The First Book: The Name of the WindPosted: September 1, 2012
I can’t in good conscience start this blog with a review of anything other than The Name of the Wind.
As I’ve said, many of my “Obscure Gems” will be relatively famous. In all likelihood you’ve probably heard of this one. I saw a…preview thing for it on Goodreads and I’d have clicked on it even if I hadn’t read it because it had a picture of the cover which is just really, really cool. This book is mentioned all over the place. But I’ve yet to see in the real world a single person actually reading it, or hovering over it at a bookstore, or touching it, or holding it at the checkout line at the library, or anything. The only time I’ve seen it in the real world is on a shelf, and the only time I’ve heard it is when it was recommended to me (by an adult; it’s the type of book you’d have to be younger than 7 to not love, although admittedly there are some scenes not entirely appropriate for 7 year olds).
Before I read this book, by Patrick Rothfuss, I enjoyed reading. I enjoyed books, characters, and other worlds. I didn’t really think about reading like an author yet—don’t try it; it takes something away from the experience—and whenever I read something good enough I lost myself in the story.
Then I read this.
The Name of the Wind changed my perception of what fantasy and writing could do. Well—perhaps it didn’t singularly; but it was among those that did. It was so deep, complex, and weblike, with everything swirling together in a way authors can rarely achieve.
Not only was it simply beautiful, but on top of that, who was I to claim to be a writer? I’ve never published a book, obviously, but I say I’m a writer because I write. I read this and thought, Who am I to say that? Writers do this. I should just give up writing now because I’d never be able to write anything so amazing.
Two reasons I didn’t. One, I love writing too much. And two, as long as there’s a chance for something like The Name of the Wind to come into the world, nobody should ever stop writing.
I’m not sure I can summarize this book without sounding trite, so I’ll just give you the introduction.
As you’ve probably heard over and over, you need two things to succeed literally (ha). Firstly, you need to have an introduction like a hook: strong and gripping, one that will pull your reader in. This starts with the title and cover—everybody says “don’t judge a book by its cover” but they still do—and then has to go into the first page, where people will flip to while considering whether or not to buy. The second thing is you need to live up to that promise; you need to deliver. But that can wait, because if you don’t have a good introduction it doesn’t matter what the rest of it is; you’ve divided your reader count neatly. You’re left with the stubborn and devoted, but you can’t succeed with only the stubborn and devoted, and if you do, it’ll be a long trek uphill to get there.
Patrick Rothfuss got started on that right away with a title like a hook. I mean, c’mon. The Name of the Wind. That’d stop my hand in its tracks along the bookshelf.
And then this.
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
So begins the tale of Kvothe—from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician, and an infamous assassin. But The Name of the Wind is so much more—for the story it tells reveals the truth behind Kvothe’s legend.
(Quoted from his website, http://www.patrickrothfuss.com/. It’s also the back of the book.)
I don’t actually think I can say anything else about this book. It is, in Mr. Rothfuss’ own words, something along the lines of “an epic sprawling metaphysical thingy.” It is vast (apparently close to 700 pages and 259,000 words, and the next book is even longer), and worth it. The plot is often vague, but that doesn’t even matter. What I mean is, it gives the impression of there being a quest but then drops the matter for hundreds of pages at a time, but in the meantime whatever’s happening makes that fact irrelevant.
This is probably my favorite book. I can’t guarantee that, but it’s definitely One Of Them. It is incredible. If I compare books in the future to it (which I’ll try not to, even though I always do in real life) I’ll call it “NOTW” (just so you know). Its sequel is The Wise Man’s Fear, and the third, coming out maybe in 2013 and maybe a long time after, is called Doors of Stone.
The only 2 issues I have with Mr. Rothfuss are that 1. He takes WAY TOO LONG to write books (but, okay, what do you expect? They’re HUGE), and 2. he sometimes randomly capitalizes letters after quotation marks. For example, “‘La la la,’ she said.” Sometimes he writes “‘La la la,’ She said.” That’s such a little problem, though.
Just look at the excerpt I gave you! Here’s another one:
“It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighed through the trees, set the inn’s sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with conversation and laughter, the clatter and clamor one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of night. If there had been music…but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.Inside the Waystone a pair of men huddled at one corner of the bar. They drank with quiet determination, avoiding serious discussions of troubling news. In doing this they added a small, sullen silence to the larger, hollow one. It made an alloy of sorts, a counterpoint.The third silence was not an easy thing to notice. If you listened for an hour, you might begin to feel it in the wooden floor underfoot and in the rough, splintering barrels behind the bar. It was in the weight of the black stone hearth that held the heat of a long dead fire. It was in the slow back and forth of a white linen cloth rubbing along the grain of the bar. And it was in the hands of the man who stood there, polishing a stretch of mahogany that already gleamed in the lamplight.
The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distant, and he moved with the subtle certainty that comes from knowing many things.
The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. This was appropriate, as it was the greatest silence of the three, wrapping the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumn’s ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.”
I’d take off a fraction of a point for the capitalized letters thing, but it would be so small it wouldn’t even matter.
So. Yes. 5/5 stars for Writing.
This is a hard one. The story jumps around a lot between the character as he is “today,” approximately 25-35, and his younger self, where the story actually takes place. It “starts” with him as a young child, and clearly there’s development between that child and himself as a ~16-20 year old, where the story really happens. Then there’s obviously development between that and the “now” version, but it’s implied. We don’t know what it is yet.
Kvothe (the main character) is a deep and complex person. There are other deep and complex characters. However, Kvothe’s development sort of happens in jumps, based on each thing that happens (and he appears to develop way too much—his character “now” is distinctly different than the character of the teenager). …Well, but that’s the way it works in life, too. So how about this. All of the characters have depth but not all of them develop. And I’m not quite sure that’s fair either, as…well, it’s complicated. Let’s leave it at, the characters are believable and deep enough to be real. They respond in ways that you can believe based on who they are. That’s what I’ll base this off of.
So, 5/5 stars for Character Depth/Development.
Like I said, the plot’s occasionally vague and meandering. But this only, as I said, ameliorates the story. It’s not all hot and hard and fast and fierce. Sometimes it meanders. That’s OK. And there is an overwhelming plot, quest, and sense of purpose. It’s just that life happens in between. Which is good, because that’s true. Writing is about finding truth.
I think I implied that the plot sort of vanishes. This isn’t true. Everything ties together in vastly complex ways. It’s just often really hard to see. I think after the 3rd book comes out it’ll become clear how little meandering there actually is.
6/5 stars for Plot.
And then we have Je Ne C’est Quois.
This book has to get something like 7/5 stars for that. This world is so rich and true and beautiful and ugly that you just want to live there. It has magic that’s not magic, it’s science, and it has love and hate, and war, and depth and possibility. It’s complex and sprawling and so thought out. I can’t explain why it gets a good Je Ne C’est Quois score, because that’s the point, but I think a part of it—although as I said, looking at Hunger Games, not the whole thing—is because this world is a place where I would want to be born and live and die. These people are people I would want to walk with and talk with and love and/or murder gruesomely. Or just smack them. This book is a perfect example of Obscure Gems (except for its relative widespreadity). And you should read it no matter what you like, no matter whether you read science fiction or fantasy or historical fiction because in a way it’s a weird blobby mush of all three. Plus romance and…action and adventure and modern and ancient and humor and mystery and religious and young adult.
No matter what you read, you will love it.