Finally, here’s my humble little review of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. Just my opinions of course; it’s much easier to be a critic than a book author, and I’m not sure why anyone would care too much anyway.
I’ll start off with what I didn’t like about the book: everything. Just kidding! I just wanted to see your reaction, you should’ve seen the look on your face. To be honest, I thought the main character, Kvothe, was arrogant. *gasp* (Picky, picky, picky.) I think if I were to meet him in person he might want to lecture me on how much I don’t understand him. He is quite fond of mentioning how much he doubts others can understand such-and-such… for example:
Asking to hold a musician’s instrument is roughly similar to asking to kiss a man’s wife. Nonmusicians don’t understand. -Page 219
If you cannot understand why I couldn’t bring myself to tell them this, then I doubt you have ever been truly poor. -Page 340
If you have never been desperately poor, I doubt you can understand the relief I felt. -Page 407
“Listen, I’ve had an exceptionally irritating couple of days, my head hurts in ways you don’t have the full wit to understand, and I have a friend who might be in trouble.” -Page 590
I laid my lute case down beside the bench and absentmindedly flipped open the lid, thinking my lute might enjoy the feeling of a little sun on its strings. If you aren’t a musician, I don’t expect you to understand. -Page 602
If you have never been deep underground, I doubt you can understand what it is like. -Page 644
“What you don’t understand,” I explained to Simmon one afternoon as we sat under the pennant pole, “is that men fall for Denna all the time.” -Page 652
If you have never read this book, I doubt you can understand what I feel. But seriously, saying that you doubt someone can understand something is a bit worthless. If you truly believe it, then don’t try to describe what you want. This sense I get from Kvothe is why he seems a bit arrogant… assuming that I can’t understand him. Okay, he’s not really talking to me, he’s technically talking to some other characters in the book, but all the same it’s not a quality I like to see in other people, doubting I can understand them if I’m not poor or a musician… just describe what you want and be done with it! Doubting I can understand something gains nothing, except to proclaim your own arrogance! I’m being picky of course.
Ah, you say, what about this?
“Why can’t it be described?” I asked. “If you understand a thing, you can describe it.”
“Can you describe all the things you understand?” he looked sideways at me.
Elodin pointed down the street. “What color is that boy’s shirt?”
“What do you mean by blue? Describe it.”
I struggled for a moment, failed…
That’s some nice dialogue, but it’s not what I was talking about. My point was not that Kvothe should’ve described everything, my point was that saying something like this is worthless: “The shirt was blue. If are blind, I doubt you can understand. Blind people don’t understand.” Just say the shirt was blue, and leave it at that.
And this annoys me:
“Some of these young men from the court come in, fanning their faces and moaning about the latest tragedy. But their feet are so pink and soft. You know they’ve never walked anywhere on their own. You know they’ve never really been hurt.”
-A shoe seller, page 207
Arrogant shoe seller, assuming to know what other people have been through! Seriously, I find it quite horribly arrogant when people claim that others have never felt pain. Physical pain, it may be true, but emotional pain is far far worse and everyone feels it, it’s part of being human. It doesn’t matter if you’re the richest person in the world or a poor homeless guy with hunger pains. It’s true, some people whine more than others, and it’s tempting to say to them “oh, give me a break, you don’t know real pain!” but that’s just as whiny. Of course, this is a minor character in the book talking, so he can be wrong all he wants, but there are people in real life who talk like this. And just because someone is happy rather than sad doesn’t mean his life is “easier”. So please never assume that someone else doesn’t suffer, just because he’s rich and his feet are pink. Even a shoe seller doesn’t know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.
(You can see why this blog is called “Blather”.)
And to be really picky:
“No, I do not envy her her life. Nor do I judge her.” -Page 473
I’m just not sure that’s correct grammar… is it? Her her?
Here’s some more arrogance:
Small towns, rural inns, those places didn’t know good entertainment from bad. Your fellow performers did. -Page 106
How can one not know good entertainment? Isn’t the determining factor whether or not it’s entertaining? Is there anybody out there who can not sense whether or not they’re entertained? Picky picky me…
Now for some less picky criticism… the book overall didn’t have enough central conflict for me. After the main character’s family is killed, Kvothe just kind of struggles to survive without any big goal. I didn’t get a sense of any big driving force in the book, nothing that would keep me reading if I didn’t have the predetermined drive to finish everything I read whether or not I want to. (Being a wannabe writer myself, I can learn quite a lot from fiction I don’t necessarily like, as long as it’s in my kind of genre, like fantasy.) Throughout the novel, there was little at stake for Kvothe. His only real drive is his natural interest in the Chandrian, which itself seems rather subsidiary to his interest in learning the name of the wind and in a certain girl.
But I suppose something is just strange with me since most reviews I have seen have been much more favorable…
And now for what I did like: I am not a big fan of poetry, but this book has the best poetry I have seen in a fantasy book (not that I’ve seen that much). It is far superior to Tolkien’s lame attempts. This is good, because at one part in the novel Kvothe ridicules another character’s attempt at poetry in a very humorous way… “I know limping verse when I hear it,” I said. “But this isn’t even limping. A limp has rhythm. This is more like someone falling down a set of stairs. Uneven stairs. With a midden at the bottom.”
I also very much liked Mr. Rothfuss metaphors (which makes me wonder why Kvothe has to say things about not understanding so often, when he at least has Rothfuss’s talent for metaphors to go with). For example:
Go out in the early days of winter, after the first cold snap of the season. Find a pool of water with a sheet of ice across the top, still fresh and new and clear as glass. Near the shore the ice will hold you. Slide out farther. Farther. Eventually you’ll find the place where the surface just barely bears your weight. There you will feel what I felt. The ice splinters under your feet. Look down and you can see the white cracks darting through the ice like mad, elaborate spiderwebs. It is perfecly silent, but you can feel the sudden sharp vibrations through the bottoms of your feet.
This is what happened when Denna smiled at me.
Mmmmm, delicious writing in my opinion, no? Isn’t that better than saying “If you have never had Denna smile at you, then I doubt you can understand,” though Kvothe was probably thinking it.
Overall, I’ll definitely have to read the next books in this trilogy, and perhaps even everything else Rothfuss ends up writing, but I do hope things improve story-drive wise, and it would be nice if Kvothe stopped seeming so arrogant, but that is unlikely to change since it is now part of his character… but it’s really hard to read a book when you feel like arguing with the main character, ya know?
You can check out Rothfuss’s blog here. He is a witty blogger, I actually prefer reading his blog rather than his book… *gasp*
Well, that’s that! Now I can return the book to the library… (*gasp* I didn’t even pay for the book!!)