This book is really quite special. It reads like a thriller, but it has powerful themes distributed throughout the book. It has all the elements of a great story, but it manages to feel very real at the same time. And on top of all this, it uses a story within a story structure. It’s like Arabian Nights, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter all mixed into one book.
To go into a little more detail, the outer story begins with an old innkeeper named Kote. He has got a bit of a history that he’s tried to run away from, but he is convinced to share the true account of his story by a traveling writer.
Kvothe's humble beginnings (traveling troupe)
About 100 pages in, the inner story begins with the innkeeper telling the writer about his days as a child. As it happens, the innkeeper was something of a prodigy child who grew up in a traveling trouper family. His real name is Kvothe, and Kvothe had quite an unfortunate series of events happen to him in his youth. I won’t go into any details, but one thing leads to the next and he ends up at a school of magic.
It’s at the school for magic that the book really comes into its element. The ‘magic’ is also wonderfully cool. It ranges from things as simple as chemistry and math, to knowing the Name of Fire, which allows people to summon fire, stick their hand it, and do anything else they can imagine with it. Even the admissions process is a thrill, as Kvothe’s unique situation means that he has to do some extraordinary things to get admitted.
From this point forward, Kvothe’s showmanship and strong personality enable him to make him a few valuable friends, and a few troublesome enemies. Like most great books, the characters make the book truly spectacular. The friends are interesting and unique, and the enemies use a variety of clever strategies to make Kvothe’s life a living hell. The actions of the characters are very complex, making the book both seems very real, and provide valuable life lessons for the reader.
Rothfuss is a master at creating fictional characters, and uses them to illustrate a plethora of themes. The main theme behind this book is very powerful. At this school of magic, advanced students are encouraged to go out into the world to seek the ‘Name of the Wind’. In the book, the Name of the Wind is something real, but to capture it you need to change the way you see the world. You need to learn to listen to something that is ever changing, and often times doing that requires changing yourself in a pretty significant way. You need to let your mind grow quiet and calm in the face of wild and turbulent situations.
Listening to the wind
In many ways, seeking the Name of the Wind is like our desire to answer the great questions in our world. What are we doing here? Who am I? What is my calling? These are the types of questions that we all have asked ourselves at some point, and some of us have better answers to those questions than others. The fact is though, that going out into the world and putting yourself in new and uncomfortable situations is a great way to uncover new questions. New questions lead us to new answers, and new answers help to shape how we live our lives.
This theme strikes particularly close to home for me. I am taking a break from school to look for some of those answers myself. For this reason, this book seemed extremely relevant, and due to the thrilling nature of it, I finished it in next to no time.
This book combines the best elements of fantasy, thrillers, and romance to make it a meaningful and delightful experience.
In short, go read this book.