Kvothe is the main character in The Name of the Wind, a story about a hero who, through luck and his own resourcefulness, did great deeds, grew to be famous, and then (supposedly) ended in a death while still young. This book is the first of three books in the Kingkiller Chronicle series and sets the tone and pace for the larger story, dealing with how the great Kvothe became the hero he was and the truth of what really happened to him.
I’ll just start off by saying I love this book. In a world of cookie-cutter fantasy stories, this one was refreshing in its approach. The “magic system” was different than anything else I’ve ever seen. More, it is reasonable and believable. But that was just the beginning of what made this book spectacular.
Rothfuss writes the characters with such depth and realism, it’s hard not to get sucked into the story. To me, the ultimate test of whether or not a story is good is if it can make you forget you’re reading (or listening to an audiobook, if that is your preferred medium). The Name of the Wind definitely did that for me. The characters were believable, relatable, and consistent, warts and all. Kvothe himself, Denna, Kvothe’s closest friends, and all the surrounding minor characters all had their own agendas, quirks, and personalities.
I don’t want to give away any of the story, but suffice it to say that the early chapters give us a basis for how our young hero sees the world later in life, and why he makes some of the decisions he does. When he finally arrives at the University, it seems as if things will become better for Kvothe, but the author continues to “throw rocks at him,” making him confront problem after problem, keeping the reader’s attention but also providing opportunities to see why Kvothe is famed for his abilities. Fame is not always what it seems, as we find out through the eyes of the main character.
I also own the audiobook format for this book. I have over fifty audiobooks in my library and the narrator for this book and the sequel, Nick Podehl, is the best I’ve heard. His use of accents for the different nationalities in the book’s world, and his ability to modify and modulate his voice through a great range, gives each character the unique personality that the text imparts him or her. I have a good imagination, but listening to the audiobook really made the characters pop for me, even more than how I heard and saw them in my own mind while reading.
About the only thing I can complain about is that the book didn’t go on forever. At 722 pages (print copy), it is a long book, albeit a typical length for epic fantasy, but I found myself eating up the pages, unable to put the book down, and disappointed that the second book wasn’t available right away. The second book is now out (Wise Man’s Fear, the subject of a future book review), with the third on its way. If you love epic fantasy and enjoy new, refreshing world-building and magic systems, I would highly recommend this book. You may just read it multiple times and listen to the audiobook many times as well. This masterpiece by Rothfuss definitely deserves a rating of five.