A review by Daniel Haynes
The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are the first two books in the Kingkiller Chronicles (supposedly going to be a trilogy) written by Patrick Rothfuss. The story is told from the perspective of Kvothe, who retells the story of his life to Chronicler, a scribe who travels the lands and collects stories. Kvothe is in hiding from his past life, managing a bar in a backwater town.
Kvothe starts telling a story to Chronicler in The Name of the Wind; the story of Kvothe at an early age while travelling with his family as part of a reknowned circus-style troupe called the Edema Ruh. When disaster strikes, Kvothe finds himself living on the streets of a huge and dirty metropolis until he travels to ‘The University’ (Hogwarts for grown-ups). The story then spans the course of several years and many seperate adventures and events throughout Kvothe’s life up to the end of the second book. Interspersed throughout the novels are intermissions of the ‘present day’, with action scenes, character development and extra background information for the main story.
Patrick Rothfuss has an impressive gift with words. His writing style is captivating and addictive, and he colours his environments masterfully in description. There are some sections of both books which move quite slowly, but unlike with many other authors and novels I was never bored. The characters are interesting and Rothfuss’s world is well thought out and intriguing.
The magic within the books is really complex and well thought out. Rothfuss has created many different schools of magic, yet all of them seem to be bound in reality. For example, ‘sympathy’ is a type of telekinesis, yet all of the energy created or redirected through different objects or materials comes from somewhere, and performing menial actions such as lifting objects with magic takes just as much, if not more effort than picking it up normally.
My biggest gripe with the series thus far mainly centres around the second book, The Wise Man’s Fear. Despite being pretty significantly longer than the first, much less happen in terms of character development. The action throughout the book is very episodic, and some parts move very slowly. Kvothe in the present day seems to develop more than the Kvothe in the story retelling, despite the former having MUCH less stage time. It seems as though most of the action of the entire trilogy will need to happen within the third book, and I am curious to find out whether the story will span more books than originally intended (and I certainly wouldn’t complain if another trilogy for the present-day Kvothe was announced/written).
Overall, I would thoroughly recommend The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. The books are immersive and highly addictive, written with superb finesse. You will love these books if you’re a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire and similar series.
Daniel has been nagging me to read these books, and believe me I want to – too many books, not enough time… – Editor
This article was previously published in Dark Matter issue 3, April 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.