Book Reviews: The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear

Ok, I feel a bit bad about taking so long to post this review – I finished this book back in the beginning of March.  And I loved it so much that I read the thousand page sequel in just under a week!  I have just been so danged busy that I have been rather neglectful of my bloggerly duties.  Expect a few more book reviews to come out in the next few weeks you guys.  Oh, and I still owe you some pattern reviews too.  And photos of my finished skating costumes.  Yeah… behind doesn’t even begin to cover it.  So in that case let’s get to it – first a book review for The Name of the Wind Day One of the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss.

The Name of the Wind is the first book in Patrick Rothfuss’s yet unfinished trilogy, The Kingkiller Chronicles.  It presents the life story of Kvothe told in a first-person narrative style.  The premise is that Kvothe is cajoled into dictating his life’s story to the kingdom’s record keeper, known as Chronicler.  He agrees to do so in a three-day span, and each book of the trilogy is comprised of the events and records Chronicler takes that day.  As The Name of the Wind is the first book in the trilogy, it starts the story of Kvothe when he is a young boy living with his family of traveling performers (known in this world as the Edema Ruh).  Of course, as is often the case in fantasy, tragedy strikes and Kvothe finds himself alone in the wide world.  The first book follows Kvothe as he comes to terms with his family’s murder, and eventually finds himself at the University, studying to be an Archanist (the magical-ish professions in this world).  Kvothe finds friends, makes enemies, and attempts to woo the love of his life (in an awkward teenage boy sort of way) throughout the remainder of this story.

What I love about this book is how well developed a character Kvothe is.  Since this is told in first person perspective the story wouldn’t work at all without his being a relatable and interesting person.  He tells his story in an elaborate, proud, and almost bombastic sort of way, but then his Edema Ruh heritage makes any other telling seem inappropriate.  He has diverse interests (music, studying at the university, and generally getting into trouble as teenage boys are wont to do), which I very much appreciate as I feel it rounds out his character.  It also makes him very relatable, especially to those of us who try to balance professions and hobbies (as someone who skates, sews, and has assorted nerdy interests I totally understand when he gets grumpy about lacking time to practice his lute)   Of course, that whole spending eight years studying at universities might have something to do with my ability to relate to his character as well – I feel that Rothfuss is brilliant at capturing the University lifestyle.

Overall I found that the first book was a fantastically fun read and I loved the way this story was told.  The writing itself is wonderful and the flow of this book is fantastic.  Once Kvothe started the telling of his story I was completely hooked and knew that Rothfuss would be a permanent addition to my list of favorite authors.  I started the second book almost immediately after finishing the first and I have to stay that this is definitely among my favorite fantasy stories that I have read so far.  Highly recommended.

After finishing the first book I jumped right into the second book of the series, The Wise Man’s Fear.

This book continues the story of Kvothe, as he pursues his studies at the University and continues to look for answers to the mystery behind his family’s murder.  In this book Kvothe takes an extended leave of absence from the University after getting in to trouble one too many times.  He continues to chase the love of his life (with mixed results), and also grows and develops as a character.  He develops foreign contacts, and learns to deal with the complexities of politics, and also the arts of fighting and romance.

All in all I have to say that while I very much enjoyed this book, I didn’t find it to be quite as good as the first part of the story.  Unfortunately, in the first book, Kvothe lists all of the fantastic and crazy things he has done with his life, though very few of them actually occur by the end of Day One.  Which means that they have to get covered in the second and third parts of the story.  I felt as though the first half of this book followed rather logically and organically from the end of the first book.  While I wasn’t happy about Kvothe adventuring away from the University (I like those characters and the stories that revolve around his time there), I realized that he wouldn’t be able to become the man he ends up as without adventuring through the wider world.  I didn’t mind his dealings in court politics as a bard (it followed logically from his musical talents), and I suppose I didn’t even mind his being sent away from the court by his patron.  However, it was what followed afterwards that seemed a bit tacked on.  The rest of this review might get a bit spoilery, but then Kvothe tells you everything he does at the beginning of the first book, so maybe this doesn’t spoil too much.  I found I was really enjoying this book until Kvothe finds himself entrapped by the Fae Felurian, an Aphrodite-esque creature who spends a great deal of time teaching Kvothe the finer arts of lovemaking.  Apparently the presence of sex cause quite an uproar from many of the fans of this series.  Now, I am not opposed to the copious amounts of sex that happen at this point in the story.  What I am not a fan of is that the story itself almost stops cold.  There are a few important, almost critical, events that happen while Kvothe is trapped in the world of Felurian, but it takes so danged long to actually get to them, with little of substance happening in between.  And I understand that we as the readers are also supposed to feel trapped, as Kvothe is, but it doesn’t make this section any more interesting to read.  And compared to the rest of the writing it feels so tacked on and out of place.  It is difficult to say how it could have been improved (I mean he is trapped in a faery world, so it should feel different, but it is just so danged slooooooooooow), but I wouldn’t have minded this section being a lot shorter.  After this, Kvothe travels to a rarely-visited society and learns the art of fighting.  While this section of the story is much more interesting than the Felurian bit, it continues to feel like there are a bunch of segments of this story that needed to be tacked on and fit in before we get to the final installment.  Kvothe ends this portion of his story by returning to the University, and I have to say that that was a welcomed devlopement.

To be completely fair, I really did enjoy reading this book.  I mean, I pounded through the thousand-plus pages in just under a week.  The writing itself is absolutely fantastic, and I loved the craftmasnship, even during the slow parts.  However, I don’t think this story was quite as tight or as enjoyable as the first book.  I know some people were displeased with the copious amounts of sex in this book (though there were a lot of these scenes, I thought they were tastefully done; my complaint isn’t with how they were written or that they were included – I just felt that they unnecessarily slowed down the story more than they needed to).  I also felt like sections of the story felt like a bunch of isolated incidents that were crammed in and strung together because they were mentioned in the beginning of the first book, rather than because they organically flowed from one tale to the next.  However, I do think that many of the developments that occurred in this portion of the story set everything up for a fantastic ending.  There are a lot of things that have been hinted at, and there are still plenty of mysteries to be solved, so I expect the last day of the Chronicles to be a good read.  This will definitely be a book to jump to the top of the queue once it is released, and I, like the many other fans of this series, will be waiting anxiously in the meantime.

Overall I have to say that this is a fantastic series, and I highly recommend it.  It does contain adult themes (especially in the second book), so I don’t know if I would recommend it for younger readers (I think high school and up would be appropriate, maybe a bit older if you are concerned about the sex scenes, and there is also quite a bit of violence in the second book as well), and I think having a more mature view of life helps to make some of Kvothe’s actions understandable, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them.  Though there were sections of this story that I wasn’t necessarily a fan of, this is definitely one of the best fantasy series I have ever read, especially the quality of the writing, so I highly recommend it to everyone, even if you aren’t necessarily a fan of the fantasy genre.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.