Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Name of the Wind » Review

I enjoyed Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind... at times  At other moments while reading, I was frustrated, impatient, and sleepy.  Yes, sleepy.  Usually, books keep me up at night.  The Name of the Wind put me to sleep during the day.

To be fair, at 662 pages, with ninety-two chapters, The Name of the Wind is much longer than the books I normally read.  It took me two whole weeks to wade through this tome.  I was bound the get drowsy during that time!  But I think I fell asleep more than the common amount while reading this novel.

Part of it, I think, was the gentle, lulling style of the writing.  Rothfuss writes complex, yet flowing sentences that are quite beautiful. They also have an almost poetic rhythm that relaxes instead of excites. His pacing was also unhurried — to an extreme degree. As the first book in a trilogy, I expected The Name of the Wind to be somewhat expository, but I had no idea that the whole book would be exposition.

What I've come to realize is that Rothfuss is writing literary fantasy, to an extent.  Literary fiction, unlike other "commercial" fiction, largely ignores those qualities that draw in readers — juicy hooks, brisk pace, familiar plot structure.  Instead, the author, content with creating a work of art, busies himself with writing with a more unique structure and style.

For example, at the beginning of The Name of the Wind, we learn that our protagonist, Kvothe, has:

  • Killed a king

  • Spent the night with a deadly woman, and was the only person ever to survive it

  • Was expelled from the University at a younger age than most are admitted

  • Composed songs that made minstrels cry

  • Burned down the town of Trebon

  • Stolen back princesses

  • Talked to Gods

  • And more

All of these mighty accomplishments are "guns on the wall," as it were, and the rule of commercial fiction is that these guns, shown in Act One, must go off by Act Three.  However, out of the slew of flashing guns in The Name of the Wind, only one or two ever go off by the end of the story, despite the reader's waiting. The rest are left for books two and three.

I'm used to each book in a trilogy having an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution, all to themselves — a microcosm of a complete plot within a larger story.  Rothfuss, in The Name of the Wind, does not do this. This book is exposition for the larger story, and as such, no catharsis is achieved by reading this installment. Only rising expectations are gained.

Now, is this a bad thing? Perhaps not, but I certainly found it frustrating.

Despite this, I did find myself enjoying the book, especially in the latter middle of the story.  As mentioned before, Rothfuss's writing is very smooth and well-crafted, and I enjoyed the style of writing no less than I did the content.

I liked the worldbuilding as well, which was excellently conveyed by showing, not info-dumping.  For example, throughout the book, Kvothe worries over, steals, cajoles, earns, and spends enough money for currency to become a full-fledged motif in The Name of the Wind.  Through integrating the money system so naturally into the plot of the book, I found myself understanding this part of Kvothe's world, better than had Rothfuss wrote an appendix on the subject.

One thing I found dismaying was the treatment of women and girls in the story.  I'm actually writing a spin-off post right now on the subject, which I may or may not share.  I'm not sure how well-founded my complaints are, but I felt that the female characters were not so much characterized as they were categorized by Rothfuss.  There were several passages in particular that dealt in soft sexism, that made me want to bang my head against the wall.  The thing is, though, in another person's view, the passages that drove me insane might be seen as neutral or nothing to cry over. I just don't know.

Overall, The Name of the Wind wound up disappointing me a little, if only because it came so well-touted by bloggers I respect.  It just did not live up to the buzz for me. I will probably read the sequel, A Wise Man's Fear, although I will take a hearty break to read some slimmer fair in between.



  1. Readers of this kind of fantasy fascinates me. It takes incredible patience to say the least. :D

  2. I've had this book on my shelf for a year now but can't muster the courage to jump in. Great review Ellen!

  3. It tried my patience getting through it, that's for sure! I was thinking around page 100, "when is the inciting incident going to happen???

  4. The only reason I was brave enough to jump in myself was that I buddy read it with Sierra @ Bookish Peach! I couldn't have gotten going without her!

  5. I'm not sure this would be the fantasy read for me but I loved your review!