March 29 2011

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss was a wonderful story (I liked it a lot in other words).
First, there are the tones in which the story is told. Specifically, there are two of them. I’ve always found authorial tone to be an interesting thing. It is the way the story is told. The words that are used and the manner in which they flow together. As an example, take the opening of The Hobbit:

In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it do sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

That’s a beautiful opening. It flows like a sparkling brook and draws us into the story. I love that opening.
Here is the opening of The Name of the Wind:

IT WAS NIGHT AGAIN. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.

That is also a beautiful opening. A narrative stillness–a deep midnight lake. I use a water analogy for both of these little excerpts on purpose. They are both smooth and naturally alive. And, that is the first of the authorial tones of The Name of the Wind: a smooth third person narrative. The tone reminded me of the tone of The Hobbit mainly in its effect upon me. It was friendly and authoritative, mysterious and informative–altogether wonderful to read. The story itself is quite original, not at all derivative of Tolkien–but that tone, ah, that tone.
The first seven chapters use this first voice to introduce us to Kote, the owner of the Waystone inn in a small town just a bit west of nowhere. In these chapters we learn a bit about the world. There seems to be magic, there are vicious spider-things called skrael and Kote seems to have some secrets. We are also introduced to Chronicler–a wandering scribe.
For various reasons, Kote decides to tell his tale to Chronicler. We learn that his name is actually Kvothe (pronounced quoth) and that he started life as a wandering trooper–at least his parents were the leaders of a troop of which he was part.
This brings us to the second tone. As Kvothe tells his story to Chronicler, he does it as a spritely first person account. Once he begins the tale, we get mostly first person chapters with small insertions of the third person as we switch back to the inn.
The first person tone is very distinct from the third person tone. We start with a Kvothe who is around eleven. He is precocious and somewhat of a smart alec. We learn of his life in the troop and the events that unfold to gradually bring him from his life as a traveling trooper to be a student at an arcane university. I won’t say much about the actual events as that would spoil a few things–I’ll just say that there is magic and there is tragedy. There is triumph and there is despair.
These two tones of the book fit together to produce a marvelous result. They don’t clash–they blend and build on one another. In one voice we hear a weary traveler in life, in the other we hear the excitement of youth. Both color each other to add depth and wonder to the story.
So, you can tell that I like the writing. I also like the plot. It is a plot about the life journey of Kvothe. How he grows as a person and how his talents grow (music and magic) and presumably how he arrives at where he is when we find him at the beginning.
I’m not going to say much else about the direct plot. If you like finely written fantasy, you will like this.

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Posted March 29, 2011 by user in category "Book review

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