Read: 14 March, 2014
Many stories and rumours surround Kvothe, but now, for the first time, he will tell his own story – the real story.
I was blown away by Name of the Wind. I first heard of it when it was mentioned in Game of Thrones and Philosophy as a book with a consistent magic system. That was enough to intrigue me, and I bought the book, sticking it on my overflowing “to be read” bookcase. I finally read it after I heard enough people raving about it.
And I can see why. The story is long and, for the most part, rather mundane. Kvothe travelling with itinerant performers, Kvothe living in the streets, Kvothe worrying about money, Kvothe enrolling in university, Kvothe counting his coins (again). Yet despite this, even with long stretches between the action scenes, I found the narrative very compelling.
There’s a good deal of humour in the novel, and it’s well-used. The narrative is quite serious, of course, but whenever there’s a danger that it might take itself a little too seriously, Kvothe makes fun of himself. It breaks the tension, and it keeps a certain amount of humility in the first person narrative of what is, essentially, a Perfect Character.
I quite enjoyed the little games the narrative plays as well. For example, when Kvothe – as narrator – tells his audience that the next part of the story is about meeting the woman he would fall in love with. Then, over the next few pages, several women are introduced. It’s cute, a fun little narrative device that I don’t see used too often.
As I mentioned earlier, the magic system is definitely something special. I struggle a bit with fantasy because I always feel like the magic system needs to make sense, and I feel like verisimilitude is broken when the magic system is too powerful, or contradictory, or doesn’t make sense. In Name of the Wind, the naming system of magic is pushing my threshold (though I hold out hope for explanation in future installments), but the sympathy system is fantastic.
I also really enjoyed the religion. It’s not front and centre in this book (though I suspect that it’ll feature more prominently later in the series), but the glimpses of it are quite interesting. On the surface, it’s very much like Christianity – there’s a single god, the god dies and the people await a return, the people wear a symbolic torture device on a necklace, etc – but it takes on a distinct quality as more is revealed. I especially liked the variations, the many local traditions that that give the religion distinct flavours in different regions, the appropriation of older religions, and the schisms. I’ve very much looking forward to a deeper exploration of it as the series continues.
I have a few minor complaints about the book, but nothing worth mentioning. I enjoyed it an awful lot, and I’m looking forward to getting The Wise Man’s Fear.
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