'The Name of the Wind' by Patrick Rothfuss

“The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. This was appropriate, as it was the greatest silence of the three, wrapping the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumn’s ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.”

The Name of the Wind, first in the Kingkiller Chronicles, was one of those books I'd seen around, figured I'd probably enjoy and so fully intended to put it on my 'to read' list at some point, but had no particular plans to read any time soon. However, then my Taller Half got hold of it and would not stop badgering me until I agreed to bump it to the top of the list. This in itself is a fairly good endorsement of the book since Taller Half isn't anywhere near the same sort of reader as me. He likes books well enough but he is considerably more picky than me about what he enjoys in a story and he has never, in the six plus years we've been together, spoken about a book the way he did about The Name of the Wind.

At its heart the book is about telling a story. The main character, a once legendary figure in this fantasy world known as Kvothe the Bloodless, is narrating the story of his life to a scribe, a task he claims will take three full days. Around this narration, there are hints as to what is occurring in the rest of the world and how none of it is particularly good for the survival of the general populace. There are also hints as to how it is entirely Kvothe’s fault.

Upon reading it I was forced to agree with Taller Half. It is an absolutely fantastic book. The writing is absolutely beautiful and Rothfuss has a wonderful gift with phrasing and metaphors. The language does verge on over the top, possibly venturing towards purple prose at times, but the narrator is a man who was born into a troupe of performers and spent his formative years reciting plays on the stage. Kvothe has a very strong flare for the dramatic that remains consistent throughout the book and seeps into everything he does, so it only makes sense that it is part of his storytelling as well. Furthermore, and this is one of the things that appealed to me as a writer rather than just a reader, Kvothe is completely in love with words and very poetic in the way he approaches language (even though the character is completely disdainful of poetry itself).

Not only has Rothfuss created a wonderful narrative, he’s also constructed a beautiful world to set it in. There is an attention to detail I’ve rarely seen in fantasy novels (and I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels) in the form of the world’s folklore. Lots of books deal with history and politics and legends, but it's not often I find simple and easy references to stories, songs, and nursery rhymes and it adds an extra layer of realism to the whole affair.

The Name of the Wind was also very good at tweaking my emotions. The introduction of the main threat for the book series was so effective and unnerving that just the mention of them by a character left me cold before they’d even appeared on the page. This is also one of the few books that’s got me close to tears, and the only book that’s achieved that through happiness rather than sadness. And I really do not cry easily, especially not at fiction. It was a simple, not particularly significant moment in terms of the wider plot, but it was just so wonderful I couldn’t help tearing up.

I’m going to have to join Taller Half in counting this as one of the best books I’ve ever read and wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to anyone. It’s one of the few times I would also recommend an audio book above the actual written version. It is a delight to listen to and, given that Kvothe is meant to be narrating the bulk of the book anyway, makes the experience feel more natural.