Thursday, September 03, 2009

Book Thoughts: The Name of the Wind

Title: The Name of the Wind
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: DAW Trade; Reprint edition (April 7, 2009)
Quick-Hit Thought: Quality writing, minus a few WTF moments.

I debated how to write this review. Should I review the book, or should I review the reviews of the book? To me, the more interesting option is to approach the reviews, as they influenced my decision to get the book. The reviews for The Name of the Wind are split; some people love it, some people hate it. For some, Patrick Rothfuss, is the next big name in Fantasy. To others, he is a self-centered arrogant jerk. Personally, I fall in the middle and have no opinion on the Mr. Rothfuss himself.

Looking at the reviews on Amazon, we get the following gem from Robin Hobb (an accomplished author himself):
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.

Robin Hobb
From the peanut gallery, we get:
Like so many here I was suckered into this. Before you buy this book, read all the reviews. Read the honest 1 and 2 star reviews, read the others. Do notice how many reviewers gush praise but don't actually discuss the book. Or how many of the reviews all sound alike? Mention of the main characters, three to five sentences, all proclaiming how this is the best thing ever. Are we really supposed to believe this over the top hype? The funniest, and I mean laugh out loud funny, is the recent review that proclaims "next biggest thing since Tolkien". Or how about the laughable "I hope to be witnessing history on par with Herbert, Tolkien, etc."
I'll admit I bought the book based on the above two reviews. One, because Robin Hobb is a trustworthy review source. Two, because I wanted to know why so many felt the book was overrated.

I tend to agree that the book is overrated. If I rated things in little stars, TNotW would be a 3/5. Its enjoyable and well written, but it lacks the consistency of better novels. The core story is great and I enjoyed the main character Kvothe throughout. What I didn't enjoy was senseless meandering to the side. Situations in which some pretty stupid shit happens; *SPOILER* as stupid as dragons getting high on drugs spurring our hero into action. */SPOILER*

The book is about a man telling another man his life's story. The book starts with the hardened adventurer settled down as a tavern owner, adventures almost long gone. A happy-go-lucky scribe stops by and asks for the hero's story. What ensues will take three books to tell, but this first book covers the entire first day of story telling.

This approach leads to an interesting look into the events that make up the main character's life. As anyone who talks too much about themselves, Kvothe tends to embellish his stories a little bit. Unfortunately, it is hard to tell whether Kvothe is intentionally embellishing them or whether Rothfuss just writes that way. Unfortunately, this spills over (as mentioned above in the spoiler) into some pretty WTF moments.

I would have enjoyed the book a lot more and laughed a bit less at the situations had Rothfuss cut about a hundred or so pages of side story and focused on Kvothe's main storyline at the University (and area around it) and chasing information about the Chadrian. I was really intrigued by the way Kvothe interacted with the Masters at the University and was a bit disappointed when he left to chase ghost stories. I didn't mind that he had left the University, but I was very displeased at the reasons Rothfuss chose to keep him away. At one point, I almost put the book down because I couldn't stop laughing at the situation the characters were in. Seriously, read the above spoiler and tell me it doesn't sound stupid.

I tend to rate things on a 0 to 1 scale. 0, no. 1, yes. In this case, TNotW is a 1, because it is worth reading and deciding if the second book is worthwhile to the reader.
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