The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, Review by Corinne Donnelly
Most epic fantasy readers would admit that it’s hard to ignore The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss, since it graces most Top 10 Most Popular Fantasy Series lists. As yet unfinished, the trilogy is currently composed of two large tomes, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, with no release date for the final book in sight. If you’re a patient soul, you’ll find much enjoyment and excitement in the tale of Kvothe, the mighty hero of the Four Corners of Civilization. His story is full of magic, murder, music, friendship, deceit, and many other popular themes prevalent in fantasy novels. Every reader is guaranteed to find something that holds his or her interest, although a few sections could be considered a bit too lengthy for comfort.
The most interesting aspect of the trilogy is its narrative structure. A third person speaker narrates the present day, while Kvothe himself tells the story of his past to a chronicler in first person. Additionally, interspersed throughout the story are moments of meta-fiction, in which Kvothe re-tells a legend or tale that was told to him in his youth. Rothfuss presents himself as a true master of perspective and time when the reader is not at all perturbed or confused by his unique structural choices.
Rothfuss slowly and carefully introduces his world. His extreme level of detail, while impressive, occasionally detracts from the reading experience. In particular, the lore often felt overwhelming and distracting, especially when it did not initially seem to have any connection to Kvothe’s life. Luckily, the gorgeous setting and clever magic system rectifies this minor criticism.
Both novels contain a colorful cast of characters that the reader becomes thoroughly invested in, due in part to a combination of heavy description and fantastic dialogue. Recently, Rothfuss has been criticized for his portrayal of women, which frankly astounds me, as I find his women strong, fierce, and fascinating. Specifically, Denna strikes me as one of the most independent female characters appearing in fantasy within the past decade.
“How do you define a hero?” is the blatantly obvious theme that runs throughout the trilogy thus far, but it is also a coming of age tale. Kvothe is portrayed not only as the legend he has become, but also as a real man, who is just as human as the rest of us. His successes and failures are presented from both lenses, an uncommon narrative to encounter in a beloved, but often static, genre of literature.
Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear top fantasy lists for a reason. Kvothe’s past and present are both fascinating stories. The people he meets and the lessons he learns inspire more than just attention; you will live and breathe each novel until you inevitably reach the point where you are begging and screaming for the final book.