My experience with fantasy novels limits itself to the Harry Potter books, the first half of Game of Thrones, the His Dark Materials series and the Chronicles of Narnia. I’m relatively familiar with the tropes, though. I know this book probably features 2000 of them, but it’s done well. It’s actually done very well.
An inkeeper who needs three days to tell his story, Kvothe is a man who is rumoured to have done many things, and to be many others. He tells his story to a man called Chronicler, starting from his childhood all through his journey to the University and how he fares there. There are mishaps and adventures and girls and then bits of magic which aren’t really magic.
One of the things that usually annoys me in fantasy books is the way the author always holds your hand and explains everything to you very neatly: there’s a nice little tablet explaining how much the coins are worth, there’s a nice teacher that teaches you all about magic and you just sit back and don’t wonder. In the Name of the Wind, nothing really gets explained. At least I didn’t feel like it. The currency just kind of shows up. The history of the country or land or kingdom or whatever this is just sort of drops in conversation and you kind of have to pick pieces here and there and glue everything together. I thought it was a very intelligent piece of work.
Kvothe is actually not completely wholesome and benevolent and a great person. He has his dark moments, moments where he’s an ass, or completely oblivious. He also matures, but also forgets, and is all-around human, even though he’s very special and talented. The setting is the usual, this medievalesque country with agrarian societies, little towns with inns and taverns. There’s lots of wine, sausages and warm bread, lutes and all those things. And I was fine with that, I knew what I was getting myself into.
My biggest, and besides some typos, only problem with this are the female characters. First off, they’re very little. There are about 3 or 4 major ones, and they’re still not very major. It’s mostly a male-dominated environment. Okay, I’m willing to accept that mostly men get to attend the University, but no other women are ever described. Not queens, not servants, not anything. It strikes me as very strange. Enter the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who makes our protagonist go cray-cray for her, even though she’s as dull as a brick. We are told they talk for hours, but we never get to hear these conversations. All men fall for her mostly because of her looks, and not much else. She is completely one-dimensional, and like all other female characters, ends up becoming slightly imbecile as she befriends the protagonist. I found myself bored during the sections she was in, which was saddening, because she had potential in her to become so much more than a sad excuse for a plotline.
This was still very, very fun. I was completely engrossed in it, and was surprised to find that a lute-playing competition was more riveting I ever imagined it could be. Kvothe wasn’t what I like to call a Harry. He actually got things done by himself, tried very hard and occasionally made mistakes. Truly an epic, and has set some very good stones for the following two books in the trilogy.
Read from February 13th to February 19th, 2012.