Having met my Cannonball 9 goal, I decided to re-read The Name of the Wind using the 10th anniversary edition. Initially, I wasn’t going to buy this special edition. There are already two copies, one trade paper and one hardcover, in the house. I even told my husband that I wasn’t going to get it. Then Rothfuss blogged details about the anniversary edition. Maps with more detail, explanation of the currency and exchange rates, the calendar, and back history of the empire (and why there is a “common” language as a result), a pronunciation guide, and original illustrations scattered throughout the book. Rothfuss created a world where I was genuinely curious to find out more about its inner workings and that tipped the scales in favor of getting a third copy.
On this edition’s back cover is a new blurb from Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is producing adaptions of Rothfuss’s work from book to screen. Miranda is a huge fan and asked to be president of the “Don’t Fuck it Up” club in this adaptation process, his words eloquently sum up how I feel about The Name of the Wind,
“No one writes about economic reality within this genre like Pat Rothfuss. The real-world weight of the sometimes impossible distance between the things you want and need and what you have in your pocket.
No one writes about music like Pat Rothfuss. The way it sneaks into your soul, the way it feeds you like nothing else.
No one writes stories like Pat Rothfuss. How the right story at the right time can change the world, how the teller can shape a life.
No one writes like Pat Rothfuss. Full stop. Read this book.”
I first picked up the trade paperback of NotW about 7 years ago on the recommendation of my favorite bookstore. I loved it so much I went back to upgrade and get the hard cover version. Rothfuss is a wonderful storyteller, on page and in person. He paints vivid images with his words and excellently conveys the complexity of human emotions. The world is carefully crafted with a deep, lived in feel. The magic is fascinating, based on the true names of things. Equally interesting is his scientific system called sympathy, that to an outsider might seem as magic, but is built on carefully thought out principles that are consistent within itself. And the way he writes about music! So lovingly and intimately, you might think Rothuss a musician (this comes up in every Q&A I’ve seen with him) however he readily admits he is not, but that you don’t need to know a thing to write about it with love. Rothfuss is wordy, with beautiful, sometimes poetic, expressions like “It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die”.
He also possesses a fun sense of humor. His ode to the cloak is very reminiscent of Douglas Adam’s ode to a towel. “Now let me say this: when you’re traveling a good cloak is worth more than all your other possessions put together. If you’ve nowhere to sleep, it can be your bed and blanket. It will keep the rain off your back and the sun from your eyes. You can conceal all manner of interesting weaponry beneath it if you are clever, and a smaller assortment if you are not.”
NotW contains a lot of fantasy tropes and Rothfuss readily admits as much. There is the main character Kvothe’s hero’s journey, complete with tragic death of parents making him an orphan. Unlike a lot of other fantasy, we learn from the very beginning of the book that this story has a tragic end. After an intense life that earned him the titles of “Kvothe the Bloodless”, “Kingkiller”, and “Kvothe the Arcane” he has lost the spark of life and is fading away. He has hidden himself away in a village, in the middle of no where, disguised as a humble inn keeper. Above his bar is a sword hung on a mounting board with the word “folly” inscribed beneath. Folly is a theme that runs throughout the book.
For years the Chronicler had chased rumors of Kvothe, and has finally tracked him down to transcribe his life story. To find the truth behind the legends that have sprung up in the wake of Kvothe’s actions. Kvothe agrees to do so, over the course of three days. The NotW is the first book of The Kingkiller Chronicle, what will presumably be a trilogy, as each book contains one day of Kvothe recounting his life story. So the NotW is almost entirely a flashback, told in an inn, another cliche of the genre. Also, Kvothe fights a dragon.
On my first read through I remember skipping parts of paragraphs I was reading so quickly. This time I consumed it more slowly and felt, occasionally, that the book could have used just one more pass through editing. I was just as emotionally invested in Kvothe this time around as the first. However, there was a deeper appreciation of how everything that happens to him is built upon what occurred before.
If you are a lover of stories and storytelling, then I highly recommend The Name of the Wind. If you like fantasy but would like some new twists on common tropes, then I suggest NotW. If you are intrigued by an incredibly developed world setting where there are exchange rates for currency, then you should definitely read NotW. As Lin-Manuel Maranda says, “No one writes like Pat Rothfuss. Full Stop. Read this book”.