I just got done reading a thoroughly fabulous book, by a man whose brain I now want to not just lick, but chew on until all the gristly bits come out.  The book is The Name of the Wind, and its author is Patrick Rothfuss.  I am now going to blather on about it – if you have not read it, and you consider anything that may in any way be related to its plot to be a spoiler, GO AWAY NOW.  Go read the book and come back.  I promise, the book is worth the time, and the blog post will still be here when you come back.  If you have read the book, or your experience will not be spoiled by spoilers, read on.


First, Rothfuss’ use of language is exceptional.  His differentiation of character voices and speech patterns is good, and even his differentiation between different iterations of the same character is noticeable but coherent.  I was thoroughly impressed at the way Kvothe was different-but-the-same in speech and thought patterns between time periods.  It made me quite happy.  The way Rothfuss plays with the way people talk makes me, as a language nerd, extremely engaged.  It is easy to tell the difference, even in extended periods of dialogue.  Small irritation: there is relatively little honest back-and-forth dialogue, as so much of this volume is straight first-person or third-person narrative.  The plot carries itself well enough that the lack of speech only becomes apparent to me in hindsight, and Kvothe’s inner monologue is interesting enough not to be cumbersome, but it’s still something that I could see giving the work as a whole more movement, and a greater sense of space.  We are trapped, most of the time, inside the confines of Kvothe’s head – and although it is quite a spacious, flexible, and capable head, it is only one head, nonetheless.  It will be interesting to see whether or where that changes in the second book.


Second, I absolutely, wholeheartedly, and without reservation ADORE his willingness openly to acknowledge fantasy tropes, hold them up to the light, and shred them mercilessly with Kvothe’s hands or words or thoughts or deeds.  Highly, unerringly entertaining, and worked cunningly into the plot so as to make the action more realistic, the characters more interesting, and the overall slowness of the development bearable in its pace.  Make no mistake – this is definitely set at “Civilization: Epic” speed, where every moment counts.  The movement is often bogged down by minutiae of the everyday, but they are fascinating minutiae, because they are not saved by fantasy convenience.  Most often high fantasy of this kind is moved along by plot devices so obvious they could make an eighteen-wheeler double-trailer on fire driven by a meth-addicted demon with hookers dancing on the roof dressed in neon seem subtle and understated by comparison.  Rothfuss doesn’t use these very much – and when he does, the answers to them are inventive, unpredictable, and often inconvenient.  Grant you, this is a double-edged sword.  Without a taste for the epic, this could as easily be a habit that irritates instead of entrances.  For me, it’s fucking fabulous.  I will read a 700-page book that could have been 400, because it is well-written and not lazy.  I prefer it, because it is intelligent and does not cut corners.


Things I am not certain of yet: I don’t know whether it’s Kvothe or Rothfuss who so enjoys foreshadowing events as yet unrevealed.  I do know that I, as a reader, do not enjoy being blatantly teased.  It seems too clumsy for Kvothe, and exactly the sort of thing that I have seen from a number of authors whose first works of length are excursions into high fantasy.  It does not match up with the grace of the rest of Rothfuss’ writing, however, and just seems… off.  We’ll see how he follows up on it (or doesn’t) in the next book.  I don’t know how I feel about the fact that the entire first volume is, essentially, a prologue.  I am thoroughly in love with the fact that the way the book is set up is different – very different, story-within-a-story, without feeling the need to bring either story to a resolution.  I must hold judgment on that in abeyance until I see whether either story can be brought to a resolution, or whether the promise in either of the two main threads will wither on the vine because of the convoluted construction.


Things I hate: the cover art on the mass market paperback.  The fact that I did not take notes on the phrases, sentences, constructs that jumped out at me to spark my own writing (he has a knack for using turns of phrase that make my right brain sizzle and spark and snarl).  The fact that I will never get to buy Kvothe a drink, or sit down and have a smoke with Denna and talk to her about being a woman in the world she lives in.  That surprisingly few people will not look at me with surprise when I pick up using “blackened body of God” as an expletive or intensifier, because it fucking works if you spit it out.  That it will be next year before Day Two comes out.


It is a good book.  Tomorrow I may read it again.