3 out of 5 stars ★★★☆☆
Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet’s hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.
There’s something about Name of the Wind that I just can’t figure out that gives me hesitation in giving it a 4 Star rating. I’d say my review is 3.5 out of 5 Stars.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the book. Kvothe (pronounced “Quothe”) is telling his life story to and old man called The Chronicler and his companion Bast (I think he’s a demon, but it’s not entirely clear). Kvothe, “The Kingkiller,” has made a name for himself within the land as a person of magnificent power. But when the Chronicler finds Kvothe, he has disguised himself as an Innkeeper in a small town. As the first book in the series, we only get one day’s worth of information about Kvothe’s life from his young years with his parents, traveling actors and musicians, to when they died, his subsequent feelings of grief, growing up as an orphan in the streets of a large city, and his time at the University for Magic, (magic is also called Sympathy in this world), The Arcanum.
This is what the book is about, there are interludes in between the story where Kvothe, Bast, and The Chronicler break for meals or interruptions at the Inn, but otherwise readers get an uninterrupted view of Kvothe’s life. The storytelling is very interesting. It reminds me of how stories used to be told orally, but with the grace of a writer. Prose-y that includes the fluff of a storyteller who wants to make it a good story. At some points I wonder if Kvothe is telling the truth or possibly exaggerating.
One of the reasons I don’t want to give this a glowing review was because of the character of Kvothe himself. He is exceptionally gifted in seemingly every thing he tries to the point where I found him unrelatable. His life sucks. From the time his parents die to the time he enters the University (and then some) he is constantly fighting for survival in the streets, grieving, or just purposefully getting himself into trouble. I get that this adds conflict, but it doesn’t add to the over all story. (Oh, there’s a plot? Why, yes, there is!). He’s unrelatable because he doesn’t face a lot of challenges in learning sympathy–he makes some dumb choices, but in terms of mastering the art of sympathy, he’s leagues ahead of everyone else and I find that extremely hard to believe. Everything comes too easily.
Kvothe is motivated to go to the University because if he can find more information from the Archives about the people/ creatures/ demons called The Chandrian (which according to that society is just a bunch of myths and there’s no real proof of any of them, but Kvothe had seen them after they killed his parents and their troupe of actors, and The Chandrian had let him live) he’ll be able to get revenge for his family. The only headway we make into this plot is the last 1/4 of the novel, where Kvothe has been through a few semesters worth of school, met a beautiful woman, and then hears about a Chandrian-like mass murder. He travels to the town by taking out an enormous debt finds a tid-bit of information, saves a girl –but doesn’t “get” her, and we’re left hanging with the promise of the next day and the next story.
I felt like I had to re-tell what The Name of the Wind is about because the back cover and the synopsis provided above barely scratches the surface about what is happening in this novel. They are so focused on the overall story that this one becomes a sort of look at what happens next type of deal. And maybe that was my biggest problem–the things that were in the synopsis didn’t happen in this book. He only told his story up to the time in the Arcanum and he could have summed up more about his childhood to get to the search for The Chandrian. One of the positives of this type of storytelling is that we do get an in-depth look at the world that Kvothe lives in, from the student loan debt, to the magic, and monsters. It’s an interesting place to be.
I do want to read the next book in the series, The Wise Man’s Fear, and hopefully I won’t have mixed feelings about it. Leave a comment below if any of my review made sense or even if you disagree!