Aww, who’s been neglecting you, poor wittle blog? Mommy has! Yes, she has!
Anyway, I have just finished the big epic fantasy that I mentioned a while back. It was good, better than the first hundred or so pages, after which I was pretty well hooked. It is called the Name of the Wind and is by Patrick Rothluss. Here is the hero in his own words. (Excuse the long quote, but, as I often find, the beauty of prose is most poignant with context.)
“My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as ‘Quothe.’ Name are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I’ve had more names than anyone has a right to.
The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it’s spoken, can mean ‘The Flame,’ ‘The Thunder,’ or ‘The Broken Tree.’
‘The Flame’ is obvious if you’ve ever seen me. I have red hair, bright. If I had been born a couple hundred years ago I would probably have been burned as a demon. I keep it short but it’s unruly. When left to its own devices, it stick up and make me look as if I have been set afire.
‘The Thunder’ I attribute to a strong baritone and a great deal of stage training at an early age.
I’ve ever thought of ‘The Broken Tree’ as very significant. Although in retrospect I suppose it could be considered at least partially prophetic.
My first mentor called me E’lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator, because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them.
But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant ‘to know.’
I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the twon of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.” (pages 56-57)
Things I loved: it is a fantasy novel and the protag is a big damn hero, BUT you really get a sense that he hasn’t “fixed” the world and that there is a lot going on around him that he a. has no control over and b. doesn’t even necessarily know about. I think that this first thing I loved might change as the series/trilogy/I
have no idea how long it is goes on, as this first book is essentially a set up (I have a feeling it might even be the set up for the set up, though it is already setting things up and I should stop talking now), but it is a thing that I loved. From the quote above, you also know that he isn’t universally beloved. Like many real ‘heroes’, who is a hero and who is not depends entirely on who you ask.
Thematically, I loved this book. Rothfuss is questioning what makes a hero, which is a question my favorite book (The Last Unicorn) also takes on. He is also tackling what unmakes a hero, which is just as wonderful a question. See below for an example of the gorgeosity of his wonderments.
Also, holy carp, that prose. It’s intelligent: from near the end of the book (but spoiler free, of course): “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.” (pg 716) It’s also beautiful, as I think I have already proven. And, lastly, it’s often funny! “I also felt guilty about the three pens I’d stolen. And since there was no convenient way to give them back, I stole a bottle of ink before I left.” This is a book written by a guy who thinks about life and about people and he does some really amazing things with his words.
Of course, it was written by a guy, and while I really enjoyed the female characters and thought they were interesting and wanted to learn more about them… I didn’t get to. The main female lead is a romantic one that Kvothe worships. And ya’ll know how much I love it when a guy worships a gal!* (*pukes*) There are four(?) other female characters who have any significance in the book: Kvothe’s mother, his loan shark, a peer, and a… girl who is hard to describe. To compare numbers, I count well over ten male characters of similar significance. Also, all four (five, including the romantic lead) are, in different ways, very attractive, which would enough to raise flags by itself, to be honest. There are huge swaths of the book where women don’t show up at all, including the time in the inn. And lastly, it seems like women are very rarely in positions of power. For instance, all of the masters at the University are male. So it fails a bit on that front, although not nearly as badly as many other things I have read. It also doesn’t, to my memory, mention anybody who’s not white. So, you know.
Honestly, I hate to keep harping on this subject. I would love to not feel I have to mention this lack that keeps appearing. But as long as it does, I will keep talking about it.
But all in all, I am ever so glad I read it and it was well worth getting past the first hundred pages or so. I should mention that the first hundred pages are far from bad, and looking back it was a wonderful way to start the novel, just that they didn’t grip me. As usual, if anybody would like to borrow it from me, just let me know! I will need to hold on to it, though, because I think this is one I’m going to reread at least once. And I think I’m going to buy the sequel as soon as it’s out in paperback. Or maybe when it’s out at all. ;___;
*For anybody who might not know, when I see that what I see is a guy who wants to get to know a girl because he wants to get into her pants (essentially). I don’t see a guy who wants to get in a girl’s pants because he knows her. And all too often, though this isn’t the case with Kvothe imo, the guy doesn’t actually really want to get to know the girl. He just wants to worship her. And get in her pants.