Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Name of the Wind

I happen to be a very big fan of Orson Scott Card's books, particularly Ender's Game and the two series of books that it spawned. He regularly publishes reviews on various things of interest on his website http://www.hatrack.com/. I enjoy his take on things and take his recommendations very seriously and with very good cause. You can blame him for making me a Browncoat. He said that Firefly was the greatest piece of science-fiction ever to hit the screen and I took him up on it. It was also due to his recommendation that I read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Sure enough Jonathan Strange was every bit as good Card said it was. This brings us to Name of the Wind, part one of the perspective King Killer Trilogy, by Patrick Rothfuss. And again I can only echo Card in proclaiming this to be one of the best things to hit fantasy as of late. (Lets leave off the discussion of a certain book to be published July 21.)
Name of the Wind shares certain similarities to Jonathan Strange and I suspect they will appeal to the same crowd. They have very academic senses of humor. Academic, not in the prissy sense, but more in terms of satirizing academia. These are both very atypical works of fantasy in that in both of them the fantasy element almost becomes incidental. A reader could very easily forget that he is reading fantasy. (Jonathan Strange in fact won the Hugo Award for best science-fiction in 2005.) While both of these books deal with the study of magic, they approach magic from an almost science-fiction like perspective. These books are both, above anything else, centered around the creation of well drawn characters. In terms of character these books can hold their own with anything from any genre of literature. One cannot read these books and say that the genre of fantasy has no place as high literature.
Rothfuss is in a very selective league of sword and sorcery fantasy authors in that he has learned all the right lessons from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. This book is not about dark lords, major quests and apocalyptic battles or about wizards and dragons. (There is a dragon in the book but it is more of a dinosaur like creature than a mythological one.) Rothfuss though, probably better then anyone besides for Tolkien, offers that sense of unexplored horizons. The world of Name of the Wind has very rich mythology which Rothfuss only gives glimpses of.
As to what this story is about. I will not be able to do it proper justice and what I say will fail to properly capture the spirit of the book. It is the life story of Kvothe, a famous hero now living under an assumed name in a small village, being told to over a three day span to a chronicler who tracked Kvothe down. Name of the Wind is day one. It covers his childhood as a member of a traveling theater group, how he was orphaned and came to live on the streets and his teenage years studying magic at the university. (I know what you are thinking orphan boy who goes to study magic, sounds like Potter. This is a very different sort book from Potter. Kvothe is not Harry and the University is not Hogwarts.) So far this book has set up an incredible love story which I assume is going to end tragically. It has some great action and a wonderful sense of humor about itself. But above everything else I love these characters and I cannot wait to get more of them.
Since I will not have Potter to be waiting for in another few days its nice to know that I will have another book that I will have to count the days until publication for.


Izgad said...

Card and Rothfuss have a pair of dualing pieces on Potter. http://blog.beliefnet.com/blogalogue/2007/07/-the-end-is-near.html

Pat said...

I caught your comment over at Beliefnet. Thanks much for a lovely review and helping to spread the word....


Sitting on the Fence said...

Enders game is one of the only books that I have read more than twice. I picked it up randomly (it was sitting in my house), and that was that. I have read all the other books in the series, (both story branches), and also enjoyed those immensely.

That said, I don't really agree with the other reviews. I saw firefly and wasn't too impressed by it. A lot of that had to with the acting (horrible), but the plot didn't have enough originality to impress me that much.

I actually just read Jonothan Strange a few months ago, and I have mixed feelings. Nobody can deny that the woman can write. It was probably one of the most well-written books I have had read in a loooong time. While I enjoy that particular brand of humor in general, after 600 pages it got a bit old. When the humor gets old, and the plot doesn't warrant a book that size, it's hard to be wowed. All in all though, I did enjoy it.

If I can add my own recommendation here, Stephen King (best living writer, in my humble opinion) has a good deal of books that aren't strictly horror (more than most people think). The Dark Tower series is one of the best stories I've read in my entire life (no exaggeration there, and I read a lot). If you like Card, and a whole lot of originality, the Dark Tower is must read.

Izgad said...

I agree with you about Stephen King. I once compared Neil Gaiman to Stephen King with the add on that I meant the good Stephen King the one who wrote Dark Tower and Green Mile. Not the horror Stephen King that most people are familiar with.