Nobody hated high fantasy more than me. Nobody. I used to say, “if there’s a map on the front of the book, don’t even recommend it to me.” I was scorned by the slow plot of the “Hobbit” and the many cryptic languages of “Eragon.” I vowed to myself; never again.
And then, despite my many protests, a friend convinced me to read Patrick Rothfuss’s “The Name of the Wind.”
This book has everything I thought I hated about high fantasy: complicated magic, primitive cities, made-up languages and yes, even a map in the front of the book.
All of these things have been enough for me to put down a book in the past. But Rothfuss managed to use the world of Temerent to turn everything I hated about this genre into everything I loved about it.
First of all, let’s talk about the main character. With a name like Kvothe, you can already get a feel for just how high fantasy this book is. When we meet Kvothe, he’s a young member of a traveling theatre troupe who’s gifted with the lute. And then, we discover he’s clever, too clever for his own good. So clever in fact, that his teacher told his parents, with unwavering certainty, that this kid could literally be the next Illien if he so chose. Illien is the Temerant version of Shakespeare, so that was far from light praise.
And the thing is, he probably would have been the next Illien, if something hadn’t happened that would lead him to become the greatest arcanist (basically, wizard) who ever lived.
That was until Kvothe had to give everything up to live a quiet life as an innkeeper. He had no choice: it was his only way to escape a very, very important person who wanted him dead. Now, years had passed, and Kvothe had forgotten who he was. A gifted actor through and through, he plays the part of a simple innkeeper so well that it’s becoming his reality. The only person who has a chance to bring back the Kvothe of legend is the Chronicler, who comes to town and corners Kvothe into telling him his life’s story.
See, “The Name of the Wind” is told in the same style of “Arabian Nights.” The book starts with introducing Kvothe as an innkeeper, and the rest is him actually telling his story to the Chronicler, with the occasional interjection when people come into the inn to order drinks.
If that weren’t enough to inspire you to start reading, “The Kingkiller Chronicles” is going to be adapted for both a movie and a TV series. Lin-Manuel Miranda will be composing the many songs described in the books. This is about to be the next “Game of Thrones,” and you can quote me on that.
It’s pretty much impossible for me to talk about the plot of this book without giving the whole thing away, as the twist comes close to the beginning. You simply must read it for yourself. All I can say is you can expect the high fantasy elements of the “Lord of the Rings” without all the time spent traveling. You can expect the academic setting of “Harry Potter” without waiting for seven books for the characters to get out of school. You can expect the many languages and extensive lore of “Eragon,” but without the overcomplication that makes that series confusing.
This book is simply mind-blowing. I haven’t loved a book this much since I was a kid reading “Harry Potter” for the first time. Rothfuss has officially converted me into a fantasy buff. Am I sort of ashamed that I’m obsessed with this book? Yes. Even so, will I ever shut up about it? Probably not.
Everybody has that one book that they think everybody should read. “The Name of the Wind” is mine. This is the best fantasy book written in the last 20 years, and that’s a hill I’m willing to die on.