1,929 of 2,074 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2007
It seems to me that every year there are more books I want to read and less time for me to read them. Because my time is limited, I'm guilty of picking up the books by my favorite authors first, and fitting in new authors only when it's convenient.
Due to a stroke of luck, I've had an advance copy of The Name of the Wind by my bedside for over six months, just waiting for me to open it. Unfortunately, deadlines of my own kept getting in the way. But in a way, it's lucky that I didn't crack this book until just a few days ago. If I'd had this tale to distract me, I'd have been even later getting my work done.
I loathe spoilers, so I'm not going to discuss the plot of this book. I will say it has all the things that I demand of a book. The characters are real, the action is convincing and it has a compelling story to tell.
One of the things I like best about this book is that the magic is absolutely rooted in the book's world. Nothing seems contrived; the consistency is excellent.
The characters are very well realized. That means that when the protagonist does something clever, it's believable. And when he does something youthfully dumb, it rings just as authentically true. Because the characters are real and the magic is true to its own world, I closed this book feeling as if I'd been on a journey with an entertaining new friend, rather than sitting alone looking at words on a page.
This one is well worth some of your precious reading time. I'll wager that the books to follow it will also be.
499 of 553 people found the following review helpful
I always read the negative reviews of books I liked. For one, I think people can be much more detailed about what they don't like than what they did. Second, I just want to know what made people dislike something I liked.
There seems to be an overall theme amongst the negative reviews that Kvothe is unlikable--but most of these reviews contradict themselves. They don't like him because he's arrogant, but then also complain that he's too perfect to be realistic and has no flaws. I think Rothfuss's intentions were to make Kvothe's arrogance one of his biggest flaws. Imagine you caught on to many subjects in school very fast, were number one in your class and had a relatively quick wit. You'd probably be arrogant, too, as I know the smart, popular people in my high school were. And it's Kvothe's arrogance that constantly gets him into trouble.
The theme of Rothfuss's book, to me, is the difference between the reality of a man's life and his actions, and the stories other men tell about him. That's why we begin with him in a quiet inn, then cut to local patrons telling wild tales. We are introduced to a character, The Chronicler, whose sole purpose in "life" is to find the truth about stories, to debunk myths and legends. But fantasy books *are* the stuff of myths and legends--dragons, fair maidens, faeries, wizards. So how do you tell the story of a renowned magical hero without the requisite exaggeration and outright lies? Without turning the hero into an unrealistic beacon of flawless unrelenting perfection? You tell both stories--the ones people want to believe, and the story that comes closest to the truth. And the truth is Kvothe is a rash, impulsive, sometimes selfish and very often stupidly arrogant man. These traits get him into endless trouble, which he sometimes weasels his way out of through his wit and talents.
You are given Kvothe's many legendary titles (like Bloodless) and then learn the slightly less-than-mystical reason why he was given that quasi-true moniker. What's masterful about Rothfuss's work here, however, is that even when you tear down the myths about Kvothe and get to the "real" story, Kvothe still emerges a hero. If that is too unbelievable for you, if it's not realistic for a character to be truly heroic and truly talented and truly great despite his flaws, then you won't like this story. It's just not cynical enough for you.
391 of 454 people found the following review helpful
This is the kind of novel that fantasy readers dream of reading. It's the kind of novel would-be writers dream of writing. Excellent writing, deeply complex characters, careful revelations and wonderful plot twists. I haven't enjoyed a debut fantasy novel this much since Barry Hughart's "Bridge of Birds" or Rosemary Kirstein's "The Steerswoman."
The protagonist, Kvothe, is seemingly hiding as an innkeeper. But there are nasty creatures about, that may or may not be attracted to him. After Kvothe rescues a bard, he ends up telling the bard his life story. So you get the back story on a nearly-mythical wizard, mixed with increasingly dark events happening in the present. It is an extremely effective way to to tell a story. It certainly kept me up all night. And I can truthfully say I savored each of the 660 plus pages.
Maybe the best part is that Rothfuss, in his blog, says all three books in the trilogy are written, and will be released at one year intervals. I can't wait.
This is about as good as high fantasy gets. An imaginative, powerful and compelling story that is exceptionally well told. My compliments to Mr. Rothfuss. And my very highest recommendation to readers.
58 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2010
I've spent the past hour and a half reading all the negative reviews for this book and I've seen some patterns emerge. First, people criticize the book on matters of preference, not literary quality. Second, people have had a bad reading experience because they expected something different than what the book really is. The truth is, there are many 5 star reviews (that I think the book deserves) that are not written in 5 star fashion. Many people do not know how to properly describe the book in a way that helps possible readers know if they would like it or not.
Here's the thing. I like this book a lot. I think it is one of the best books I've ever read. Here is what it's not: A fast-paced novel, a novel about the epic world-changing deeds of a hero, completely original, for everyone. The novel is not about world-changing feats of heroism. It is a slow-paced book about the development of an incredibly intelligent, but relatively normal boy, how he becomes a legendary figure, and some of the problems he faces in fostering that reputation and living up to it in the end. It is not the most original fantasy novel to ever hit shelves. It's originality comes not from it's world or characters (for goodness' sake, look at the map with the book. It's obviously an adaptation of Europe. Just like middle earth or countless other fantasy settings). The originality comes from subject matter more focused on the coming of age of a young boy and how, due to the existence of his impressive intelligence and the existence of a logical type of magic, certain events shape him into a legendary figure. There are plenty of cliche plot points, but not ones that I couldn't fully relate to. That said, the character is a very intelligent, but often foolish and arrogant, teenage boy. Not everyone can relate to him, but that also doesn't make it a bad book.
What I loved about this book was the main character. I have read many fantasy books with unbelievable characters. Often times, their behavior seems overly emotional or angsty. When I think about the people I know, I feel like people are often times as irrational as characters in those books, but I tend to not be. I can't stand when character conflict is built up on small disagreements that would easily be solved if one person cleared up a misunderstanding by simply talking to the other party. Very few such situations arise in this book which makes me happy because I seldom let those situations arise in my own life. The love story, while simple puppy-love is something myself and all of my friends went through at some point in our teen years, and I love that the main character is afraid of failure and making mistakes. Often times his problems come from lack of action rather than stupidity or brashness. Almost every man, whether he admits it or not, has a deep fear of failure. Kvothe is so real on so many levels, and his actions follow logically with his personality. It was impossible for me not to get fully immersed in the story.
All of that said... one last thing. I would be remiss if I didn't also say that this is the first book I have read that made me cry since I read "Where the Red Fern Grows" in 5th grade. And I cried like a freaking baby.
485 of 608 people found the following review helpful
With hundreds of reviews and several customer discussions on its Amazon page, "The Name of the Wind" aroused my curiosity. Some negative comments appeared calculated to smear while some positive comments seemed equally overdone. I do not doubt there are both heart-felt one and five star reviews posted here, but isolated comments from both camps seemed disingenuous. I had to see what all the fuss was about. (Congratulations to anyone who thought such disagreement and vitriol would help market the book... you got me!)
Of 722 total pages, I estimate that there were less than 200 pages of compelling narrative taken altogether. Most were located in the latter half of the book. It was not necessarily poorly written, there was just a lot of pointless detail. Ignoring for a moment the overarching plot device of a legendary hero narrating his tale to a scribe, the narrative of the book can be reasonably broken down into the following sections: 1. Kvothe as a trouper with his family; 2. Kvothe as a street urchin in the large city of Tarbean; 3. Kvothe at the university. The first two sections take almost 250 pages. They could have been greatly abbreviated without any ill-effect to the story. The final section also suffers from dead weight resulting in very slow pacing.
The first-person narrative introduced some difficulties for me. Kvothe seems to dearly enjoy hearing himself talk. Maybe as a hero it is his right, but he seems just a tad too pleased with himself at times. Some quips were witty while others fell flat. Some thoughts were inspiring while others were corny or self-evident. He actually says, "Attend to me as I draw back the curtain to reveal a long-kept minstrel's secret..." (page 477). Groan! I wonder if Chronicler rolled his eyes. He took himself and his tale a little too seriously at times. In a few instances, Kvothe hints at a greater context or another anecdote but refuses to share it. It felt like a bit of a cop out (planting a seed in the reader's mind without actually working for it; i.e., fully developing the narrative).
Another bitter pill for me was that a lot of the drama seemed forced or contrived. Every time things were going well or smoothly, the rug would inevitably be pulled out from under Kvothe. The tension did not seem to arise organically. Instead, it felt like the author set him up just to knock him down again.
The characterizations suffered on a couple fronts. Various characters were tired clichés (mean-spirited schoolmaster, haughty rich student) and others were not well developed. Kvothe's two best friends at the university (and their relationships) seemed weakly established.
It appears to be en vogue of late for fantasy novelists to verbalize their conscious efforts to defy the conventions of the genre. A theme throughout this book is that things did not occur neatly or tidily because this is not a story or fairy tale. Yet it still read just the same to me. Apparently telling us the story is not a story is no reliable means to escape the conventions. This is not fantasy literature's first flawed hero or legendary figure who is revealed to be less than his image.
I struggled to finish the book. It was only on my last day of reading that I decided to rate it at three stars instead of two. There is some pretty good stuff here. There's just a whole lot of frustrating nonsense you must be willing and prepared to wade through. I honestly do not know if I will read the next installment(s).
94 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2011
My name is Kvothe. My awesome heroic account narrated by me is pure truth, I assure you. Do not worry folks. You're looking for a review. I'm giving you one. We'll get to that in a minute. But first, find some time to listen to me.
You don't have time? What makes you think you can leave here, knowing what you know? (I said this exact sentence in my book.)
Now you want to listen to me after I gave you a death threat? Good. When you take note, do not presume to change a word I say. (I also said this in the book!)
I'm gifted. Not just gifted in one way, I'm gifted in every freaking way. I'm skilled with music, acting, medicine, chemistry, alchemy, things you might call magic. In fact, anything cool, you name it.
When I was only about twelve, I devoured in months lessons grown-ups would take years to learn. I had flash-fast, word for word, page for page memory. They ended up paying me instead of charging me for tuition. I was the youngest in quite a while. In barely a week, I owned a teacher so hard, embarrassed him in front of the class, making him hate me for life. In return, I was punished unfairly but also rewarded with a rank students took years to earn - I only took a few days. I saved women. One of the most beautiful girls in the school even invited me into her room, which I refused, of course. I was too pure to do that. I bested my rivals every time we confronted each other, in this book, at least. They accepted me as one of the musical genius, and I was the youngest to gain that recognition, even after my rival played dirty and tried to ruin my performance. By hurting him, I earned another rank. And the best part is, it didn't stop there.
You see, I was brilliant. Not just your run-of-the-mill brilliance either. I was extraordinarily brilliant. (I said exactly this in my book too. Word for word!)
Not yet apparent in this book, but printed on the back cover, 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. My name is Kvothe, not Mary Sue. You may have heard of me.
You see, I said I would give you a review, but I don't even have to. Because by the time you reach here, I'm pretty sure you get the point.
34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2007
This was a surprisingly difficult book to rate. How many stars do you give a book like this? At times it was wonderful, and at other times it was quite bad.
On the one hand, lengthy stretches of this book grabbed me, pulled me down, and kept me submerged in a truly wonderful and believable fantasy world. Some portions of the book were quite adventurous while many others developed believable, intricate characters and wonderful settings. Patrick Rothfuss, the book's author, did a particularly good (if optimistic) job of creating a believable academic, university setting in a fantasy world. This setting let him deal with magic in a very thoughtful and intriguing way.
In addition to all of this, some portions of the book had me laughing out loud, and others left me thinking, "Wow." Wow, this is exactly how this scene should have gone. Or - wow, I wasn't expecting that. How exciting! Or - wow, that is a really interesting character!
On the other hand, lengthy periods of this book were terrible. Some sections were downright tedious and uninteresting. I understand why they were there, and how they serve the story. But still, they could have been written better and could have been more engaging. Some sections of the book were slow and plodding.
Reading requires effort. Don't get me wrong; I love to read, and I rarely consider fiction-reading to be work. I really love books and I love words even more. Still, reading does require effort. And there were times, when I was reading this, when I wondered if it was worth the effort. It is a long book and it has some tedious sections.
So, how did I decide to rate this book? Why four stars? Well, the excellent sections of the book were really excellent, and they made up for the not-so-great sections.
But, beyond that, I was particularly impressed by how well the author developed his leading character, Kvothe. Considering the book, after I had finished it, I was impressed to realize just how much Kvothe changes throughout the novel. He is one kind of person at one point, and a very different kind of person later. And then, remarkably, he changes yet again! It is impressive that the author could pull this transformation off. It makes sense that the character changes as he does, and the character seems consistent, believable, and fascinating.
65 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2010
I'm completely mystified by this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the first quarter of the book, but then the book just fell apart.
First, Denna. Are we supposed to enjoy reading about the maddening and nonsensical non-relationship between Kvothe and Denna? I couldn't decide if I was supposed to like Denna or see her as the evil temptress our hero's misplaced love for whom will bring about about his downfall. In the end I'm still not sure, and Denna remains a non-person, a sketch of a character with little to recommend her. I found myself disconnecting from Kvothe because of her. It wasn't just that she was unworthy of his affections, although that's true. It wasn't just that Kvothe was such an inept, passive, fumbling, virginal twit when it came to pursuing (or decidedly not pursuing her). A little bit of that as part of a growing process in a teenaged character makes sense. But it was that the book seemed to focus completely unselfconsciously and without irony on a clueless teenager in the friend-zone with a troubled, wounded-bird-type teenaged girl. Is high school drama of this low variety what we really want in a fantasy novel?
2nd, the Chandrian. Has there ever been as mystifyingly unscary and uninteresting a supernatural villain as the Chandrian? After (almost) finishing the first book, I could care the less about them. And the fact that I didn't find the Chandrian a compelling villain took away from the tragicness of the death of Kvothe's parents and made me ambivalent toward his desire for revenge. And those terrible nursery rhymes that hold the key to understanding them (what's their plan? What's their plan? Chandrian ugh). Not well done.
3rd, the world. I know really next to nothing about the world Kvothe lives in. I don't know the politics, history, much of the culture or anything about the surrounding nations. There are plenty of fantasies that are intentionally vague about faraway lands, but this doesn't seem to be something purposeful here, but rather something the author just didn't have time for.
4th, the writing. What the heck was the point of this long, wandering interlude where Kvothe goes to the village to investigate the wedding massacre? This book has no pacing or focus. It speeds up, slows down. Rothfuss adds characters that don't contribute anything to the plot and then forgets about them. The dialogue is snappy at some points, but at others it is completely incongruous with the setting, e.g. "witty" romantic banter while standing in the aftermath of a massacre or facing down a drug-addled lizard (seriously?!??!!!?).
All in all, I read the book, and at times I was completely drawn in. I would say the 2nd half of the book was extremely disappointing. I think that the author had an unfinished manuscript with some potential, and his editor did him a disservice by publishing it as is. For a good first book in a series that's a bit long and winding look at The Darkness that Comes Before. Compare how much happens in that book with how much happens in the Name of the Wind.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2008
In the end, I'm not really sure what I think about this book. It's definitely overhyped. That said, the latter half of it was definitely entertaining, and I never got bored -- even in the slow-paced beginning. However, the book is definitely flawed.
(Very, very Minor Spoilers below.)
This is an excellent world that is well defined for the most part. You really feel like you're getting down and dirty in an ancient culture. We always know how poor Kvothe is; the money system adds a sense of urgency and interest (especially when Kvothe is in debt!). I enjoyed the tales of him learning to subsist on his own; he was always on the edge of disaster and learning how to survive. Quite entertaining!
The magic is not well described at first, and a couple of times I was confused and had to re-read passages. However, as soon as I got the gist of it, I enjoyed it. It works on a completely logical standpoint and is really no more than dangerous super-physics, which I found a refreshing take on the subject.
The final 200 pages or so are just good fun -- how Kvothe defeats a big stoned fire-breathing lizard is terribly enjoyable, and the aftermath of Ambrose's charges of malfeasance? Delightful.
Lovely writing, too. I love how the Prologue and Epilogue mirror each other. Rothfuss also has a nice way with poetry!
I entirely agree with previous reviewers: this book needed to be pared down big time. Rothfuss goes on and on and on about pieces of Kvothe's life that, while important, shouldn't be so darn long. Three chapters (at most!) could have been devoted to the massive chunk in the middle of the novel devoted to Kvothe's Tarbean exploits. It is notable that while he scrabbles about in the city, he never, ever acts like a "genius." Yeah, yeah, he's "broken," but to lose all of his acuity?... It's ridiculous. Of course, the reason for all this padding is because Rothfuss needed a reason for Kvothe to learn some minor skills and hear some background about the Chandrian... but it only ended up cluttering the narrative. It would have been simpler to make Kvothe more of a human being than a godling, thereby focusing on what is more important: the larger plot (which is woefully under-developed). The book picks up in the last 200 pages in a sign of what "should have been." Rothfuss can write, don't forget it! By the same token, by making Kvothe a super-character and backing up why he can do all of these amazing things, he loses sight of the plot entirely... if there was one to begin with.
The villains are simultaneously hackneyed and interesting. On one hand, they spout the same goofy lines that all villains seem required to say. On another, I like that they are hard to trace and relatively quiet; the best villains don't galumph around causing mass mayhem for nothing. In my opinion, this implies intelligence. Sadly, Rothfuss features them only twice throughout the entire book -- a shame. Especially a shame since they're supposed to be the focal point of some sort of plot. After Tarbean and the University, they just seem tacked on, which doesn't seem right.
I think the biggest flaw with this book is the characterization. Kvothe walks a narrow road between blatant "Gary Stu" and "realistic genius." Sometimes he was so annoying that I wanted to punch him -- mostly because he was so darn good at everything. He can pick locks, act better than an Oscar-winner, memorize whole plays and difficult songs, play and sing like Orpheus, attract hot women with little effort, get PAID to go to school because of his brilliance, be promoted to a higher rank within two years when it takes other students 4-5 times as long, accurately judge a horse's quality after years of not even passing an idle glance at one, and on top of it all, he's got a nice looking face, eyes that change color, and bright hotrod-red hair. Who do you know like this? And how many of you really want to be friends with such a person? I entirely expected a few lines to be devoted to Kvothe's heritage as an incarnation of Tehlu. I fear that this trend will only continue, as we're promised that Kvothe will learn how to sword-fight (like a pro, I expect) and fight some angels and basically become more incredibly unbelievable. Face it: most people excel at only one or two things, even geniuses.
Thankfully, Kvothe has enough problems that almost balance him out... and I stress "almost." The element that really saves this book is that we're starting from the present -- when a depressed, broken Kvothe tells his story. If he wasn't so messed up "now," I would despise him, and I would have returned this book after a mere 50 pages. As it was, I nearly dropped the book on several occasions.
Secondary characters suffer as a result of Kvothe's super-powers. "Good" characters are those who revolve around Kvothe; they are colorless, bland satellites, providing a laugh or two at best. "Bad" characters, or those who question Kvothe's character (i.e., those who don't kowtow to Kvothe's inherent awesomeness), are "taught a lesson" (with the exception of teachers -- since they are necessary tools to teach Kvothe the arcane arts). It is telling that the only person Kvothe can really empathize with is a woman who is almost as amazing as he is. She has red eyes, memorized the whole of a difficult song after singing it twice, and is incredibly gorgeous. Oh, please!
Frankly, I couldn't tell many of the characters apart. The number of quality characters could be counted on one hand -- Elodin and Auri being the best. The rest of them are plain vanilla boring -- after all, how can these regular joes compare to a god like Kvothe? Kvothe's friends are interchangeable and even until the end of the book, I wasn't sure who was who in his inner circle. I didn't even have a good feeling for the teachers, which is inexcusable; Rothfuss spent almost no time fleshing them out at all. The names, personal and nationality-wise, don't help; it's like Rothfuss pulled out random Scrabble tiles and stuck them together (Kvothe? Seriously, what is that? Did his keyboard explode?). I still haven't figured out any of the randomly dropped country names or what the different ethnicities are famous for. And I shouldn't have to look at the little map to know!
In many respects, this is a book about how awesome, intelligent, and wonderful Kvothe is. And that's bad. He was never really a person I could identify with. I never felt "with" him; I was excited FOR him, especially when he overcame some nasty odds, but at the end of the book, I didn't care whether he lived or died. I had the kind of interest in him that a spectator in the ancient Roman Coliseum might have had in a gladiator: I'm interested in his exploits, but not in him personally.
Would I buy this book? Nah. I'd get it at the library, enjoy it for what it's worth, and take it back. I wouldn't jump at the second book, either. But it's good for what it is... a fun little trip out of this world, if you can stand a bothersome egocentric know-it-all for a protagonist.
80 of 105 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2009
Fantasy readers have a tendency to hand out five-star reviews like Mardi-Gras beads. To me a five-star review is the sort of thing that should be saved and passed out sparingly only to the very best books that come along. The Name of the Wind is definitely not among the best.
My paperback copy was over 700 pages long and I found it amazing that so little could happen (in the first in a series, no less) in so long a book. A young man loses his parents, lives as a beggar in a big city for a few years, attends a university, learns some magic, and gets into a few scrapes though nothing he can't easily get himself out of. And then the story simply stops.
Epic fantasy this is not. No battles are fought, not cities fall, no kings are dethroned, no quests are undertaken. The comparisons to the Harry Potter books are apt as far as they go, but they are actually probably unfair to the Potter books. In each Harry Potter book our heroes engage dark forces in battle and the stakes are very high. Not so in The Name of the Wind. Also, despite their many flaws, the Harry Potter books do at least have very clearly drawn characters. I couldn't tell you the first thing about any of Kvothe's friends or professors at the university.
And yet, somehow I was completely engaged through all 700 pages. I can't even say why, but I was concerned about Kvothe and wanted him to do well and to learn the skills he needs for his inevitable battle with those dark forces that are but the vaguest shadow in the background of this book.