Monday, September 27, 2010


The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)

I'd heard great reviews of this book from a surprising number of people, so I had to give it a try. And the back book cover contains the following.

"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 the day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me."

Not bad - has a level of mystery balanced with snarky arrogance that I find absolutely fascinating. My only worry was that it'd be too silly to be believed, but this is a very science-based fantasy novel, if that can be believed. Rough things happen, though the way that the narrative is given to the reader, it's pretty clear that he survives the events in the story he tells. It's almost an adult's version of Harry Potter arriving at Hogwart's - imagine Harry penniless, uninvited, and attempting to enter the school four years before he's allowed, with no familial support. Rothfuss's prose is funny, compelling, and really draws you along. It's smart as well - Kvothe's quick wit and interesting observations are fun.

But I'm not sure I've seen a passage like this in a fantasy novel:

"Perhaps the greatest faculty our minds possess is the ability to cope with pain. Classic thinking teaches us of the four doors of the mind, which everyone moves through according to their need.
First is the door of sleep. Sleep offers us a retreat from the world and all its pain. Sleep marks passing time, giving us distance from the things that have hurt us. When a person is wounded they will often fall unconscious. Similarly, someone who hears traumatic news will often swoon or faint. This is the mind's way of protecting itself from pain by stepping through the first door.
Second is the door of forgetting. Some wounds are too deep to heal quickly. In addition, many memories are simply painful, and there is no healing to be done. The saying "time heals all wounds" is false. Time heals most wounds. The rest are hidden by this door.
Third is the door of madness. There are times when the mind is dealt such a blow it hides itself in insanity. While this may not seem beneficial, it is. There are times when reality is nothing but pain, and to escape that pain the mind must leave reality behind.
Last is the door of death. The final resort. Nothing can hurt us after we are dead, or so we have been told."

Usually when fantasy authors try to ruminate about morality or existence like this, I've found, it comes across as filler or self-indulgent blather. Rothfuss seems to have a deeper story he wants to tell than magic and swords (and honestly, I'm not sure I remember a sword in the whole book). The Name of the Wind is more about the nature of stories than adventures, sorcery, and battles. I eagerly await Kvothe's wit in the next volume, which will be out next year.

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