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.
I’ve read this book several times and have finally come to the conclusion I need to share it with the rest of the world. This is a meaty tome, coming in at 662 pages, but it is a book that once finished will have the reader wanting to jump into the second instalment immediately. Another reason for my review is, that after meeting and talking with the author at Emerald City Comicon I felt I was doing him a disservice by not sharing his talent with any other reader that could possibly enjoy his work. Having said this, my meeting the man had no influence whatsoever on the rating this book received.
This book is a mix of fantasy, biography and first and third person narratives which, at first glance may seem as if the combination is going to lead to one almighty train wreck of a novel, but this is not the case. The biographical parts of the book are narrated by the main protagonist Kvothe (pronounced “Quothe”). Through his words the reader sees a man take shape before their eyes that is good at everything and anything he turns his hand to; he could be described as the perfect hero. There is nothing he can do, no woman he cannot woo and no invention he cannot create from anything lying around; but underneath all this perfection, is a man who just wants to live a quiet life doing the things he loves and not be asked to rush off on adventures he would rather leave to someone else. If the reader doesn’t pay close attention to the words Kvothe speaks they may miss entirely the hidden side of this character and feel they are reading about a man who wants to make all others feel inadequate. I felt this was not the case, as he reveals so much about himself that those not willing to ‘listen’ will be swept up into disliking him so much they will lose the main reasoning behind his story, and this is that he is battling with his conscience, he is lonely and above all he is very human. The Author has obviously invested a lot of time into the development of this character providing him with the same kinds of contradictions and complexities that one would find in our acquaintances in real life and, for me this is what drew me to him and into his story. The other characters that are introduced in this novel are given equal consideration, each being wonderfully written and developed to make sure they fit securely and comfortably into the narrative we are reading. There are none that appear for a few brief pages and then suddenly vanish never to be seen again; if they are not playing a major role at that moment in the book, the Author manages to infuse the pages with a feeling they will be returned to centre stage shortly.
Although the writing style is very crisp and smooth, and the pacing of the plot moves along at just the right pace it can take a few chapters to actually get into the story. However, these first few chapters are crucial as they contain a lot of detail in them that is relevant to what comes later. This is definitely not one of those novels that the reader can skim parts of to ’get to the good stuff’. Despite being a detailed novel, it is not too detailed and there are many parts that had me chuckling aloud. The one thing that, for me earned this novel its five thumbs rating was the way the Author wrote it, never once did I feel that my intelligence and ability to figure out certain aspects of the plots was insulted, and I didn’t feel as if the Author was ‘talking’ down to me in any way; this is a rare skill that few Authors have. There is so much more I could write about this book, but in doing so I may inadvertently reveal too much about the novels contents and negate any reason for a reader to actually track this book down and read it for themselves.
I would highly recommend this book to fantasy and non-fantasy readers alike, and if you are tired of epic reads that insult your intelligence this would definitely be one that will restore your faith in the genre.
As I footnote, I do realise that the cover pictured here is now the image used for the Kindle edition but, when I purchased my hardcover copy a few days after it was initially released, this was the image on the cover. In my opinion I think it fits the contents so much better than the one now in use.