As a reader and writer of Fantasy, I’ve been bombarded with “rules” that need to be followed in Fantasy genre. Don’t use prologues. They’re of the devil. Never open with description. That’s dreary. Don’t use the word “was.” We’ll hunt you down and hang you for crimes against the writing world.
I’ve never really liked any of these rules, mostly because I don’t like rules in general. They make things boring.
That’s why, when I opened The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and saw a prologue, I got really excited.
The prologue is entirely devoted to description. A description of silence. I had never, ever seen that pulled off before.
And, on top of that, it began with the words “It was.” So, right then and there, I decided I liked this Rothfuss guy. Not only does he ignore the “No prologues” rule, but he opens his entire debut novel with the words “It was,” then proceeds to describe the sound of silence. Why?
Because he can.
Patrick Rothfuss has one of the most beautiful writing styles I have ever had the privilege of reading. His prose is smooth, almost lyrical, and he shows a mastery of character and world-building that is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings and The Dragonriders of Pern. Possibly slightly better. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone I said that.
I loved this book so much that I’m not even sure how to describe it to you. I’ll do my best, but just know that it’s roughly eleven times better than anything I’ll ever be able to explain in a synopsis.
His true name is Kvothe, pronounced “quothe,” but he has been called by many other titles. In some places he is known as The Flame, due to his burning red hair, and The Thunder because of his deep voice. His first teacher called him E’lir and his pupil now hails him as Reshi. Some named him Lightfinger, Six-string, and The Broken Tree. People call him Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. He has earned those names, each and every one of them.
Names hold unimaginable power. Kvothe, of all people, understands this. But people are beginning to forget the meaning behind Kvothe’s many names. They accuse him of deeds he has never committed or claim him to be nothing more than legend.
It is time for them to understand who Kvothe really is. With the help of his friend Bast and a scribe named Chronicler, Kvothe is finally ready to tell the tale of the man behind the many names and deeds.
And so we hear the tale of Kvothe, from his time as a curious boy in a company of traveling players to the murder of his troupe by the supposedly mythical Chandrain. We learn of his struggles to survive in a crime-ridden city with nothing but his spirits and wits to help him. Kvothe endured many trials and won many victories, all so that he might enter a famed school of magic and gain access to the thousands of books that lay there. All so that he might discover the truth behind the Chandrain and learn to wield the name of the wind.
The Name of the Wind is told in both third and first person, blended together in a very effective mode of storytelling. The third person takes place in a small inn in a little town of no consequence, where Kvothe plays the part of innkeeper and Bast pretends to be a server. In such a lifeless village, Kvothe’s fiery spirit beings to dwindle and die. Bast entreats him to recount his life story to Chronicler, thus rekindling his spirit and helping remind Kvothe of who he truly is.
His life story is told in a deep first person narrative, forming a riveting coming-of-age tale that lets the reader get a glimpse into the harsh past of the proud, gifted young magician named Kvothe.
Kvothe’s character is something of a legend, even after Kvothe strips his story of all fable and writes down only the facts. He is smarter, stronger, deadlier, and more charming than anyone else in his world. Not only does he have a voice that can enchant crowds, but when he gets in street fights and is cut to shreds, he just stitches himself back up and returns to kick butt.
Generally, this kind of flawless character would bother me, except the narrative makes it very clear that Kvothe is not perfect. He makes really bad mistakes out of both arrogance and pure idiocy. I mean, this guy throws himself off a roof because he thinks it will gain him the tutelage of a famed magician. Hmmm. Bad plan. Kvothe is the dumbest smart character I know.
Anyway, all characters in this story are like this: They have very clear skills and are not people you would want to tangle with, but they are also very human. Their greatness is only a result of believing that they can achieve it.
Even the love interest Denna was well-rounded, a huge surprise in the Fantasy genre, where love-interests usually don’t have much character at all. She also didn’t happen to be annoying, which is always nice.
The world depicted in The Name of the Wind was impressive and the system of magic employed is probably one of the most sophisticated I have ever seen. I’d explain it to you, but it’s technical and science-like (not in a boring way), so you’ll just have to read the book yourself.
I am beyond excited about the prospect of Lionsgate turning this into a movie/ TV series/video game. And when I say excited, I mean paralyzed with both enthusiasm and anxiety. What if they do it wrong? Because, honestly, this first book is long (660 pages), and Lionsgate owns the rights to the entire series. How can they possible condense all of that awesomeness onto a screen?
You know what? I don’t really care. If they can translate a quarter of the book’s epicness into a film or series, I’ll be satisfied. My one request is that they don’t mess up Bast’s character. He’s my favorite, so do what you will with the others, but don’t touch Bast. Keep him as is. Thank you.
Have you read The Name of the Wind? If you haven’t, you’re wasting your life. Go buy a copy. What did you think about the Lionsgate deal? I’d love to hear about your favorite character or scene!
Hannah Heath – bookworm and aspiring author