I won’t lie. I freaking love this book. I can’t even attempt to be unbiased.
It’s not surprising, really. It’s got all the elements I love in a story. Unique magic systems. A fully-formed world. A magical university (or, as Hank Green called it, ‘Hogwarts with student loans’). There’s even dragons. Kind of.
But most of all The Name of the Wind succeeds because of its characters. They feel real and human. They’re funny and brave and broken and they fuck up. A lot.
Most fantasy, even the more modern stuff, still concerns itself with epic conflicts between mighty forces (Tolkien’s shadow is long after all) but while The Name of the Wind does have conflict and has some pretty darn mighty forces at play (Murderous teleporting wizard-demons? You bet) it’s really a story about one guy. It’s his memoir, essentially.
It’s structure is interesting too. A third-person beginning set in the present, followed by a lengthy first-person retrospective, and then ending off with the third-person present again. This structure allows Rothfuss to play with time and tension by letting Kvothe comment on events as he remembers them. In the case of his shenanigans in the Eolian tavern with his university mates, its hilarious. When he’s talking about his parent’s death, its heartbreaking.
Rothfuss’s evocations of music-playing are also startlingly original. The songs he describes can be more beautiful and moving than any song in the real world, becrause real songs are necessarily imperfect. Well, except for Yellow Submarine.
And while a lot of things happen in the book, the plot doesn’t unfold like most fantasy stories. I mean, if you said The Name of the Wind was about a guy trying to get into a library, you’d be right. But you’d also be very wrong. Because The Name of the Wind isn’t about any one thing really, except maybe about being human. The structure makes clear that even though we’re all characters in a sprawling human story, we also have our own, smaller stories within us, that maybe no one hears but ourselves – that is, when we dare listen to them at all.
“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time,” Bast says. “That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
Thank Tehlu Rothfuss built this one.