BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The world turns with danger at the background, while Kvothe tries to escapes a painful past in anonymity. A twisting of fate reveals his tale and thus the story truly begins as we go back. Back to when Kvothe was a child of rare ability, growing up in a traveling troupe of performers, learning his craft. His future was before him, showing nothing but the greatest promise, living in the brightest of light. But horror unfolds, and a mythical evil takes him down a path of deep despair. When he surfaces from the darkness, the ladder before him is now ridden with splinters and razor sharp edges that threaten to cut and bleed him with every rung. He rises high and he rises fast, climbing despite the pain, battling the obstacles of everyday and of his self.
PROS: Beautiful and engaging prose; witty characters; emotive.
CONS: Incomplete — I want more…oh, wait, that’s kind of a good thing; main plot is pushed to the background; somewhat slow to start.
BOTTOM LINE: Kvothe is an incredible character, wondrous to behold. While the book may not ensnare you immediately, Rothfuss weaves you into the story slowly, until you find yourself trapped by steel bands of style, substance and wit.
I’ll start this review off simply. If you love fantasy, don’t bother reading this, just go read Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind. Of the books that I have reviewed over the last year or so, this is quite possibly the best. It is hard to adequately convey just how good this book is. It may not be perfect, but it comes close. For the rest of you that insist on knowing more, or have long since made this novel’s acquaintance, read on…
Kvothe is a singular talent. A man of song and heart, cunning and thievery, power of mind and magic. He is many things. Success is always at his fingertips, and yet he is broken down by horror, stretched thin by a life turned hard and he very nearly forgets all that he was. This is a story of a boy seeking to unravel the mysteries of the universe, and a man waiting to die.
Being first person, it should be no surprise that Kvothe is the very foundation and substance of this novel. Kvothe carries this story on his shoulders, bearing its sometimes incredible weight, even though it breaks him in the process.
For much of the novel, I tried without success to dissect Rothfuss’ story and learn what made it so compelling, however it was so well written the prose was mostly invisible. So, instead I learned about life. And that’s when you know you have something special in your hands.
The book does have one weakness, one flaw that some might find issue with: plot. Largely it lacks an apparent over-arching plot. There is one, but it is far in the background, moving slowly, a specter that we wish to see more of, but have to wait until the fullness of time has come about and given us the opportunity. In the meantime, the focus becomes Kvothe: his life and his trials, and lays the foundation for what I feel are great things to come. It is without doubt a journey, though one incomplete. A beginning.
To someone who has not read The Name of the Wind, this may sound like a huge failing, and if Rothfuss had managed a stronger over-arching plot, it would have made the book that much better; but it should be noted the author’s sheer skill with telling a story is such that it renders much criticism: moot.
This book does not read like a debut, it reads like it is from the hands of a master, experienced in his craft. Yes, it had its irregularities, but one might argue that these are not a detriment and could very well be part of what makes it great. For me, I can’t wait to read the sequel. It’s out now, so what are you waiting for?