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The Name of the Wind

3 Ratings: 3.0
A book by Patrick Rothfuss

Amazon.com's Best of the Year...So Far Pick for 2007:Harry Potter fans craving a new mind-blowing series should look no further thanThe Name of the Wind--the first book in a trilogy about an orphan boy who becomes a legend. Full of music, magic, love, … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher: DAW
1 review about The Name of the Wind

More Hype Than Substance

  • Oct 1, 2008
About the biggest flaw in Patrick Rothfuss' debut novel The Name of the Wind just so happens to occupy the inside cover and those pages before the story itself even begins to unfold. Indeed, it may sound rather counterintuitive to fault the work for the vast praise heaped upon it but as a fantasy aficionado, truly many gratuitous comments from some of the industry's biggest names are either misaligned, contrived, or in some cases downright inaccurate. But more on that later, let's take a look at the work itself in attempt to judge it on its own merit.

To begin, the novel sets itself up fairly well with typical fantasy properties: An innkeeper and some small town locals, the arrival of a mysterious eyeless, mouthless spider, third person narrative, and enough intrigue to keep the pages turning. Only very shortly after does the reader come to realize that this structure serves only as a setup for the core of the tale which is told entirely in first-person perspective and backtracks nearly a lifetime in the process. Don't get me wrong, first person fantasy can be done correctly on occasion (Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy is a prime example of it done successfully) but I felt like the biggest flaw in this instance was the continual swing from a dry crisp third person interlude (ala Robert Jordan) into an upbeat first-person recollection that has more in common with Dave Berry's weekly humor column in the Miami Herald than it does a grand fantastical adventure.

Which leads me directly to my next complaint: The book is clearly mismarketed both in terms of direct comparisons right on down to the dreary, almost horror-like look of the cover art. Make no mistake that this work could very easily have been passed off a young adult fantasy/ juvenile fiction entry as the author goes out of his way to keep sexual content and violence to a minimum while simultaneously going into great detail of the mind set of a fifteen year old boy at the start of his collegiate life.

In fact I was a bit perplexed by the fact that 85% of this book is a day-to-day chronological recap of the trials and tribulations of a boy in school. In my opinion epic fantasy should deal with the struggles of ancient races on a grand scale of good versus evil. Unfortunately a vast majority of the struggles presented here involve teen angst and the difficulties of being a broke student; if Lord of the Rings is epic fantasy, then what we have here is petty fantasy in the strictest sense of the word. Throughout the text our hero happens upon money only to lose it time and time again then struggles with having to take out loans to pay for his tuition. We spend many pages at taverns in the college town with drinking buddies and skipping classes (not to mention endless mischief and shenanigans that land the main character in the principal's office, er I mean chancellor's office over and over). At times I found myself wondering if in fact somebody hadn't swapped my copy of The Name of the Wind and replaced it with Animal House The Dark Ages Edition or Harry Potter: The College Years.

Additionally, some of the sociological references are downright blasphemous when used in the fantasy genre: Concepts such as a professor stopping by his house to check the mail or fellow students flashing the thumbs-up to express approval of the actions of our main character. Granted, there is no official rule stating that all fantasy must be set in medieval Europe, many of the references here do little more than pull the reader right out of the fantasy setting (which isn't all that strong to begin with).

I suppose there are a few redeeming factors to mention. The first of which involves a pretty ingenious (and consistent) magic system that just may be the most heavily scientific rooted of any and all fantasy works. The second is Rothfuss' use of short chapters. While some may view this as a negative, most readers I've discussed the book with were glad for the frequent breaks to chop up the monotony of endless recapping. Finally, this is one of few works that can't be criticized for ripping off the classics (as is so often the case in the fantasy genre).

I began this review by expressing disappointment in the rave reviews that have been heaped upon this work and feel the need to justify such an odd complaint. Read the back jacket or the first few pages of the book and you'll find yourself looking at a literal who's who of the fantasy industry with nothing but boisterous praise for the book. Terry Brooks, Ursula K. Le Guin, Tad Williams, Anne McCaffrey, Robin Hobb, etc. are only a handful of the dozens of insiders blowing sunshine up the proverbial backside of this work. So what, right? Well, I suspect that the book would probably have faired better in my opinion had I gone into it without such high expectations. As it stands, the reader is simply set up to be let down as I'm not quite sure any fantasy novel ever crafted could live up to the hype that surrounds this one! A bit of humility could have gone a long way in allowing the reader to come to his or her own conclusions. Instead I continually found myself waiting for something to happen to justify the rave opinions (it didn't happen, at least not in this, the first of a prospective trilogy). Then again, maybe DAW plasters the book with praise knowing that it will help sell copies and in that line of thinking I have to confess that it worked on me.

In conclusion, in reading Pat Rothfuss' blog entries, I feel like becoming published couldn't have happened to a nicer, more down to earth guy and as much as I hate to put down his work, it simply didn't do much for me (even though it seems to be wowing the industry).

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