When I asked what book I should read next, the response was pretty much unanimously The Name of the Wind.
So, I picked it up and read it over the course of two weeks, give or take – that’s a long time for me!
Like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, this one starts off very slowly. Unlike American Gods, it isn’t the vague and confusing kind of slow that has you wondering what’s going on, but the semi-boring, not-quite-enough-to-make-you-stop kind of slow. I had a difficult time connecting with Kvothe at the beginning. I know he’s supposed to be a genius, mentally ahead of his years and all that, but he seems to be too emotionally ahead of his years as well.
The genius angle brings in its own set of problems in that it’s easy to label his character a “Gary Stu”. Now, having read the book, I think it’s an accurate statement, but at the same time, it doesn’t really detract from the story. There are times that I wish we could see him be dead wrong about something, but the fact that he’s always right hasn’t started to rankle yet.
Kvothe’s time as a street urchin is interesting, but not overly compelling. It feels like a stopgap to me – a place for the character to wait while Rothfuss figures out where he wants to go.
But then, Kvothe makes it to University, and the book takes off! From that point on, I really didn’t want to put it down. Kvothe’s interactions with the teachers are entertaining, his friends are fun and his interactions with them are pretty realistic, and the student that he clashes with is sufficiently slimy. Also, that whole emotional maturity issue kind of melts away. Not only is he older, but, being surrounded by people that have a similar level of emotional maturity makes it stand out less. Not to mention, his girl troubles do help show that he isn’t as mature as he tries to let on.
Now, some of my problems in the beginning might have stemmed from the fact that the narrator is telling the story of things long past, not as they are happening. In that case, the emotional maturity that was jarring in a ten year old makes perfect sense, because the story is being told by an adult.
Rothfuss’ greatest strength is in his writing. The man knows how to tell a story and make it interesting – even when I wasn’t connecting with Kvothe’s character, I still kept reading, because Rothfuss knows how to keep a reader engaged. The stories within the main story are a good touch – a good way to build the world, without having huge scenes of exposition that would distract from the plot. Also, the foreknowledge that Kvothe’s going to be expelled from University at some point adds to the tension, because each time he runs afoul of a master, you find yourself wondering, “is this it?”.
So, despite the rough start, I give this book 4, maybe 4.5 stars and I look forward to reading the sequel. I’ll most likely buy it next time I’m in Barnes & Nobles.