“It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
This is going to be an incredibly glowing review, so prepare yourselves. It's my second read through of this fantastic fantasy book (which is volume one of The Kingkiller Chronicles) and I loved it even more the second time. I am an unabashed fangirl of this series. I belong to a group that discusses theories on what has happened and what is going to happen. I follow Rothfuss's fabulous blog and facebook page. And I desperately want a set of talent pipes, but I'm such a nerd that I feel badly buying them for myself because I feel they need to be earned. So this review is going to be filled with nothing but praise, and all of it well deserved.
The Name of the Wind is a fantasy epic following the story of Kvothe, who is a man of many names and stories. The narrative is framed by our hero, who is currently in hiding as an innkeeper named Kote (in a beautiful play on words, this name means "disaster" in Siaru, one of the languages in the world this is set in). Kote comes upon a man one evening known as The Chronicler, and is compelled to tell his story and set the record straight. He tells Chronicler that he will tell the story over three days, and that nothing is to be omitted or changed in any way - this is *his* telling. The books, then, are set with each volume of the trilogy representing a day of the story being told, with some bouncing back and forth between Kvothe's story, and what is happening to Kote, Chronicler, and Kote's student Bast during the telling. The Name of the Wind is Day One, and what a day it is.
In Kote's timeline, war rages and times are tough. We know from Bast, who is of the Fae, that Kote is not the man he used to be, though we aren't really sure why. An innkeeper's life seems a strange choice for a man of legend, whose stories are told over fires countless times till any seed of truth seems to be lost. There are terrible things on the horizon in this present, with horrible demon spiders called Scrael appearing unexpectedly. But the thing that really pulls everything along is the story that Kote is telling, the story of our beloved Kvothe.
I've heard a lot of people hate on Kvothe. He's arrogant and impulsive. Sure, that's true, but I find it to be part of his charm that he's flawed. Kvothe's story begins with the Edema Ruh, traveling troupers who are his family. Kvothe's Ruh roots are essential to the story, both because his upbringing shapes who he is, and because what happens to his troupe is the catalyst for everything that comes after. Kvothe is a brilliant boy, the type of kid you only have to show something once and he's got it. An arcanist travels with the troupe for a time, and this lights a fire of learning under Kvothe. He wants desperately to attend the University and learn more, and it's obvious that he's more than capable of handling the workload.
I hesitate to go further into the plot. It's such a beautiful story to discover piece by piece, layers of success on foundations of tragedy. Kvothe's journey is far from a simple one, and it's a joy to see the world through his eyes.
Rothfuss has done such a beautiful job in world creating here. I'm a big fantasy reader, and the more thoroughly developed the world is that I'm being brought into, the happier I am. Rothfuss has gone so far as to have a currency converter program you can play with on his website - THAT is some serious dedication to world building. The cultures, currencies, languages - all of it feels organic and complete as you read, like you could really go and live there, study at the University, listen to the musicians at the Eolian.
Oh, the music. I have to mention that. I am a musician - I've been a singer most of my life. Kvothe's passion for music is one of my favorite things about the series. The culture of the musical world in this book is rich and vivid and I adore it. I want to go listen to people play in the Eolian. I want to try for my talent pipes. I want to throw back a tankard of sounten with Deoch and Stanchion. It's not a common thing to pay so much tribute to music, and this series does it in the best ways possible.
The characters deserve a mention, too. Everyone in this is so well developed, I feel like I know them. Well, except maybe Denna, but how well does anyone know the mysterious, captivating, cruel (but not unkind) object of Kvothe's fascination? Each person who crosses paths with Kvothe feels real. They have histories, and cultural ties, desires and fears. They are real people, characters that could each have their own book to tell their story if they wanted, as I have no doubt that Rothfuss knows what those stories are somewhere in that labyrinthine mind of his. And Kvothe...oh my Kvothe. I adore him, flaws and all. He may be one of my favorite characters in literature.
This book, and the series thus far (the final day, aka the book The Doors of Stone, is as yet unpublished) ranks among my favorite books of all time. If you are a fan of fantasy, or even just a fan of good literature, I implore you to run out and buy this book immediately. Go to Amazon.com and order it for your Kindle. Go to B&N and pick up a hard copy. I don't care what form of media you use, but get it now - you're only cheating yourself by skipping it.