The book gathered an exceptionally high rating, was recommended by a Goodreads friend and is under my beloved epic fantasy genre, clearly necessitating a well founded text-based review, lest I be berated by some die hard fan out there. Withal, I apologize for an uncharacteristically long winded review.
At the risk of being redundant, let me restate that all stories have been told, and retold, one way or another. This carries serious implications. First is that a lot of published books are nothing but replications and poor imitations which are but mere mockeries of the original masterpieces. Second is that a certain preferential degree of liking has to be attributed to the reader (albeit in connection to how good the writer is), that is some people may have either come to appreciate this substantial nuance, relegate it to the background (something that is really hard to learn) or disdain the book for such (subjectively) fatal aspect. Third is that this could be an objectively effective measure in gauging how good a writer is because a great author is someone who either creates an original and novel masterpiece or is someone who takes what has been written, incorporates conventional aspects, employs prosaic themes but nonetheless comes up with a masterpiece. The Name of the Wind lies in the middle of all this in a peculiar manner.
The plot is, too put it in a blunt but veracious way, unoriginal. The gifted/special boy subjected to life's most savage tribulations coming to power thorough education/training to be hailed the greatest hero who ever live later on has been perpetuated to taxing degrees in this genre. The idea of naming the wind or the elements for that matter is also not unprecedented. Countless times while reading this, I was vividly reminded of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle, just without the gritty, profound and captivating meanings in the prose. I do not agree however that the deus-ex-machina/wish-fulfillment/infallible-hero/superman plot some claim to be perpetuated was actually employed to such encompassing degree. Conspicuously, Kvothe is fallible albeit exceptionally adroitly. He is gifted and must undergo training, but not miraculously powerful.
The magical system is guilty of being in dearth of explanation, rationalization and at least a claim of any verisimilitude. Perhaps (maybe without fault on Rothfuss) because I have just read Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson which boast of an incomparably novel and well-thought of magical system.
One of the most common critique in the fantasy genre is the objectification of the female sex and its relegation as mere plot devices. This book is, no exception to that. Notice that every female in this story is described as seemingly sexually attractive to Kvothe (even his mother!).
On chapter 16:
“My mother, slender, fresh, and bright, pale and smooth-skinned in the firelight..."
Denna, or whatever her names is for that matter must be fundamentally considered or at least can be objectively approximated to a whoring girl if not a desperate courtesan. For all its worth, Rothfuss managed to elicit an irritating reaction in regard of Denna.
The name of the wind is peculiar because in the same manner that it perpetuates conventional plot devices, it also employed themes that are revolutionary if not novel in the fantasy genre. One of these is pitting science against music( or the arts) and not with religion. Another is the subtle use of kindness in Kvothe's life journey rather than full-blown overly-exaggerated life trials. Case in point is the farmer in Chapter 19 or of the shoemaker in Chapter 32. What I revel the most in however is the manner by which Rothfuss delivered in Kvothe's struggle to win his silver pipes. Personally, the time when he was playing in the Eolian was the strongest moment for the book. It was utterly riveting. Lest I forget, up to now, I have yet to make sense of why the University, which is supposedly the bastion of reason and logic, employed means that were so barbaric, i.e. whipping. Any thoughts?
There are also waterloos on the technicalities of writing. The first could be more personal rather than objective but merits mention. Rothfuss is found of using imagery and metaphors in writing. Somehow I find this bordering appropriateness to sheer lack of capacity to tell.
On Chapter 47:
“And there was Ambrose. To deem us simply enemies is to lose the true flavor of our relationship. It was more like the two of us entered into a business partnership in order to more efficiently pursue our mutual interest of hating each other”
On Chapter 50:
“I couldn’t stand being near music and not be a part of it. It was like watching the woman you love bedding down with another man”
On Chapter 58:
“She smiled at me then. It was warm and sweet and shy, like a flower unfurling. It was friendly and honest and slightly embarrassed. When she smiled at me, I felt”
I will stop with that for brevity's sake. There are negligible albeit basic errors in construction.
On Chapter 44:
“We were none of us particularly drunk”
On Chapter 45:
“And we were both of us very young.”
On Chapter 88:
“Otherwise the story don’t make a lick of sense. It was a demon he called up, and it drank up the fellow’s blood, and everyone who saw was powerful shook up by it”
And even tough this story is told through Kvothe's recollection, there are numerous shifting of point-of-views in narration. From first person there comes a third person omniscient narrator. At times this could be problematic, and at times appropriate and indispensable since a third person omniscient narrator makes sense of things. This leads us to the next contention which is Rothfuss oftenly talks down and tells rather than shows. This statement for example tops the list.
On Chapter 92:
“THAT SHOULD DO FOR now, Imagine,” Kvothe said,gesturing for Chronicler to lay down his pen. “We have all the groundwork now. A foundation of story to build upon.”
He could't have been any more conspicuous talking down to his readers than this statement. For the record, That is perfectly clear since the plot hardly moved at all with the first book. My biggest complaint is that book one was simply too Loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong. A lot of chapters could have been done away with, without compromising the story, plot and character development, and quality. He could have dispensed the detailed horse-ride, the excessive chapters on Kvothe's vagrancy in Tarbean (it was perfectly clear that he was poor, homeless, hungry, beaten and desperate by a good length with one chapter, to extend it to three or four chapters is simply taxing the readers), or the 150+ pages concerning the killing of the Draccus, I hope that such event did not only contribute to the already blurry relationship Kvothe has with Denna and was not only a plot device contributing to Kvothe's supposedly notoriety, but is something else and something more.
As a stand alone, this book titters between the edge of something that has wasted my time and something I have to be patient with. Perhaps its merits lies in its completion.