The Name of the Wind

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very late to the party when it comes to Patrick Rothfuss’ excellent fantasy novel The Name of the Wind. No matter, though. I’m glad to be at the party now!

I finished the book, the first in a trilogy called the Kingkiller Chronicle (the final novel is not yet published), over the weekend, and upon its conclusion, I was left asking one question: How the heck had I not heard of these books sooner? As I discovered with a quick Google search, The Kingkiller Chronicle does, in fact, have a fanbase — and a gigantic one at that.

The Name of the Wind has been rated over 109,000 times on GoodReads, where it boasts an impressive 4.56/5.00 rating. Author Patrick Rothfuss maintains a popular blog on his own site. And a current Kickstarter project to create Name of the Wind playing cards has raised over $417,000 ($30 of which were donated by yours truly) against a $10,000 goal and garnered participation from nerd heroes like Neil Gaiman and Felicia Day. Suffice it to say: Kingkiller fans are a passionate bunch.

The Name of the Wind tells the story — or at least starts the story — of Kvothe, a fiery-haired arcanist on a lifelong journey to understand a tragedy that befalls his family. Kvothe is a born performer, both on the stage and off. His preternatural charisma and outright brilliance are his ticket out of a beggar childhood, but they also make him a natural target when he arrives at the University to hone his skills in sympathy, which is essentially a fancy word for magic.

The story is told from grown-up Kvothe’s point of view, so when our narrator describes his adolescence — and ongoing relationship troubles — it’s with a knowing, funny wink. And when he delves into dazzling interludes about music, they dance off the page with all the hearty energy of a fireside tavern tune. But Kvothe is not a light character, and his is not a light story. It’s one filled with death, injury, and poverty — dark subjects detailed by our narrator with gusto. Rothfuss chronicles Kvothe’s life with searing language, with poetry and steel.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to these authors, who agreed to provide blurbs for The Name of the Wind back in 2007 (I said I was late to the party!):

Orson Scott Card: “Not a word of the nearly-700-page book is wasted. Rothfuss does not pad. He’s the great new fantasy writer we’ve been waiting for, and this is an astonishing book.”

Ursula K. Le Guin: “It is a rare and great pleasure to find a fantasist writing not only with the kind of accuracy of language absolutely essential to fantasy-making, but with real music in the words as well. Wherever Pat Rothfuss goes with the big story that begins with The Name of the Wind, he’ll carry us with him as a good singer carries us through a song.”

George R.R. Martin: “I gulped it down in a day, staying up almost to dawn reading, and I am already itching for the next one. He’s bloody good, this Rothfuss guy.”

What say you, readers? Should I be embarrassed that it took this long to discover the Kingkiller Chronicle? Have you already given Rothfuss’ books a try? And is it appropriate to tell my bosses I’m taking a leave of absence to get through all 1,100 pages of The Wise Man’s Fear?

Grady on Twitter: @gradywsmith

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