A novel way to write high fantasy, The Name of the Wind excels first and foremost at developing the beginnings of it's protagonist, Kvothe.
The biggest thing I noticed in the early stages of this book was how quickly Rothfuss was able to change the tone of the novel. Kvothe's first-person narration goes from describing a seemingly normal or uplifting scene before quickly adjusting into a dark or different situation. This made for enjoyable shocks in the story and a much more realistic upbringing for Kvothe.
What also impressed me was Rothfuss's choices to subvert typical genre conventions, and spend time developing a range of story areas. The winding, uncertain nature of the story made for a much more realistic and enjoyable read than one that would typically follow the fantasy formula. The writing style of having both a storyteller in the present, and his coming-of-age story in the past makes a new sort of plot that pushes the realism of the world even further, and stands apart from other books in the genre. The novel doesn't seem to have any clear thematic message, but Rothfuss drops quotable lines that are applicable in anyone's life, and describes Kvothe's interactions with others so well that you can see your own relationships with others reflected in the writing.
I can understand some readers not appreciating Kvothe's character, as a guy who basically has done-it-all and speaks down on those who aren't on his level, but I found his arrogance in particular a believable trait that balanced out any “too-perfect” complaints. He is, at the end of the day, a flawed protagonist.
Unfortunately, my largest gripe with the book is how much of both the world development, and the character's life, are left unexplored. I will definitely be reading the sequel, but this book felt largely like a set-up (a very long 800 page one at that!) for the rest of the series. Also, I've seen the numerous complaints with the long (now 8+ years) wait for the third and final book in the trilogy...
Contrarily, the best parts of the book for me were undoubtedly the preludes and hints at the past, and I loved how different people throughout the book have different versions of stories to tell, really harkening back to an age where travellers shared tales and a common, written history was not widely known. All in all, a welcome breath of fresh air that leaves you wanting more in the fantasy genre.
Some of my favourite quotes:
- “If you can find someone...who you can hold and close your eyes to the world with, then you're lucky. Even if it only lasts for a minute or a day.”
- “It is like the ocean. I can tell you of the waves and water, but you don't begin to get an inkling of its size until you stand on the shore.”
- “May all your stories be glad ones, and your roads be smooth and short.”
- “There's no good story that doesn't touch the truth.”
- “As with all truly wild things, care is necessary in approaching them.”
- ““Bitter.” “That's how you know it's real medicine... If it tasted good it would be candy.”“
- “I found what I wanted most, yet it was not what I expected... As is often the case when you gain your heart's desire.”