after he leaves the University. I'm anxious to see where Rothfuss takes us.
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