The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss
Edited by Elizabeth Wollheim
Cover Artist: Donato
Review by Harriet Klausner
DAW Hardcover Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756404079
Date: 27 March, 2007 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The Waystone Inn is located in the backwater town of Newarre whose owner goes by the name of Kote. At first glance he seems like a quiet engaging man who fades into the background wherever customers are there. His friend and fellow worker Bast cares about the man and is sad and angry to see him rotting away in that place. Bast hopes for his master to break out of his lethargy occurs with the arrival of the Chronicler who knows Kote as Kvothe, called a hero by some and by others a cold killer, but never to his face. The Chronicler wants to write down his story.
He eventually agrees and takes the Chronicler back to the time when he was part of the traveling troupe sponsored by and under the protection of a lord. One night when he returns from taking a long walk, he finds everyone in the troupe dead, their bodies torn apart. He sees a blue light and a man whose face is in shadows and others who have black eyes. The killers are the Chandrian; whether they are demons is anyone's guess. Most believe they can only be found in children's stories but he knows they are real.
The next time Kvothe sees them is in the city of Tarbean where he went, walking the miles away from his family's caravan. Alone, he struggled to survive, stealing foods and begging. He was prey for every predator out there. He finally remembers the Chandrian talking amongst themselves about why they killed the troupe; their motive was to prevent Kvothe's father from gathering information about them to put in a song.
Afraid of living like an animal he makes his way to the University, hoping that magical knowledge that his former mentor taught him will be enough to gain admittance. Not only is he allowed to enter but in three days he is placed in the Arcanum where he learns about magic. He makes an enemy of Ambrose a lord's son, rescues a pretty girl Denna, slays a dragon and calls the name of the wind to smite down two assassins Ambrose sent to kill him. The night comes and Kvothe tells the Chronicler that he must stay if he wants more of the life story tomorrow.
Nobody reading this book would ever believe that this is Patrick Rothfuss' first published tale. It is an enthralling saga starring a man who survived his parents slaughter when he was a youngster by becoming a feral child of the city's streets and then as a teen a student of magic. This is where the rest of his legend begins. As he tells the story reader's see no pity for himself for what he endured, the losses, the disappointments, and the jealousy of his school master and fellow students. In fact he is so removed from the tale that readers would be forgiven if they thought he was describing someone else's life.
However, there are brief moments when the Chronicler sees the hidden torment in Kovthe's soul before he quickly re-masks his anger. Bast who is not human but something other is quite devoted to his friend and hopes the Chronicler will snap him out of his apathy. Bast makes an interesting secondary character because he doesn't usually bond with mortals. Readers wonder what inspired such friendship and what he really wants his friend to do.
Kvothe lives in a world where magic is taken for granted and he begs borrows and steals to pay his tuition at the Arcanum. From the start Kvothe underestimates Ambrose because he is thoroughly a spoiled lord's son who seems to have everything handed to him on a silver platter. He seems nothing compared to the predators that Kvothe survived when he lived on the streets. However, Ambrose's influence is wide and he gets his demands met like barring Kvothe from the archives, which means a lot to him. Ambrose uses his power to strike at enemies and make his life better. Thus he is furious that Kvothe doesn't fear him. The Name of the Wind is a great epic "biographical" fantasy in which the secondary characters play major parts, as they have tremendous influence in shaping Kvothe's life. Everyone who has read this book, especially this reviewer will want to get the next book in the series to find out what happens next in this protagonist's life and hopefully find out what the Chandian are.