I just finished The Name of the Wind about three minutes ago, just three hours shy of the end of my twelve-hour shift at work ... and now I am wondering how I will make it to 7:30 without dying of boredom and without starting The Wise Man's Fear.
The Name of the Wind tells the story of Kvothe, who we learn has become one of the most infamous arcanists the world has seen in recent times. Set in a world rich with history, most of which has been lost to legend, myth and hearsay, Kvothe, now in hiding, retells his story from his childhood as a traveling performer to his teenage years as one of the brightest at the University.
While this book is a monster to carry around, it was deceptively short, especially in comparison to the Earth's Children novels. I'm not sure whether this was because of the faster pace and higher level of conflict, or whether I just had more time and read it faster. Nevertheless, The Name of the Wind was incredibly engaging and one I couldn't put down. I have in fact been reading it without break since 7am this morning - simultaneously neglecting my duties at work.
From the onset, the archetype of the bright yet disadvantaged boy that is the protagonist Kvothe really appealed to me. While I also appreciated his many flaws which balance out his incredible talents, at times his decisions were a little hard to reconcile. There are time in any story where as the reader we think, "No, don't do that!" but there were several times during TNotW where I could not see the reasoning behind Kvothe's decisions, such as suddenly leaving to investigate the slaughter in Trebon, pawning all his possessions to do so. A very minor criticism I guess, but one that also highlights how well I thought of the novel.
The history and magic system were quite interesting and introduced in an organic way which I really appreciated, and bore some resemblance to that of The Way of Kings, although described much less in depth. I was still a little confused about the principles of bindings by the end of the book as I felt the concise explanation given at the very beginning didn't stick with me.
TNotW was one of those stories that are set in a fantasy world but that concern themselves essentially with humanity and the very relate-able, human problems they face. I have to say I am a fan of these ... much like Llian and Karan from Ian Irvine's The View from the Mirror series, the protagonist is constantly down-trodden and struggling under the weight of responsibility, poverty, bad hygiene and a supernatural beast that wants to kill them. They are obviously extraordinarily gifted, but this comes at a high price.
I appreciated how the story remained mysterious about certain plot elements without becoming frustrating - the nature and history of Bast and his relationship to Kvothe for instance, I felt content to wait to discover. Foreshadowing was handled with subtlety and care and was predominantly dealt by the structure of the narrative, essentially a story within a story; the circumstances of the present day Kvothe retelling his life's story hint at what is yet to be told.
All in all a very satisfying read and one of the best books I've read this year. The one thing holding is back from making my favourites list is that is was not quite as gripping/exciting as some other series, although I think this may be remedied in the sequels as the story heats up!