‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss
Compelling and cleverly constructed, Patrick Rothfuss’ debut is a worthy addition to High Fantasy. Set in the Four Corners of a pseudo-medieval European inspired world, ‘The Name of the Wind’ follows Kvothe as he retells of his life leading up to the intriguing events that made him into a king killer – a mystery that gives the series its name. Kvothe (pronounced ‘Quothe’) is a conflicted, exceptionally gifted protagonist intent on searching for the Chandrian, a nefarious and enigmatic force that murdered his parents and entire family troop. Though the rest of the world consider the Chandrian stuff of fairy tales, Kvothe knows better, enrolling at ‘The University’ to further his knowledge of them. He soon realises however that they have been actively and often brutally stamping out their existence, cutting away any reference to them even to the smallest degree. Told from the perspective of an older Kvothe, the novel exists within two time zones, using third person for present and first for past. The combination of time periods are segmented by interludes that provide discussion, offering reflection and new insights into the tale that has been told prior to them. The present surrounds a waystone inn, a place where Kvothe is lying low, retelling his life to a renown scribe called ‘Chronicler’. This shift in point of view is skilfully balanced with contextual happenings within the waystone inn, though at times can be somewhat tedious in the way it brings the narrative to a screeching halt. The novel rarely deviates from the classical hero’s journey, which makes it predictable and perhaps too familiar to those in the Fantasy genre. Instead of relying on magic or a mentor conveniently walking by, Kvothe uses his wits and the skills learnt from his family’s troop to achieve his ambition. A major theme in the book in fact concerns bettering oneself and grasping ambitions, but the writer allows no shortcuts nor lets Kvothe proceed without earning his way there.
Rothfuss has applied a scientific approach to magic that is rarely applied by other authors who merely use such a device to assist with the momentum of plot. Referred to as ‘Sympathy’, this order of magic is inspired by the conservation of energy, the theory of quantum mechanics and entanglement – where matter can communicate at a distance and act simultaneously. Though there is reference to voodoo, this original approach to magic is limited and thankfully not a quick solution to problems that may arise.
The balance of fear and humour is expertly conveyed throughout the novel, pushing the protagonist through evil, despair and success without resorting to cliché.
Though at times over indulgent in detail, Rothfuss has created a notable fantasy world, rich – and dare I say it – lengthy adventure with two more instalments to come. Those like me who have grown up with Harry Potter and want something more gritty to sink their teeth into has yet another candidate to consider.
Luke Jonathon Fielding