Name of the Wind


By Patrick Rothfuss 
Reviewed by Kenny Brechner

We like our opinions to be rather like roofs, supported by one central beam to which all other crossbeams attach. When dealing with a complex book such as The Name of the Wind, by first time author Patrick Rothfuss, the reviewer is found to have compiled a varied collection of  reasons for a favorable opinion, and finds himself sifting through them, deliberating as to which is worthy to be the central roof beam¹ to which all the other observations may be attached.

To help us sift and select the right roof beam, we must turn to ask what The Name of the Wind's greatest strength is. The answer is found in the characteristic of conviction itself, the author's strength of belief in the world of his creation, and in the central character of his story. The strength of Rothfuss' sense of conviction is easily seen in the final entry in The Name of the Wind's Acknowledgments section. “And lastly, to Mr. Bohage. My high school history teacher. In 1989 I told him I’d mention him in my first novel. I keep my promises.”  The same conviction Rothfuss had in becoming a published author both strengthens The Name of the Wind as a narrativeand informs the book's central character Kvothe, a very confident character indeed.

The Name of the Wind follows the life and career of Kvothe, the most notorious and powerful magician his world has known. Now middle aged, and hiding from the world, disguised as a rural innkeeper, Kvothe agrees to dictate his story to a Chronicler over a period of three days. The Name of the Wind  is the first day of his account to the Chronicler. The fact that Kvothe will take three days to tell his story does indicate that The Name of the Wind is the first book of a trilogy. Yet the telling of the story is not a static event. As Kvothe's apprentice, Bast, tells the Chronicler, "people saw him as an innkeeper a year ago. He took off the mask when they walked out the door. Now he sees himself as an innkeeper, and a failed innkeeper at that...But you're perfect. You can help him remember what it was like. I haven't seen him so lively in months."

Returning now to the question of central supports, most works of fantasy depend upon an omnipresent peril requiring a quest to negate said peril, relegating it to the scrapheap of failed fantasy villainy. The Name of the Wind does not contain any such world endangering peril around which all other endeavors take shape. It is the story of Kvothe, his character and his history.  This gives The Name of the Wind an immediacy, depth, and a sense of realism not often found in epic fantasy. Most importantly Rothfuss manages this without compromising either the fantastic elements or the integrity of his imagined world.

This is not to say that some elements of The Name of the Wind aren't derivative. Kvothe's university experience bears more than a passing resemblance to a sojourn at Hogwarts. It may also be fairly said that some of the story's plot elements are a bit over opportune, such as Kvothe's chance encounter with Denna, the elusive love of his life, in the middle of nowhere. Nonetheless, Kvothe's university experience is an exceptionally interesting portion of the book, and Denna is a sufficiently engaging and intriguing character that we are glad Kvothe conveniently runs into her at a backwater inn, however improbable the encounter.

The Name of the Wind succeeds due to the compelling nature of Kvothe's story and personality, upon which, indeed, Rothfuss has made his entire enterprise depend. Moreover, as Rothfuss wrote the entire trilogy during a nine year stint in graduate school, we need not worry about the story falling off due to the pressures of a success that is certainly his due.

¹Knowing how many builders and artisans inhabit the Farmington area the reviewer feels compelled to state that he is in fact aware that roof beams are usually called ridge poles or rooftrees, and that crossbeams are often referred to as rafters.