The Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear: A Book Reflection (with a sprinkle of spoilers!)

June 01, 2018

The first time I read The Name of the Wind, I put it down after 100 pages. I wanted my friend to read Foundation so that he would understand my obscure references, so after quite a bit of bartering and trade, he gave me his battered copy of NOTW. Now maybe it was because it was the middle of finals week, but I just couldn’t get into the book. It felt like such a poor shade of Lord of the Rings and Earthsea and all the other fantasy novels I grew up on, so I just gave up and set aside my part of the deal.

Last week, I finally got another chance at the novel on a recommendation from another friend, and I had a very different experience. I just couldn’t stop reading: I turned page after page after page, and then pulled out A Wise Man’s Fear. I blitzed through endless tales of Kvothe and Denna and Sim and Wilem and Marten and Vashet. I reveled in the loose ends and the vague hints and the ambiguous clues.

What changed? Not much about the book, really. I was less than patient the first time I read the novel, and I think that really drew back from my experience: one of my main criticisms, even now, is that Mr. Rothfuss spends a little too much time in different places, here and there: 100 pages of childhood, another 200 on Tarbean, 1000 on his university life. At some point the repeated Denna stories start getting quite a bit dry. I remember texting my friend, “Why can’t Kvothe and Fela get together already and call it a day?!”

At the same time, I wasn’t a huge fan of the “present-day” Kvothe stories. I wasn’t reading this book to figure out how to clean glasses and make pies: I want to fight monsters and train under crazy gurus. If anything, the Kote, Bast and Chronicler sections of the story almost felt forced and overworked - Bast lures Chronicler to the town of Newarre (nowhere?), in order to make Kote remember his past self by telling his story? Sounds very far-fetched. And it almost feels like the townspeople, like Cob and Shep, are just *there*, with perfectly timed lines and interjections and events to underscore different parts of Kvothe’s stories. Let’s just say I’m not a huge fan.

After reading the books, I can’t help but feel a bit sad that I still can’t quite put a mental picture to Kvothe and the other characters in the novels. All we know is that Kvothe is a generic redhead, with “dark and unchanging eyes”. What makes Bast come off as a Fae? (the book mentions his eyes, but not much more than that)

Yet, despite all the above, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book - I really didn’t want it to end. Is it sad that I literally reread the last two chapters of Wise Man’s Fear multiple times when I finished the novel? I immersed myself in the grand buildings and bustling taverns of the University, of the pristine gardens and rich estates of Severen, and the golden hills of Ademre. I think this is a real testament to the world-building Patrick R painstakingly undertakes. He throws out words and songs that really have no immediate significance, but instead tease at a greater world hidden behind Kvothe’s stories and exploits, just waiting to be unleashed in the next chapter. (Read Dune if you like that) I really appreciate that - it’s been quite a while since I last obsessed over a book this way. Hopefully you will too.

Overall Rating: 8/10