It feels like I have been reading people talk about how awesome Patrick Rothfuss is for years, although the talk seems to centre more on him than his book. I finally picked up the first one in the series this summer and then had to tear through the second immediately afterwards, all within a week. It was like I was shovelling the food in my face like I did when my kids were tiny.
I read these months ago, HAD MANY THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS, and then stopped reviewing for a while. As a result, I will do both of these in a single post.
You guys, I love this series, including the novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things, which I reviewed earlier. For those few who aren’t familiar with the series, it tells the story of Kvothe, who narrates his life story to a Chronicler who has sought out the legendary musician and arcanist. He is hiding from the world, and we aren’t exactly sure why. It moves quickly, quickly building a world for the reader while not getting bogged down in the details (like the Malazan series I just won’t give up on).
I particularly enjoyed how Rothfuss was so careful to describe Kvothe’s struggles to survive; he grew up as basically a penniless orphan in a vicious world and has struggled to stay safe, feed himself, and get through school. It’s fascinating how money-focused Kvothe is, and how the struggle to survive has formed his character. His hard work, his charity, and his sense of place in this world. It reminds me of this post from Pajiba about poverty that was so well written and revealing. Growing up like that, always set up to fail, has driven Kvothe to drive himself to become less vulnerable.
This series is also interesting in that Kvothe is a born performer, and is very conscious of the power of stories:
“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
I think that Kvothe is an unreliable narrator. He is often the hero of his own story, which makes sense, but he often paints himself as a victim; even if he takes partial responsibility for something going wrong, it is because of some noble personality characteristic such as passion or a desire to protect someone. He also is careful to note what a wonderful lover he is, and his perspective on his relationship with the elusive Denna is something I sometimes doubt. It’s easy to get carried away, but the story changes a little bit when you take Kvothe’s words with a grain of salt.
I love this book – I love that Kvothe is a man with lots of feelings that he feels comfortable sharing. I love his complex relationships with those who surround him, and I enjoy the world that Rothfuss has created around him. I think I enjoyed the first better than the second, but I think that is partly because Kvothe’s boasting about his adventures were a little more overbearing as he describes the parts of his life where he has more agency. Overall, the series is great and I look forward to eventually getting to the conclusion of this series.