Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Book: Patrick Rothfuss' "The Name of the Wind"

Lately my reading has either been science fiction or nonfiction. For my latest read I decided to dip my toe back into the Fantasy genre. In college I use to read an even Sci Fi - Fantasy mix. My favorite fantasy author used to be David Eddings. I remember reading his first series in the during dead week when I should have been studying for finals. The five book series, The Belgariad, nearly cost me my grades. Unfortunately his last few books were disappointing and I was turned off from the sword & sorcery scene for several years.

I decided to re-enter the genre with my third book of 2009 - Peter Rothfuss' "The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day One)". From the title you probably can deduce that it's the first book of a series. In this case, a trilogy.

This is Rothfuss' debut book and it's a good one. Rothfuss has a smooth, colloquial writing style that is very comfortable to read and I was immediately drawn into the story.

"The Name of the Wind" introduces the main character, Kvothe. We follow him as a youth in a traveling acting troupe, as an orphaned street urchin, and finally as a student of the arcane arts at the university. He learns the skills he will need to find the evil forces that killed his parents. The book sets up an almost scientific background for the book's system of magic, known as sympathy. In 722 pages the basic foundation of a very rich world is built.

This book is obviously an introduction. Unlike most fantasy novels, very little epic adventures take place in this first volume but a large chunk of background and character development takes place. In some books that long of an introduction would be a bad thing but Rothfuss' comforting writing style and the well written narrative flies by and keeps your interest. I never felt bored as I read about Kvothe.

The book is very good but not perfect. Sometimes Kvothe seems too perfect. Other times he's too naive. The swings can be a little jarring but in the end the character was believable as a very young, very bright, streetwise kid.

Anyone who has read fantasy will recognize the story. There is often very little differences between fantasy novels. The key is in the details and nuances. How magic is handled. If it is a solo quest or a group quest. But basically it's the hero is wronged; the hero gains the skills and the allies needed; the hero hunts down and defeats the evil. The story line is often not the reason I read fantasy - it is the humor (I snickered several time while reading the book) and interesting characters that interest me.

The next books won't be coming out until April 2010. I can't wait for the next chapter of Kvothe's growth and adventure. While it is too early to recommend the entire series, it's a very good start. Highly recommended ... so far.

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