Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Book: The Name of the Wind
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher: DAW Books
Release date: March 27, 2007
Source: Bought ebook
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day 1

Summary from Goodreads: Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet’s hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

First impressions: I’m not generally an epic fantasy fan, but after hearing everyone and their mother rave about this book, I had to try it. I’m so glad I did! The first few chapters had just enough mystery to suck me in, and once the story-within-a-story kicked in, there was no turning back.

Lasting impressions: Parts of this book were so beautiful I could hardly breathe, but there were times I wanted the pace to pick up a bit. You have to commit for the long haul with this one.

Conflicting impressions: The story Kvothe tells is meant to span three days, and this novel is the first of those. At times, because of the length of this tale, I felt the story lost its focus. I got swept up in the adventures Kvothe undertook, but occasionally got impatient wondering where this was all headed.

Overall impressions: There can be zero doubt that Patrick Rothfuss is a masterful storyteller. His patience and attention to detail, combined with a clear love of words and the beauty they can create, make it obvious that storytelling runs in his blood.

It should be no surprise to see a family of storytellers at the heart of this book. Kvothe is the son of a traveling band of performers, and learns most of life’s major lessons from plays, literature, and stories. As he grows up, and suffers a devastating series of losses, he vows to research the history of his world’s most dangerous stories – those surrounding the mysterious and deadly Chandrian.

Rothfuss juggles between Kvothe’s present and past, with the past related to the reader by Kvothe himself as he recounts his journey to a transcriber known as Chronicler. In the present, Kvothe is a man of many secrets, and the action is nailbitingly tense. I was desperate to know how this man’s life had shaped him into the innkeeper so many refer to as a “king killer.” Meanwhile, as we listen to the incredible tales from his childhood, I rooted for this boy of poverty and heartache to find his way in the world and realize his strengths.

Kvothe has remarkable abilities – his intelligence is quick and sharp, he can make music that causes even the most hardhearted men to weep – and at times he has an ego to match. He’s grounded by his extreme poverty and a hard life, however, and as often as his mouth gets him into trouble, he usually has the sneaky grace to get himself out of it. As he starts to learn magic, make friends, and fall in love, we get the pleasure of seeing how the smallest of stories can create a hero. Intentions do not generally find a way into history books, and though Kvothe may have reasons or circumstances that affect his actions, the stories quickly become larger than life. Actions speak louder than words, remember?

This is a dense book that took me nearly two weeks to finish, but it was absolutely worth it. Rothfuss has a gift for words, and he can spin them into scenery that fills the mind. Rarely have I felt so transported into the world of a book. Though the story is long, it is certainly not boring. I had the feeling that I was simply experiencing one part of a long journey, that would come to a full and satisfying resolution by the end of the trilogy. That doesn’t mean there was not a definite conclusion to this part, which had a great ending of its own. Instead, I was being prepared for an epic tale that required the patience of a good setup to give me the payoff of a glorious ending.

Well, if this book is any indication, that ending is going to be magnificent. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

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Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Book: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Doubleday
Release date: September 13, 2011
Source: Borrowed from local library, then bought

Summary: (from Goodreads) The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underwayâ??a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into loveâ??a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

First impressions: Opening a debut novel in 2nd person narrative is ballsy. But, oh man, did it work in this case. By introducing the reader to the wonder that is this night circus through gorgeous prose and the immediacy of the perspective, we are hooked from the first sentence. The circus arrives without warning.

Lasting impressions: I relished this book in a way that rarely happens for me – slowly. For the week I spent reading it, I rarely thought of anything else, yet I prolonged the reading experience in order to get the most out of it. This is a book that inspires reflection in all of the best ways, and rewards you for taking the time to read every word carefully. The story builds slowly, but purposefully, until the exciting climax threatens to turn the entire world of these characters upside down. It’s a beautiful journey to witness.

Conflicting impressions: I confess that I read all of the negative reviews of this book first. Surely no book could live up to the kind of magical hype this book has had heaped upon it, right? So I read the most blistering, scathing reviews, preparing myself for a slow, boring, overly dense novel with wooden characters and little action. And you know what I got? Subtle characters deftly written by a master puppeteer. Erin Morgenstern fills the pages with lush details, yes, but they all serve to inform us about the characters and the setting. I understood this world so well that I wanted to live in it for as long as possible, which is why I took so damn long to finish it. And why I bought a copy for my shelf the day before I returned my library book. I didn’t want a single day to go by without having this book in my possession.

Overall impressions: This book is magical, but not because it contains magic. This is not Harry Potter. Our young protagonists learn magic through natural ability and frustrating lessons by their parental figures – no straightforward schoolteachers to be found. They learn through trial and error, cruelty, and their own perseverance and curiosity.

Celia and Marco do not spend a lot of time in each other’s company, and as readers we are often much more knowledgeable than our characters. For me, this made the plot that much more enjoyable, as I had an inkling of where the story was going, but no idea how it was going to get there. As the story unfolded, I was more than willing to go along for the ride. This is a novel you either succumb to completely, or resign yourself to frustration. I think by the end of the first few chapters any reader will be able to tell if this is the book for him/her.

The Night Circus has rich period details, lots of colorful characters, and more than a handful of intrigue. This was not only one of my favorite books of the year, but one of my favorite books, period. If you’re looking to be entertained by something truly fresh and surprising, you must get your hands on this one.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system