I do feel like I should find a good sturdy ringmail and perhaps a tower shield, as The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is a very well loved book with enormous amount of hype behind it, boasting with the average ranking of as high as 4.56 out of 5.00 on Goodreads site. For me, The Name of the Wind was a bumpy ride - there were things to enjoy, and then there were things that made me cringe.
I feel like this one has to be divided into non-spoilery and spoilery sections. Usually I try to avoid spoilers at any cost, but the problems I had with this book will not come through unless I really go into detail regarding certain parts of the story, and characters. Also, since so many people have already read The Name of the Wind, it might be interesting to talk a bit longer. And I know some of my blogging buddies love this book a lot, so I hope we can still be friends after that :)
I made a little chart to illustrate what I mean by "bumpy":
Let's start off with non-spoilery bits:
- The overall pace. The book started out very slow, but being a patient person, I didn't mind, hoping that what is to come will be proportionally that much more rewarding, thanks to me being properly immersed into the story and characters. It did get a lot better and in the second quarter, it was one of those really good fantasy books that you just don't want to put down. As you can see, it was riding on a solid four stars on my chart for quite some time... until things suddenly took a turn for the worse (more about that in the spoilery section).
- The world and magic. I liked the world that Rothfuss constructed, especially the University parts. I also appreciated how gentle-handed the author was when introducing the magic system of this world. Reading Brandon Sanderson's The Final Empire in parallel, this made an interesting comparison, as the magic in The Final Empire is a lot more full-on, definitely not subtle - and neither of those approaches are bad or good, they are just different.
- The way of storytelling. I liked the way the story is told in a bit of non-linear way, as it incorporates both adult Kvothe and the young Kvothe. It makes for an interesting change in perspective. However, in the second half of the book Rothfuss makes some decisions in narrative that seemed really weird to me, the book is long as it is and a certain arc I felt was completely illogical, uncalled for, and unnecessary.
- Intriguing characters, and then some not so much. Some of the characters were really interesting - the University masters, Abenthy, Bast, Trapis - probably my favourite secondary character and I want to know more about him. I wish the characters that I found attractive would have gotten more "page time" than they did. On the other hand, there were some characters that I felt were not written that well. The young Kvothe. Denna. Ambrose. More of those in the spoiler section.
Overall - I definitely would not encourage anyone to skip this book. It is well loved and I can see why; the problems I had fell mostly under the category "It's me, not you". But I also think if one was taking his/her first steps in fantasy, there are better-constructed ones out there to start with. I will not be chasing after the sequel, but might give it a go if it just happened to come to me somehow.
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
If you haven't read this book yet, and intend to, please don't read any further!
Okay, the spoilery part seems to be the one where I rant. But not only!
- I loved the way the relationship of Kvothe's parents was described. I think it was such a refreshing change to all those gazillions of dysfunctional families and parents out there. I also loved most of the things related to the music (songs, the life in troupe, and my favourite must have been that chapter set in Eolian - I totally got lost in that one).
- Teen Kvothe. I don't mind adult Kvothe, who is telling the story, at all, but the way teen Kvothe is written was mostly just boring and often came out clichéd. A poor orphan (tick) with a brilliant mind of a genius (tick) who has too much arrogance for his own good at times (tick), who knows nothing about women (tick) but still "gets" the prettiest one only because... dunno, he is so awesome (tick).
- Denna, and the relationship between Kvothe and Denna. That was probably my biggest problem with the book. If it wasn't constantly told how beautiful, magical, different, unique, special Denna is, then honestly, I'd have had no idea. /sarcasm off. It felt way too "tell, not show" to me most of the time. I get it that Denna as a character was supposed to be "something different", but for me she just happened to come out as one of those people, who (most of the time unnecessarily) makes life very difficult for herself, and also people around her. I am not sure if she was happy with the life she was leading, as most of what reader learns about her is through Kvothe's reflections, but she didn't seem overly happy. At some point it was noted how it's difficult for her to find friends among women because she's so magical and beautiful that all women hate her (the kind of approach itself I find extremely hard to stomach), but when I thought about it, she didn't exactly strike me as a very warm person who would approach another lady to make friends. Overall I wasn't that impressed with the portrayal of female characters in the book, with the exception of Auri, who held a certain charm. Coming back to Kvothe and Denna though - can it be called romance? I think it can, though nothing majorly physical happens. Their dialogues were painful to read. It is important to keep in mind though that Kvothe at this point is only 15, and Denna probably a few years older, so certain amount of juvenile cheesiness is expected. It's also worth mentioning that romance-wise I am near impossible to please, so it's likely most people will find no problem in this relationship.
- I wish more fantasy authors realised that you don't need to have a dragon in your book. It's not a must-be, really! I assure you! In this case, the dragon (or draccus) comes in very late, on page 540 or so, and it doesn't really seem to serve any other purpose than... to have a dragon in a fantasy book. Moreover: the arrival of the dragon kind of ruined everything that the previous 500 pages had been building on - we get to spend pages and pages (and then some more pages) with Kvothe and Denna meddling with the dragon (whilst having those awkward dialogues) - a turn in the plot that seemed to serve no logical or necessary purpose. Were it an anime series, I'd call it a filler.
- Some characters were boring and clichéd, like Ambrose, who only seems to exist as an opponent to Kvothe in the school setting. He remains so one-dimensional and all you learn is that he is filthy rich, quite stupid, and quick to anger - a textbook bully.