“The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss – the first in a series of epic fantasy

Patrick Rothfuss’ novel The Name of the Wind is the first in a so far uncompleted series. I warn you about that because the first volume was published in 2007 and the second in 2011 with the third allegedly being published this year although I have no idea whether it is the final volume – the man writes slowly.

This is an epic fantasy novel about Kvothe or Kote who is currently an innkeeper. He is telling the story of his life to a travelling bard but we know that at one point he was very well known and that something devastating happened although book one gives no further details. The whole story is, therefore, a flashback told in the main character’s voice.

In this first volume Kvothe tells of his childhood in a group of travelling players and their mysterious death. He then talks about his application to join a university of magic and what he begins to learn there about himself, his abilities and the unknown things of his world. Kvothe is poor and has to live mostly by his wits, he is cheated of his money, he makes enemies, he makes good friends and he survives mostly by playing music.

This is a long and detailed book which is full of atmosphere and excellent writing. The world Kvothe inhabits is a hard one and he makes many mistakes but he hangs on to the idea that he needs to know more things, especially about the events around the death of his family. In this first book there are more questions asked in the narrative than answered and the author brings in lots of mysterious characters (mostly female). It is obvious that Kvothe is talented and has a gift but it doesn’t demonstrate itself easily or in a way that others can easily accept and his progress is always impaired by the fact that he is poor and an outsider. He also has enemies.

I enjoyed this first book although, because it didn’t grip me that much, it did take me quite a long time to get through it. I found the second volume The Wise Man’s Fear in a charity shop and started reading it but soon realised that I’d had enough of this ongoing story. I am a little tired of magical schools/academies/colleges – see JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and its sequels for other examples. I didn’t really like the active hatred that Kvothe had inspired in some people which wasn’t properly explained except by jealousy and I found it all just a bit too slow. A number of themes, such as Kvothe’s lack of money for tuition, are repeated too often for my liking.

This is a well written book showing lots of imagination and brilliant ideas but, in the end, I just couldn’t see me wading through lots more of the same. You need to know, however, that I am definitely in the minority as this uncompleted series is already hailed as a classic in the fantasy community – try it for yourself and see what you think.