The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle #1)
August 11, 2016 8:59 AM - by Patrick Rothfuss - Subscribe

The riveting first-person narrative of a young man who grows to be the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime- ridden city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard. It is a high-action novel written with a poet's hand, a powerful coming-of-age story of a magically gifted young man, told through his eyes: to read this book is to be the hero.
posted by Fizz (28 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I struggle to name a fantasy book more than any other in the last 10 years that has entertained me as much as this book and this series. Someone tried to sell me on the book many years ago with the tag-line: Harry Potter-esque, only the consequences of failure are higher and magic is taken more seriously. I walked into the book hesitant but it blew my mind.
posted by Fizz at 9:09 AM on August 11, 2016


The less seriously I took this book, the more I liked it. It was a case of Girl Scout cookies -- I can't survive on them, and I need to stop every now and then, but damn does it hit the spot when I'm craving a cookie.

I'm going to snap up the third as soon as it's available, and I think it'll be one of those rare series that I re-read, if Rothfuss gives us more about how unreliable a narrator Kvothe really was all along.
posted by Etrigan at 9:57 AM on August 11, 2016


Oh, and I'll say this -- "written with a poet's hand"? Feh. Rothfuss is a good storyteller who occasionally has a good turn of phrase, but "occasionally" is as far as I'm willing to go.
posted by Etrigan at 10:03 AM on August 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm going to snap up the third as soon as it's available

Forgot to add an asterisk to this -- one of the best jokes on a very funny episode of Hello From the Magic Tavern was when the host asked Rothfuss (playing a traveling physician in the fantasy world of Foon) whether he'd like to come back again some time, and then wait many, many, many years to come back a third time.
posted by Etrigan at 10:06 AM on August 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


One issue that I always come back to for this series is: I like that people get injured seriously and/or face serious consequences within the University school system they've established in this universe. It was one thing that always annoyed me with similar fantasy/magic-heavy books. Lev Grossman's The Magicians also manages to carve out a system where the magic has consequences (often deadly) for students who mess around with things they shouldn't be messing around with.
posted by Fizz at 10:09 AM on August 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I read this book on a summer vacation many years ago, and it ended up feeling a little bit too much like "look how amazing the protagonist is!!!" for me, but given the enthusiasm people have for the series I've feared ever after that I misjudged it.

Forgot to add an asterisk to this -- one of the best jokes on a very funny episode of Hello From the Magic Tavern was when the host asked Rothfuss (playing a traveling physician in the fantasy world of Foon) whether he'd like to come back again some time, and then wait many, many, many years to come back a third time.

Judging by Wikipedia it was a long wait between the first and second? Seems like he's only a year behind at this point from that metric.
posted by selfnoise at 10:13 AM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just recently read the first two books of this trilogy. One thing that seemed really weird to me was Kvothe's constant anxiety about money and survival. I felt like I was reading an account of his purse rather than of his adventures.

I loved the ridiculous surplus of magical systems in this world. At the very least there is Alchemy (which sure isn't chemistry!), Sygaldry, Sympathy, and Naming. I liked how they all had pure forms, like calling the name of the wind, but also blended into each other, so the Sygaldry runes are related somewhat to Naming, and can be used to establish sympathetic links between objects.
posted by rustcrumb at 10:19 AM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Judging by Wikipedia it was a long wait between the first and second? Seems like he's only a year behind at this point from that metric.

He said when NotW was published that WMF was done and would be out a year after NotW, then DoS would be out a year after that. He has since apologized for saying that, attributing it to not understanding the gulfs between "written" and "publishable" and "perfect" (though his publisher was saying the same thing, and they don't have the same excuse).

I'm not one of the people who tweet at him to whine about anything he does that isn't finishing Book Three. I'm just amused when it comes up (and so is he, apparently -- he laughed pretty hard at that joke).
posted by Etrigan at 10:35 AM on August 11, 2016


Jo Walton's Rothfuss Reread is quite good (obviously, spoileriffic).
posted by Etrigan at 10:50 AM on August 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Etrigan, the entire Tor.com web section where they only do re-reads is amazing. Their Dragonlance re-read was a great way to kind of go back and re-experience a bit of my childhood. And anything by Jo Walton is a delight, she is a wonderfully gifted writer and has broad knowledge on many subjects.
posted by Fizz at 11:13 AM on August 11, 2016


The less seriously I took this book, the more I liked it. It was a case of Girl Scout cookies -- I can't survive on them, and I need to stop every now and then, but damn does it hit the spot when I'm craving a cookie.

Totally agree! It's pretty easy to get hung up on just what a hilarious Mary Sue Kvothe is, but if you take that as given and just go along for the ride, it's pretty fun!
posted by that's candlepin at 12:08 PM on August 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Totally agree! It's pretty easy to get hung up on just what a hilarious Mary Sue Kvothe is, but if you take that as given and just go along for the ride, it's pretty fun!

In this regard, the book is very much akin to Harry Potter. Sometimes you just have to turn your brain off and enjoy the wonder and magic of it all.
posted by Fizz at 12:22 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, I'm just now thinking of what might be the most interesting way to think about Kvothe and his Mary Sue-ness. It's not groundbreaking or anything, but I didn't come around to it until pretty late in the second book. Basically, Kvothe is an incredibly unreliable narrator. Yeah, he learns languages in a day, etc., etc., but such perfect recall of his whole life story? And constantly being the best at everything all the time? If you assume he's basically lying about most of this stuff I think it's actually more interesting than assuming it's all true.
posted by that's candlepin at 12:42 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


"look how amazing the protagonist is!!!" for me, but given the enthusiasm people have for the series I've feared ever after that I misjudged it.

This. The magic-system worldbuilding is cool and got me through the book and I grudgingly finished the second as a result of sunk cost fallacy. I think there is supposed to be a third one, but I have no enthusiasm for it.

However, I despised these much less than The Magicians.
posted by porpoise at 3:30 PM on August 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, a friend recommended this book to me and I dragged my heels reading it because the cover made it look stupid, and then I started it and completely devoured it and finished it and was like, "Welp, that wasn't anything terribly special!" and then immediately bought the sequel.

It's definitely literary junk food but if you're picking out a book about learning to do magic you could do worse.
posted by the marble index at 3:54 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, I'm just now thinking of what might be the most interesting way to think about Kvothe and his Mary Sue-ness. It's not groundbreaking or anything, but I didn't come around to it until pretty late in the second book. Basically, Kvothe is an incredibly unreliable narrator. Yeah, he learns languages in a day, etc., etc., but such perfect recall of his whole life story? And constantly being the best at everything all the time? If you assume he's basically lying about most of this stuff I think it's actually more interesting than assuming it's all true.

I think this gets at the heart of my problem with the KingKiller Chronicles in general (no spoilers I promise)-- that Rothfuss sets up such an amazing scenario that could lead right into great unreliable narrator payoff, and then has largely squandered it. Because the only way anything in the books past or present makes any sense is if a.) Kvothe is the most annoying Mary Sue to ever Mary Sue, in that particularly awful masculine fantasy novel protagonist way, and doesn't even have the grace to be smug about it in a funny or endearing manner (ugh), or b.) Kvothe is a huge lying liar liarpants. I want to believe option b, but if so, Rothfuss has just... wasted... two huge novels' worth of chances to show us some of the fun stuff on the unreliable narration bit, to tip his hat and give a bit of a wink, or at least to give the careful reader a fighting chance at uncovering some of the discrepancy. So functionally, option b, which I would definitely prefer to believe since I sincerely hope we left the era of the perfect outcast hero sometime in the nineties, becomes indistinguishable from option a. At this point, we're in so deep it doesn't matter, because without the fun reader headgames that come with having an unreliable narrator that the author treats as an unreliable narrator, you're reading about a douchebag Mary Sue anyway.

tl;dr Kvothe has become a Mobius strip of annoying
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:58 PM on August 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


I wouldn't say wise man's fear bitterly disappointed me, but it site did disappoint me. Magic system aside, I was expecting like a new, interesting, sophisticated fantasy, but i got a new David eddings, with somehow even more adolescent wish fulfillment and questionable gender politics.

I would have loved it at eleven, like I loved David eddings, but as a dude in his late twenties it left me really wanting.
posted by smoke at 5:17 PM on August 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sorry, I meant name of the wind
posted by smoke at 6:07 PM on August 11, 2016


This book is great and I will fight you haters.

and it ended up feeling a little bit too much like "look how amazing the protagonist is!!!" for me

"Kvothe is amazing!" -Kvothe.

I mean, he is the one telling the story and clearly and obviously putting, shall we say, polish and a positive spin on everything.
posted by Justinian at 1:32 AM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


WidgetAlley: I disagree that we've never been given any real evidence of Kvothe's unreliability. One big example I clearly remember (it's been a while) is how Kvothe constantly talks about how utterly beautiful Denna is, and how she puts other women to shame, and so on. But Bast has actually seen Denna, and he points out that she wasn't bad looking but had a big nose and so on. So on basically the only point so far where we have an independent witness we know that Kvothe is relating things with rather less than perfect accuracy.

I would have loved it at eleven, like I loved David eddings

Ok, now this just seems unfair. As much as I loved Eddings (also at eleven) he is pretty objectively a terrible writer. That isn't true of Rothfuss, and there's plenty of critics who will back that up. That doesn't mean he's perfect or the second coming of Nabokov or to anyone's taste but he's orders of magnitude better than Eddings.
posted by Justinian at 1:36 AM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


But Bast has actually seen Denna, and he points out that she wasn't bad looking but had a big nose and so on.

Yes, but Bast is some sort of otherworldly fae creature in the long fantasy tradition of beautiful otherworldly fae creatures. His idea of beauty may not have anything to do with a human's. Also, Bast is shown to be someone who enjoys giving his friend Kvothe some shit at times, the way friends do.

I'm not a hater (really liked this book, liked the sequel less so -- see that thread for details). But, the notion of Kvothe as an unreliable narrator just doesn't hold water to me. The only evidence that tends to get cited is that obviously his story is so insane so he must be, but I tend towards occam's razor here. To wit, what's more likely:

(1) A first time author running a 3 (or more) book long intricate con of an unreliable narrator (which 2 books in has had basically zero evidence that this is the case)

(2) A first time author writing some books that are generally good but fall prey to a characterization problem that's super common amongst even established author.

I personally think it's #2. And in fact, if it is #1, that's probably worse at this point, because waiting until the third book to give even a tiny real hint of it would be about as satisfying as an "it was all a dream!" ending.
posted by tocts at 5:06 AM on August 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


An unreliable narrator is only meaningful if you do something with it in the context of the work. Otherwise who cares?

The common and effective use of this trope is to seduce the reader into believing in a character and then undercut that dramatically. But if people are using the idea of it as an excuse for self-indulgent writing before the plot twist even drops that isn't going to work.

An example of an unreliable narrator in fantasy fiction that feels meaningful and necessary would be Severian in Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" novels. Also, inasmuch as Sam Lowry is a narrator in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil", he's certainly unreliable. Film is a little different, of course.

Ooh, there's another EXCELLENT one in a Iain Banks novel but it's so spoilerrific that I'll leave it out. And that's an example that leaves it until the end... but I don't think that works over a multi-work cycle unless you leave a LOT of space to unspool it.
posted by selfnoise at 6:23 AM on August 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Kvothe can be both, though, and almost has to be. He's both a destined hero type and probably lying to Chronicler routinely throughout. Or at least exaggerating and smoothing lots of things. Any first person retrospective narration basically has to be considered only partially true, right? So we have a hero we're supposed to identify with who's a little (a lot) too perfect but also kind of a tragic figure and probably a big old liar, too. I think taken all together it's at least interesting to think about how this is all supposed to work together and work out in the end. Which is more than I can say for a bunch of other stuff I (happily) read.
posted by that's candlepin at 11:29 AM on August 12, 2016


I might buy the idea of Kvothe as unreliable narrator in the sense that his relation of events is not remotely correct but they are utterly consistent with what he believes to be the case. Which I feel like is not typically how people expect an UN situation to present but I don't see any reason why it couldn't be done.

That seems like it could work quite well within the ongoing mystery of how did we get from there to here? Whatever happened could certainly have altered Kvothe's perceptions of himself, history, and the world.
posted by phearlez at 9:11 AM on August 15, 2016


Patrick Rothfuss on Why It Took 15 Years to Write The Name of the Wind [Tor.com]
posted by Fizz at 5:50 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just finished this yesterday, and I breezed through it in 3 days. I can't remember the last time a book grabbed me so hard. I get the Mary Sue stuff a bit, but Kvothe is constantly failing or getting the shit kicked out of him, and sure it generally ends up well for him and he does a lot of cool stuff, but I definitely didn't get that much of a Mary Sue vibe from it. Maybe that means I'm gullible. The scene where he uses his savings to try and get his pipes, and then he sees Ambrose in the crowd made me more anxious than anything I can remember reading, and that's cool! I also just loved a ton of tiny details throughout. I loved the troupe, and how in love his parents were. I love that Kvothe is actually a slightly horny teenager who knows nothing about love, even if he's badass in every other aspect so far. He feels genuine to me. His poverty and suffering feel real, and they make the triumphs that much better. A friend complained that he wished there weren't so much repaying loans going on, but (never having been that poor myself) I thought it seemed really well done. When he saves Fela, and is the hero of the university but actually is mostly ticked off that now he's out one shirt and has no cloak especially comes to mind.

The magic system definitely made me think of Grossman's Magicians, it's tough and hard and has very serious consequences, and that makes it more rewarding. But beyond that, I thought the book had an interesting motif of disbelief going on. As a kid Kvothe believes in magic like kids do, but not really til he sees Ben call the wind. Then he gets to University and its almost like a boring, hard school. Few believe that the calling the wind exists, or the Chandrian are real. Even the dragon was so foreign everyone just thought it was a demon but Kvothe.

Anyways I loved it. Can't wait to read the second one. Also the way he talks about inns makes me want to travel back in time and space and run a cozy inn.
posted by DynamiteToast at 9:37 AM on December 15, 2016


I'm giving this to a co-worker who's really into Game of Thrones (show and books) for Christmas. I figure she must like fantasy series that will never, ever finish.
posted by Etrigan at 10:39 AM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Update: She has heard about the series and was stoked to have an excuse to start it.
posted by Etrigan at 1:14 PM on December 25, 2016


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