Source: purchased (paperback).
Genre: high fantasy.
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.
You guys, I finally re-read this monster of a book (this is the third time I read it!) and it’s still fantastic. It’s still one of my favourite books ever and I’m super excited to finally review it here – the other two times I read it this blog didn’t exist yet. If you’re used to listening to audiobooks, I can’t recommend this one enough – it’s really good.
So. This is the story of Kvothe, or Kote, as he is called when we first meet him. He is my favourite fictional character (apart from Locke Lamora, it’s a tie between them) – a sarcastic know-it-all, a broken man, a wonderful singer, a mysterious arcanist. His story is funny and heartbreaking and heavy and warm, all at once.
The book has a peculiar structure, a bit like One Thousand and One Nights in the sense that Kote, the innkeeper at The Waystone Inn is telling his own story to the Chronicler, a famous scribe that has come to search for the legendary Kvothe. Contrary to One Thousand and One Nights, we only get three really long days – one of which we’re still waiting for as Doors of Stone, the third and final book in the series, has yet to be published.
Apart from Kvothe, who is apparently one of those characters you either love or hate, depending on your liking for smartasses, the best part of this book is undoubtedly the writing. The beauty of Rothfuss’s words is unparalleled in the world of fantasy, I think, and this is one of the reasons the audiobook works so well – it’s like music, really, and every word just seems to FIT. Kvothe himself is an amazing singer, he grew up in a performing troupe and has an incredible talent for singing, speaking, and playing. His word duels with obnoxious enemies are nothing short of masterful and his descriptions of the things he loves – his parents, Denna, his music – make my stomach clench painfully every single time. I am always wary of hyping up books too much – you may go into the book with incredibly high expectations and be disappointed as a result, but I can’t not rave about Rothfuss’s writing.
What I enjoyed in particular is Rothfuss’s attention to folklore. Kvothe goes to the University to find out more about the mysterious Chandrian, the songs his troupe sings are fabulous, the history gets turned into legends. It’s like catnip to a fairytale lover, I tell you. And if I remember correctly, The Wise Man’s Fear (book 2) is even more folklore-heavy – in a good way.
The world of The Kingkiller Chronicle is extremely well thought out and if there’s one criticism I have about this book is its dogged attention to detail when it comes to the magic system. It is incredibly complex and while I always complain about shoddy worldbuilding, there are instances here where I felt we could have done with less explanation. But this is a really minor issue, at least for me, and does nothing to lessen my enjoyment of the book (even the third time around).
As for the other characters, I have to mention Denna, Kvothe’s lady love. She’s one of those girls/women that every man seems to love. And covet, most of all. It’s impossible to doubt Kvothe’s descriptions of her when he’s so clearly infatuated – this is one of the criticisms I’ve heard most often when it comes to this book, that Denna is unreal. But I am of the firm opinion that Kvothe is an unreliable narrator and that all his prowess and all descriptions of Denna should be taken with a pinch of salt. But we’ll have to wait for Doors of Stone to see if that proves true.
Kvothe’s (extended) family, his mentor Ben, his friends at the University – they are wonderfully rounded up characters if you think about how little time they actually spend “on page”. But my favourite – apart from Kvothe, of course – is Bast, the innkeeper’s helper and pupil. I won’t go into details of his appearance or character because I’d spoil something for you for sure but let me just mention that he is a master at making threats (so is Kvothe – it’s poetic, really). My favourite is probably “I’ll string a fiddle with your guts and make you play it while I dance.” Pure gold.
As this review is slowly getting out of hand, I’ll leave you here with a hearty recommendation that you get yourself a copy of this book as soon as possible and then come back to thank me when you’ve finished. ;) I’ll try to re-read The Wise Man’s Fear soon and I’m hoping (against hope) that Doors of Stone will soon get a publishing date.
Have you read The Name of the Wind? What did you think?
Do you prefer your fantasy worldbuilding-heavy?
What about narrators? Do you always trust them?
I’d love to hear from you! :)