The Name of the Wind. Where to start. It’s the novel that made me fall back in love with fantasy after a spate of finding nothing remarkable in the genre. It’s the novel that made me love being a creative person again. It’s the first novel that had me weep by a character’s side and laugh from the audience as they succeeded. It really is hard to put into words how I feel about this book. But if Patrick Rothfuss could distill music and love to mere words, I should be able to at least give you an inkling of what an experience this book is. In the spirit of this novel then, the review shall come to you in three parts.
Our story follows Kvothe, a crimson-haired innkeeper shrouded in silence with a past you live with him as he tells his life’s tale to Chronicler and Bast, renowned author and apprentice respectively. This tale begins as any fairytale might. An idyllic upbringing full of love, family and fun. Kvothe is part of the Edema Ruh, traveling performers who knew all the tales in the world and every song ever sung. Into this life came Abenthy, an Arcanist of The University, who teaches Kvothe of the wider world. Kvothe is remarkable here, a prodigy learning everything he’s told in minutes. He learns of chemistry and botany, economics and metallurgy, Abenthy even teaches him Sympathy, a magic of this land that is part arcane part science. This childhood full of delight and wonder is not to last though.
I could go on and on but this really has only been the bare bones of the first third of the book. To try to sum up the latter half of the book and the characters within would be doing them a disservice. That is something I cannot bring myself to do. I will just tell you of the next most important character after Kvothe. Not important to the plot, nor important to the world as of yet, but the most important to me. That character is Auri, the beloved girl of the tale who is the most wonderful creation I have yet experienced. Innocent and adorable, broken yet whole in a way beyond understanding she is the soul of the story and of the fantasy genre in my mind. She’s ethereal like you haven’t seen before yet grounded so as to make you relate to her, to cherish her. Kvothe’s protectiveness of her is matched only by your own, and you turn each page hoping she is there waiting for you. Loving a fictional character is oft looked down upon by those who are not literarily inclined, but I challenge anybody to read this and not become enamored in this Little Moon Fae.
Carrying on with our synopsis though, and please skip this section if you are particularly sensitive to early plot points in your novels, we join Kvothe he is alone in the world with naught but his lute and his broken mind. He wanders the woods with tears streaking both his and your faces. He plays the lute, all he has of his father, and crafts the song of Sorrow, of the Woods, of the Earth and of the Sky. Strings break as his mind breaks, and soon he has nothing left but to leave his wood. When he gets to a city where he might find help, none is offered. Only more pain. The lute is gone, his mind is gone, and you cry for him. Years pass with you following his pain and loneliness, his small triumphs meaningless against the hopelessness of the world he is in. Bright points of his life shine out as if stars in the endless darkness of his life, pinpricks he holds onto as you might a babe.
This book, this experience really as calling it simply a book would be selling it short, it’s a more of a transformative work. Reading it will change you in some way. You will love music in a way you did not know was possible before reading it. You will see love in a new light, as a thing beyond words and expression, which may sound odd I admit. How can a book, something of ink and letters make you see something beyond words? However, as this tale tells you, words have power beyond what we know and are capable of extraordinary things. To give you just hint of what I mean, I will leave you with Kvothe’s iconic speech to Chronicler and challenge you not to feel something primal and other deep within your chest.
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.