I had The Name of the Wind in my Amazonian cart for over a year, ever since a friend glowed about it on Facebook. Reviews lavishly recommended it to lovers of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, two of the best works of fantasy ever. When my in-laws gave me a birthday gift card, one of the first things I knew I’d use it for was this book.
The book arrived, and I vanished.
I have a toddler, a baby, and a job. I do not always find time to shower, have all the laundry you might expect from someone cloth-diapering a then-newborn, and my house generally could use a good vacuum. This book immediately jumped ahead of showering on the to-do list. When I blistered to the 722nd page and looked up for what felt like the first time in days, my bleary eyes spotted Thor. I knew he had to read it, and I was just as certain that he’d never get around to it on his own. It was even worth postponing my attack on the second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, just to make sure he came along for the ride.
“This is the best book ever, and we’re going to read it out loud,” I declared rashly.
Thor was a tad less enthusiastic, remembering our lackluster track record at reading aloud ever since Owlet was born, but I knew that was just because he was still living in the real world, whilst I was happily residing inside Patrick Rothfuss’ brainchild. I persisted, and once we began, we were golden. We only get to read during those elusive moments where both children are asleep, but even so, we’ve made it to page 553 already. So far my exhaustion has trumped my longing to sneak a preview of the second book behind the back of a sleeping Thor, but only just!
Rothfuss seems to have an innate literary magic, because in this, his first published novel, you will find a mature, consistent voice, none of the awkwardly childish hokiness of early Rowling. The book begins promptly, with a preface steeped in mystery and drama that leads to a more plain-spoken but no less enthralling narration; a far better pacing, in my sacrilegious opinion, than Tolkein. And yet the humor, charm, and well-fleshed protagonist of Harry Potter are here as well as the epic grandeur and endless depths of implied history of The Lord of the Rings. Yet every word resonates as home-grown rather than pilfered.
Perhaps the reason this is already my favorite trilogy without having read books two or three is the spotlight on music. Music is blood in our main character’s veins. He is raised on it. He is sustained by it through unimaginable loss. He craves it like a drug. His love story is drenched with music and many of the story’s worst moments are made more ferocious by their connection to music-making. With musical literacy lagging ever further behind the likewise faltering “regular” literacy, there is nothing a musician like me loves more than for music to appear center-stage.
And something else, besides. Rothfuss starts late in the story first, and then proceeds to the beginning. So that curious but uncomfortable feeling you get when you read about Joan of Arc, Bill Clinton, or the Wicked Witch of the West? Where you are always trying to connect the dots from your point in the story to where you know things end up later? Yeah, that. I hate and love that. You’ll find that here.
I have tried off and on for several days to find my favorite quotes, pluck them out, and bring them here to you. I can’t do it. They are nestled snugly into their pages like the eyes of an embroidered bird. Not only would it spoil your discovery of the bird to have already seen its eyes, but the eyes by themselves just don’t have the same effect. So, as a friend, I refuse to divulge any further details.
Just trust me, go get the book. Read it, get book two, and read that. Then we can help one another stand the wait until book three comes out!