Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss


I do feel like I should find a good sturdy ringmail and perhaps a tower shield, as The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is a very well loved book with enormous amount of hype behind it, boasting with the average ranking of as high as 4.56 out of 5.00 on Goodreads site. For me, The Name of the Wind was a bumpy ride - there were things to enjoy, and then there were things that made me cringe.
I feel like this one has to be divided into non-spoilery and spoilery sections. Usually I try to avoid spoilers at any cost, but the problems I had with this book will not come through unless I really go into detail regarding certain parts of the story, and characters. Also, since so many people have already read The Name of the Wind, it might be interesting to talk a bit longer. And I know some of my blogging buddies love this book a lot, so I hope we can still be friends after that :)
I made a little chart to illustrate what I mean by "bumpy":
So it started off fairly well, but the end parts were at times really inconsistent.
 
Let's start off with non-spoilery bits:
  • The overall pace. The book started out very slow, but being a patient person, I didn't mind, hoping that what is to come will be proportionally that much more rewarding, thanks to me being properly immersed into the story and characters. It did get a lot better and in the second quarter, it was one of those really good fantasy books that you just don't want to put down. As you can see, it was riding on a solid four stars on my chart for quite some time... until things suddenly took a turn for the worse (more about that in the spoilery section).
  • The world and magic. I liked the world that Rothfuss constructed, especially the University parts. I also appreciated how gentle-handed the author was when introducing the magic system of this world. Reading Brandon Sanderson's The Final Empire in parallel, this made an interesting comparison, as the magic in The Final Empire is a lot more full-on, definitely not subtle - and neither of those approaches are bad or good, they are just different.
  • The way of storytelling. I liked the way the story is told in a bit of non-linear way, as it incorporates both adult Kvothe and the young Kvothe. It makes for an interesting change in perspective. However, in the second half of the book Rothfuss makes some decisions in narrative that seemed really weird to me, the book is long as it is and a certain arc I felt was completely illogical, uncalled for, and unnecessary.
  • Intriguing characters, and then some not so much. Some of the characters were really interesting - the University masters, Abenthy, Bast, Trapis - probably my favourite secondary character and I want to know more about him. I wish the characters that I found attractive would have gotten more "page time" than they did. On the other hand, there were some characters that I felt were not written that well. The young Kvothe. Denna. Ambrose. More of those in the spoiler section.
Overall - I definitely would not encourage anyone to skip this book. It is well loved and I can see why; the problems I had fell mostly under the category "It's me, not you". But I also think if one was taking his/her first steps in fantasy, there are better-constructed ones out there to start with.  I will not be chasing after the sequel, but might give it a go if it just happened to come to me somehow.
 
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
 
If you haven't read this book yet, and intend to, please don't read any further!
Okay, the spoilery part seems to be the one where I rant. But not only!
 
  • I loved the way the relationship of Kvothe's parents was described. I think it was such a refreshing change to all those gazillions of dysfunctional families and parents out there. I also loved most of the things related to the music (songs, the life in troupe, and my favourite must have been that chapter set in Eolian - I totally got lost in that one).
  • Teen Kvothe. I don't mind adult Kvothe, who is telling the story, at all, but the way teen Kvothe is written was mostly just boring and often came out clichéd. A poor orphan (tick) with a brilliant mind of a genius (tick) who has too much arrogance for his own good at times (tick), who knows nothing about women (tick) but still "gets" the prettiest one only because... dunno, he is so awesome (tick).
  • Denna, and the relationship between Kvothe and Denna. That was probably my biggest problem with the book. If it wasn't constantly told how beautiful, magical, different, unique, special Denna is, then honestly, I'd have had no idea. /sarcasm off. It felt way too "tell, not show" to me most of the time. I get it that Denna as a character was supposed to be "something different", but for me she just happened to come out as one of those people, who (most of the time unnecessarily) makes life very difficult for herself, and also people around her. I am not sure if she was happy with the life she was leading, as most of what reader learns about her is through Kvothe's reflections, but she didn't seem overly happy. At some point it was noted how it's difficult for her to find friends among women because she's so magical and beautiful that all women hate her (the kind of approach itself I find extremely hard to stomach), but when I thought about it, she didn't exactly strike me as a very warm person who would approach another lady to make friends. Overall I wasn't that impressed with the portrayal of female characters in the book, with the exception of Auri, who held a certain charm. Coming back to Kvothe and Denna though - can it be called romance? I think it can, though nothing majorly physical happens. Their dialogues were painful to read. It is important to keep in mind though that Kvothe at this point is only 15, and Denna probably a few years older, so certain amount of juvenile cheesiness is expected. It's also worth mentioning that romance-wise I am near impossible to please, so it's likely most people will find no problem in this relationship.
  • I wish more fantasy authors realised that you don't need to have a dragon in your book. It's not a must-be, really! I assure you! In this case, the dragon (or draccus) comes in very late, on page 540 or so, and it doesn't really seem to serve any other purpose than... to have a dragon in a fantasy book. Moreover: the arrival of the dragon kind of ruined everything that the previous 500 pages had been building on - we get to spend pages and pages (and then some more pages) with Kvothe and Denna meddling with the dragon (whilst having those awkward dialogues) - a turn in the plot that seemed to serve no logical or necessary purpose. Were it an anime series, I'd call it a filler.
  • Some characters were boring and clichéd, like Ambrose, who only seems to exist as an opponent to Kvothe in the school setting. He remains so one-dimensional and all you learn is that he is filthy rich, quite stupid, and quick to anger - a textbook bully.

18 comments:

  1. I love it how very self-explaining your chart is! I also feel very protective about my favourite characters and get really pissed off if they don't get enough page time or worse get killed. Only a couple of authors are allowed to do this, and you know which ones :) Sooo, I totally understand your feelings! I have only one problem with your review and that is I'm now curious to read the spoilery part, which means I have to read the book first :)

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    1. Can't go wrong with a silly chart now and then! :) Jan read the review and thought that the spoilery part wasn't actually much spoilery, but I'm very touchy in that topic so just in case I put more in detail parts under spoilers. I am *very* curious to see what you think of this book, in case you decide to take it on at some point.

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  2. You have no idea how much I agree with your review. I had the exact same problems with this book and with its characters.
    I know I won't be reading the sequel as I've heard it is even slower than the first book. Plus, I can't take anymore Denna. huh huh.
    Once again I wish Goodreads would allow half stars because every time I see my rating at 3 stars for The Name of the Wind it makes me cringe a little bit (I've rated lots of better books 3 stars).

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    1. That's an old blogging ID (Estelle - Audham EnTha - I'm sure you had guessed)

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    2. *high-fives*

      Jan read some opinions about the sequel last night, and it does not seem like something I'd enjoy... Some male writers are not that good in portraying female characters and for me Rothfuss definitely falls into that camp. I have given a lot of thought as to why this book is so highly rated, given that I found so many problems with it, and most of them technical (writing, pace, poor character portrayal) - I guess partly it might be that it has reached audiences of young people, who have not read much (or at all) fantasy lit, and have nothing to compare with... Then again plenty of people who have read fair bit of fantasy have rated it highly, so it'll just remain another one of world's great mysteries :)

      On a completely irrelevant note, you had a food blog??? It's most annoying that I don't understand a word there :)

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    3. That was a while back! And it's not really a blog, it's more a place where I put some of my favorite recipes so I can check back if I need.

      About Rothfuss, I think part of the hype, especially on Goodreads, is due to him being so active, commenting, reviewing other books and accepting all friend requests. He seems like a really nice dude and maybe, for a lot of people, it's hard to give his books low rating or even to dislike them, just like with Gaiman, Green and Sanderson (those are the most obvious examples imo). Sure it can't be the only reason, but I think it definitely plays a part.

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    4. I think you might have a point there. I guess it's the problem with those authors that are around and kicking in social media, if they are nice people might not want to give them a bad rating. It's sad though because it kind of changes the whole market towards the worse I think, and you can't really trust reviews anymore.

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  3. I just finished reading the book last night, and I'm generally agreeing with you as well (I also gave it three stars). I liked the story enough, but I wanted to kick Kvothe most of the time (I find adult Kvothe more compelling than teen Kvothe). His fight with Ambrose is idiotic, and they're both at fault for keeping the feud going. Denna agitates me and I think Kvothe is ridiculous for continuing to trot after her, but then again, young boys aren't well known for the smarts with women. Heck, men aren't well known for it either. As for the draccus...I huffed all through those chapters and kept putting the book down. I saw what was coming from miles away, and I have a very particular set of problems with those chapters that I'll probably detail in my own blog post or video. I just wanted the draccus bit to be over. It was cool when it was first introduced (so we could see one), but then it just went on and on and on. Anyway...good review!

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    1. I had problems getting through the dragon chapters - I had to really force myself to pick up the book. And actually there is no problem with the dragon, even - it was actually a funny concept (drugging a vegetarian dragon), but it just didn't fit into the rest of the story at all.

      I am looking forward to your (video) review! :)

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  4. Hahahaha, I love your chart! I need to do something similar for the book I'm reading -- the beginning WAS SO GREAT and the ending WAS SO GREAT, and parts of the middle were comfortably four stars, and later parts of the middle were disappointing two stars. I'm nervous of raving about it as much as the beginning and end make me want to rave about it, because I don't want people to get mad at it in the middle. :p

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    1. Isn't it annoying when books are inconsistent like this? They are so hard to rate as well.

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  5. Oooooo, this is a great review, despite you not REALLY liking it.

    So Denna - I don't like her. I think that the only reason she doesn't ruin the book for me is because, since adult Kvothe seems to be all by his lonesome, it doesn't seem like their romance ever really comes to fruition. Again, if you can call it a romance. Personally, I'd root for him to be with Auri or Devi (crap, is that her name... don't have the book in front of me). And Teen Kvothe is kind of cliched, but again, Old Kvothe keeps me intrigued... plus sometimes those smart-ass main characters are fun.

    This is definitely one of those books I fell in love with because I loved the writing. Even through some of the duller parts, I was enchanted. Anyways, I'm glad you read it and didn't hate it!

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    1. Oh right, Devi was also quite a decent character, but like other decent characters we don't really get to see that much of her... Denna is a total failure and if the romance doesn't work out I think it would even be fine for the development of the whole story. I enjoyed "old" (how old was he anyway? I'm guessing in 20ties or smt) Kvothe chapters so much more than the past memoirs. He seemed pretty depressed over the state of everything, and I also liked Bast's involvement in the affair and what happened in the end between him and the Chronicler.

      The writing though wasn't for me, the old Kvothe chapters were more lyrical, but the rest wasn't good, wasn't bad - just regular. Which is sad because if I'd also seen the great writing, I would have probably looked over some annoyances in plot, as I tend to prefer text over story all time.

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    2. Oooo interesting... I picture old Kvothe as like an old man, like 40's and up. Not sure if anything hints to him being that old or if that was just my mind filling that in. Hmm.

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    3. I have no idea where I took that he is in 20ties :o, but it must have been from some review on the next book, possibly. Or maybe not... I'm not sure :D I think Jan read some reviews and told me that, but I'm not sure how trustworthy that information is.

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  6. Great review! Your chart is amazing...the 85% milestone particularly made me chuckle to myself ;)

    I like the sound of the university parts - for some reason books with a sense of academia and magic appeal to me (Harry Potter generation, most certainly!)

    Hope you're doing well,
    Lucy over at Tolstoy Therapy

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    1. Thanks Lucy! The University parts of the book definitely reminded of Harry Potter a lot (and not only to me), and you are absolutely right, there is certain appeal to school setting, even though it is pretty widely used by authors.

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  7. I strongly recommend buying at least one additional copy, preferably a few, to distribute to friends after you start reading. That way you won't have to wait as long for them to finish so you have someone to talk to about it.

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Leave a comment if you feel like it - it warms my little bookish heart. :)