The fantasy and science fiction mediums are ones that has been filled quite readily over the last couple of years but with very few memorable books. They are geneses that can unintentionally blend together with one book looking like another, but when a book comes out that is unique and original it needs to be mentioned. In the past couple years we have been blessed with a series of new book that stand out, written by talented authors who will rewrite the genre, authors like Brandon Sanderson and his Mistborn trilogy, Jeff Somers and his avery Cates novels, Brent Weeks and The Night Angel trilogy, and Carrie Vaughn and her Kitty books, but one of the most wildly acclaimed new authors is Patrick Rothfuss and The Name of the Wind.
My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as “quothe.” Names 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 of 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 sticks up and makes 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 never 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 town 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.
These are the chilling opening words to the novel, released in 2007, that spins the tale of the legendary Kvothe. The book, the first of three, is a story within a story, much like The Arabian Nights, tells the tale of a prodigal child born to a troop of traveling actors. He is a talented musician, a skilled caster of ‘sympathy magic’ and a brilliant thinker. The book follows the first day of three needed for Kvothe to dictate his memoirs. His story begins with his family, follows him through tragedy, and watches him grow from a child into a teenager. We watch as Kvothe, unaided by family, deals with true evil, citizens of higher class and the power they wield, first love, and the trials of simple life.
The book, which spends a great deal of time talking about sympathy, science and music, goes back and forth between an adult Kvothe done with his adventuring and the child avatar his story creates. This allows Rothfuss to show us the tolls that his life has taken on him, and the pain he still feels at his life’s choices and losses. The book, which could have easily spun into a child’s tale, takes a mature and adult look at each event, at the very realistic mistakes made, and at the consequences Kvothe suffers. Often you find yourself praying for things to be better for this characters, for things to pick up, for life to be easy on him, and it is because of his great mistakes and great turmoil he suffers that Kvothe, a character that could easily spin into a perfect hero like many books before, stays grounded and realistic. These things make the book, as quoted by The Onion A.V. Club,…. a brooding thoroughly adult meditation on how heroism went wrong.
What often sets one fantasy world apart from another is the magic system. Many books have the hero fighting off against a powerful overlord or an immortal dragon, but it is the detail in the world and the uniqueness of the magic that sets each apart. In Kvothe’s world there is “sympathy,” a form of magic which allows the sympathist to link two objects together and cause changes in the bound object by manipulating the other (a system drawing equally from modern thermodynamics, quantum entanglement and voodoo dolls). However, sympathy is only the weaker form of magic in Rothfuss’ story; there exist also the secret of naming, thus giving the namer power over those things he knows the name of. Kvothe spends a deal of his life attempting to find someone to teach him the titular “Name of the Wind.”
The Name of the Wind, the premier novel of Patrick Rothfuss, has won numerous awards including the Quill Award, The Alex Award from Young Adult Library Services Association and “Best Book of the Year” from Publishers Weekly. The sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, has yet to be released but has thousands of now loyal fans waiting on baited breath for its release. The Name of the Wind, book one of three in The Kingkiller Chronicle, is an amazing book and has been quoted as one of the best stories told in ANY medium in a decade. It is NOT a book to be missed and in a short time will be placed beside Lord of the Rings as first among equals.
Now you have heard of Kvothe.
Note: I have not just gotten to this book but I decided to write the review after the third re-read.