I know. I know. The world does not need another review of The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. To the shame of this post and the hundreds like it, fame is what will likely doom this review and bury it amongst the pile of reviews other Rothfuss fans wrote, scrutinizing every word he writes and waiting for the release date of the final book in his trilogy.
So why am I writing this? Because I love these books and because half the purpose in having this blog is to fanboy about my favorite stories. The series thus far is nothing short of a masterful bit of epic fantasy with intriguing magic, beautiful prose, and a character too real for his oddly-difficult-to-pronounce name. The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are two of the greatest novels in a series I’ve ever read, fantasy or otherwise.
If you haven’t read Patrick Rothfuss, you’re missing out on beautiful prose. His writing style is euphoric, leaving me awe struck at how a story yet to have an ending can leave me in a state of rapture. He is a wordsmith through and through. A major theme within the books is music, how it affects people and how it can hold you together when the rest of the world tries to tear you apart. It is no surprise that Rothfuss has an innate ability to to apply a sort of musicality to his words, breaking off from the conventional wisdom of writing that discourages inflated language and abstract description. Rothfuss’s words often take on this enchanting flow that in other authors would seem overambitious. Consider the following opening lines to The Name of the Wind:
“The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.
The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighted through the trees, set the inn’s sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with conversation and laughter, the clatter and clamour one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of the night. If there had been music…but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.
Inside the Waystone a pair of men huddled at one corner of the bar. They drank with quiet determination, avoiding serious discussions of troubling news. In doing these they added a small, sullen silence to the larger, hollow one. It made an alloy of sorts, a counterpoint.
The third silence was not an easy thing to notice. If you listened for an hour, you might begin to feel it in the stone heart that held the heat of a long-dead fire. It was in the slow back and forth of a white linen cloth rubbing along the grain of the bar, and it was in the hands of the man who stood there, polishing a stretch of mahogany that already gleamed in the lamplight.
The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distance, and he moved with the subtle certainty that comes from knowing many things.
The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. This was appropriate, as it was the greatest silence of the three, wrapping the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumn’s ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.”
I’ll let his words speak for themselves and let you decide whether or not you’d continue reading.
The protagonist, and subsequently the only character that really matters, is Kvothe. The other characters come and go around the protagonist, but you quickly learn that Kvothe is the only one the audience should be focusing on. The story is told from Kvothe’s future self, so after a few thousand words the story shifts from a third person point of view to an autobiographical flashback narrative. The near narcissistic nature of Kvothe can be off putting, but in time I came to enjoy the depth of his character.
It is unknown to the reader exactly how Kvothe acquired his eerie epithet: Kingkiller. The third book, Doors of Stone, should clear that up as it is the last book in a trilogy Rothfuss has jokingly stated is a “million-word prologue.” That’s fine with me as long it has the promised bloody regicide in this next book. If not, the feeling of disappointment will abound in Rothfuss’s readership. We’ve been waiting a long time for an answer to that question.
I rarely read a book twice. Even the most well-known and so-called greats within the fantasy genre (The Farseer Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Wizard’s First Rule, etc.) . It second read throughs, the writing normally cannot hold my attention long enough for me to finish it again. I know the plot. I know the characters. I know how it ends. Why should I reread something of which I already know the ending? The answer: only when the journey is more enjoyable than the plot twists,. So it is with The Name of the Wind. The writing is that good.
There is much more of Kvothe’s story to come, if it ever does. The wait is the worst thing about an unfinished series, and it is difficult to judge an incomplete story. Neither The Name of the Wind nor Wise Man’s Fear wrap the plot up nicely, leaving a restless audience with many significant questions unanswered. Since Rothfuss writes slower than some of the most well-known pencil draggers, I feel obligated to write an unfinished review of the series until he finishes the story. Despite having an extraordinary protagonist, highly anticipated promises in his plot, and a writing style that captivates me upon each reading, I cannot debate the title of GOAT with this series just yet. Thus my teaching habits obligate me to slap an IC for “Incomplete” on Rothfuss’s current grade and wait until the guy turns in the completed product.