The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is one of the modern classics, a true masterpiece in storytelling, prose and characterisation. Rothfuss has made a name for himself online as a D&D player and general nice guy.
The blurb is perhaps the best way for a person to understand the novel. Here it is:
‘I have stolen princesses back from sleeping kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with my sanity and my life. I was expelled from he University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others feat to speak of during the 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’
Kvothe is a legend. A hero. A master of every art that he adopts. But when he sits down and tells his story, to the legendary storyteller Chronicler, how much is true and how much is fake? This idea that Kvothe may been inflating his story, that the narrator can’t be entirely trusted, is an aspect of fantasy that often isn’t explored. An aspect that often is only explored in the classics of literature, explored in the classrooms of English students. Something that makes this work of fiction even more interesting.
The story of Kvothe starts when he’s a young boy, the son of a pair of travelling actors, members of the society named Edama Ruh (think the classic Romany in Europe). A young boy who devours every challenge in his way, be it music, acting or singing. Helped along by his tutor Ben, a travelling scholar, he gains knowledge in basic history, science and magic.
To say anymore would be heresy for those who haven’t already read it, and we don’t want the Spanish Inquisition kicking down our doors do we? As mentioned before about the prose, I must talk about the beautifully crafted characters, dialogue and world that Rothfuss builds in his writing.
When it comes to world building I think we can safely blame Tolkien for what Rothfuss does. He expands his world out subtly, only rarely dropping info dumps, the stories told by characters in a tavern resonate in the same way the Arthurian legends do. With all the veiled meanings and distorted perceptions that age gives to legends. Along with this its widely acknowledged that is a wider world out there that Kvothe doesn’t know about, in his semi-benevolent mind, that jump out at random. Languages, races, countries and currencies are all thrown around in dialogue that are unlikely to ever be explored, adding meaningful depth.
It would be wrong to talk about Name of the Wind without mentioning some of the other characters. Such as the aforementioned Chronicler. A legendary storyteller for his ability to serve the highest of the gentry to record their stories and the lowest of the peasantry for rendering services. A bookish man who studied under the same masters as Kvothe and came out of the experience the better for it. Along with Chronicler is Bast, Kvothe’s apprentice, the multi-lingual, sexually driven young man who is learning the ways of the world from his master. Little is known of Bast at the beginning but he is easily likable and easy to emphasise with. Adding a much needed bit of cheer to the often dour Kvothe.
If you haven’t read Name of the Wind yet, if you somehow haven’t heard of it, you really should. It’s so good that there are whispers of movie, TV series and games related to Rothfuss’ work. That should probably get you interested. Enjoy.