“When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.” (In the Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss)
In the Name of the Wind rates with the best of innocent fantasy, reminding the reader of HP or T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. Told in first person by twenty something inn-keeper Kote, the story flashes back and forth between a shabby present and an adventurous, magic-filled childhood. To Rothfuss’ credit, however, the present has its own action, which both foreshadows future books makes the telling of the story urgent and palpable.
Though The Name of the Wind is pretty standard fantasy fare (talented youth, murdered parents, wizarding school, etc), the the way the older Kvoth is employed to tell his own story transforms the fantasy into a more intimate and tense story. Since most of the story reads in ‘I statements’, the reader is helplessly pulled into the role of Kvoth, the mischievous, arrogant hero. As we are pushed out of the flashback and into the present, where Kvoth is a magic-less bartender, the reader is compelled to wonder what betrayals or failures could turn such a bright youth into this defeated man, and the tension between the past and present engage the reader even further. So many books are written in a straight-forward, third-person narrative, that it is easy to forget the benefits of different types of storytelling – but Rothfuss reminds us that (when done well), such set-ups can be rather rewarding.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Length: 736 pgs
Ending: Satisfying, but not a stand-alone book (beginning of uncompleted trilogy)
Further Reading: If you haven’t read it yet, read The Once and Future King by T. H. White. White’s quirky prose isn’t anything like Rothfuss’ straightforward storytelling, but the sense of a youth with a doomed future is similar.