Normally I hate it when a writer starts one story then morphs into something else, but I really can’t hold that against Patrick Rothfuss in his excellent debut novel "The Name of the Wind" ($24.95, DAW).
It starts with the tale of an innkeeper with a secret past and some strange spider-like creatures who are attacking people on the road around the village. When a scribe comes to town and discovers the innkeeper’s secret, it changes to the life story of the innkeeper, who is actually the hero (and villain) Kvothe. In the end, the reader is left without any real resolution and with very little knowledge of what was going on at the beginning of the book. The spider-like creatures remain almost as much a mystery as they are when a guy walks into the bar with a dead one. As frustrating as that might sound to some, it’s really not at all.
The reason is that Kvothe’s story is fascinating. We follow him from his childhood with the traveling Edema Ruh and the tragedy he faced there, to his time on the streets in the city of Tarbean, to his quest for magic and the name of the wind at University. Along the way, it mixes elements of a lot of different stories.
Overall, the character of Kvothe reminds me a little of David Gemmell’s Druss the Legend. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but there’s just something about the feel of the story that gives me that same vibe. Maybe it’s the quiet, stoic heroism — though, I believe we’ll discover that hasn’t always been Kvothe’s way. Certainly, there’s the feel of a very dark and dismal "Oliver Twist" during Kvothe’s time on the streets, and much of the character’s experiences at the University will remind readers of the Harry Potter stories, though with a much more adult tone.
That said, "The Name of the Wind" doesn’t seek to emulate any of those stories. Despite perhaps reminding readers of those and more, Rothfuss’ debut stands on its own as a fascinating story about a fascinating character. The book creates a lot of questions in the reader’s mind, but answers few of them, instead hinting that all will be revealed as Kvothe’s story continues. There’s also something about Rothfuss’ style that seems to reassure the reader that patience will be rewarded and all will be revealed.
"The Name of the Wind" is a very well-crafted story with complex and likeable characters, and to me, that’s really what you look for in a fantasy novel. I highly recommend it.
Get "The Name of the Wind."