Some small-ish spoilers below
OK quiz time — name this fantasy series:
A young boy of remarkable ability has his promising life altered when everyone in his family (but him) is killed by evil forces – evil forces that the “regular” world doesn’t really acknowledge anymore. From this tragedy, the boy lives a terrible existence until he is able to enter the famous school for wizards. There, he quickly distinguishes himself with his sharp mind and skills. He makes allies of some of the wizard teachers but there are others that dislike him so much, they seems bent on expelling him from the school. Perhaps worse yet, our young hero makes an enemy of the spoiled rich boy-wizard from a powerful family, who seems to have made it his mission to get rid of our hero, perhaps even to the point of violence.
Potter, right? Wrong.
This is actually a description of the early stages of “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss. This book was recommended to me strongly by Bookishly Fabulous. I hadn’t really read that much fantasy recently and am always looking for new titles of quality and so I ordered it.
Not shy at >660 pp, this first book of The Kingkiller Chronicles is the first-person account of Kvothe (pronounced “quothe”) – a legendary figure who has stepped out of the limelight and is now telling his tale. In the beginning, there were enough red-flag fantasy clichés (the gypsy-type people, the classic inn, the old wizard guy that takes a shine to the young boy, the forgotten evil…) that I thought Rothfuss was working from a checklist. When I saw that the story was leading us to his world’s “wizard school”, I rolled my eyes and considered shelving it.
I’m glad I didn’t.
After that somewhat dubious beginning, Rothfuss took these well-used pieces of the fantasy genre and began to fashion a tale I wanted to read. More importantly, he did a wonderful job of realizing his characters – especially Kvothe – such that they didn’t seem like they came from Fantasy Central Casting. I read the last half of the book with much more anticipation than I would have thought possible given my early reservations. The story has several “big arc” and “small arc” components that work well together – meshing the narrative together into a taut tale that moves back and forth between Kvothe’s personal stories and action-filled adventures.
I suppose in the end, my only complaint is that I really wanted the story to keep going.
4 stars out of 5