The Name of the Wind by the great bearded Patrick Rothfuss is a funny old beast. It follows the story of Kvothe, a gifted boy with a natural talent for learning which applies itself quite readily to magic. Why is it a funny old beast? Because it reads like epic fantasy, but nothing epic really happens, at least in this first book.
The whole story is told through a series of flashbacks by Kvothe himself, now an older man who has been sought out by a chronicler. Kvothe tells the story of his childhood and the first few years of his adventures, taking great care to explain and dispel some of the myths that have made him a legendary figure. This sounds like I’m disappointed, but I’m not! Because, while dispelling the grandiose myths that have built up around him, Kvothe (Rothfuss) tells a compellingly human story of a young boy overcoming prejudice, bad luck, and tragedy – all with a dark humour and no pulled punches.
Rothfuss does an amazing job of building a compelling world that is filled with slowly explained secrets, plus an interesting magic system that balances rule-based magic with more hand-wavy magic to leave some mystery behind what the characters are truly capable of.
Each chapter draws you in closer, and the bitter-sweet tone of Kvothe’s narration of his own childhood lends a particular emotional intimacy to the story’s light and dark moments which I have rarely seen in other stories.
I have read the book several times, but have recently also been listening to the audiobook version narrated by Rupert Degas and cannot recommend it highly enough. Degas gives an outstanding performance and brings every single character to life with a wide range of voices and accents that are authentic to the story while not sounding (overly) ridiculous or too forced for its own sake. Even if you have read this book, I urge you to download the audible version too!
“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.”
One of my favourite books: 10/10
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