This book has been kicking around my recommended lists, and I’ve seen it reviewed a couple times here and there, then I saw it was part of the Pajiba Book Archive (though the link to the actual article seems to be broken? Or maybe the article is just too old at this point.) so I finally picked it up and started reading it. It’s a good, solid first novel in a fantasy world.
Kvothe the Kingkiller, Kvothe the Arcane, Kvothe the Bloodless, Shadicar, Lightfinger, Six String, Kote the Innkeeper of Newarre (say it fast and you’ll get the pun). It isn’t often a real Hero gets to set the record straight on his exploits, but the Chronicler has found the legendary Kvothe and wants him to do just that. Kvothe wants to just be left alone to run his inn and let the rest of the world think he’s dead. But it’s clear the world is getting darker, and he may not be able to hide much longer. So, the Chronicler, and he’s previously eavesdropping apprentice Bast, (who is definitely fae, but what kind of fae he has not yet told us) can hear his story.
The Name of the Wind is the story of an Epic Hero’s childhood as told by said Hero. It’s an interesting concept, I like it overall, and it jumps form the current moment of the story being told in the inn that back in time to the period Kvothe is talking about.
We hear about his young childhood with a traveling theatre troop. This is where he meets his first mentor and learns the basics of sympathetic magic, chemistry, math, etc and decides he wants to go to the University. He is then separated from his family and spends years living on the streets of a city, barely surviving and learning just how harsh reality can be. I think this is the best part of the book. It’s very visceral, and the author does not shy away from any of the harsh realities of a life spent on the street, not the realities int he moment, no how these realities echo down through the rest of a person’s life, even if they manage to change their circumstances. We then move with Kvothe to the University where he finally starts to get a formal education.
He also meets Denna, the most amazing woman ever, according to Kvothe. Hilariously, Bast’s assessment of her is basically, “eh, she’s a’ight.” I kind of loved this little aside because it not only shows how love can color our perceptions of people, it is a nice little reminder that Kvothe isn’t exactly a reliable narrator. This is a big thing here. Kvothe, in telling his story, does what most of us do, he puts his thoughts and motivations to the front because, to us, they are very important. Reading between the lines, though, especially during his time at the University, I found myself thinking, “Oh my God, just sit down and take three minutes to figure out which end is up before you run your mouth, you arrogant little shit! You aren’t nearly as great as you think you are and the rules do actually apply to you.” But maybe that’s the former educator in me talking.
There are some of the typical fantasy tropes here, the ancient Big Bad, using the “real” names of animals and natural elements as a means to control them, fairies, demons, and other fancy humanoids, the Rich Snobby Rival, etc. etc. for the most part, though, they are well deployed so they don’t feel too much like they are just tick boxes to check (though I wish the school rival wasn’t quite so one dimensional).
Also, I just realized I’ve hit the Half Cannonball! I am really proud of myself! Let’s see if I can hit 52 by Dec. I’m optimistic!
This is my PAJIBA square for Bingo. The link on the site is here (though I think it’s too old to show the whole article): https://www.pajiba.com/book_reviews/the-name-of-the-wind-book-review.php