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A Review of The Name of the Wind

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The Name of the Wind is the story of a boy’s journey as he grows up on his own after his parents—troubadours—are murdered by theChandrian, human-like beings of a netherworld. The protagonist, Kvothe (pronounced rather like Quoth), sets off across a fantasy-scape, lives in the slums of a dangerous city for several years, then travels to an academy. There he matriculates, plays the lute, and learns to practice magic.

Rothfuss’s magical system crackles, especially in its rendering of chemical reactions and processes, such as binding. And Kvothe is sometimes endearing—you needn’t strain to feel for him. Reading this book, I was reminded several times of Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. So Rothfuss’s book certainly has some nice touches.

I must say, though, that The Name of the Wind is much too long. The passages are repetitive; the prose is verbose; and the telling of the tale is longwinded, roundabout, and overly explanatory. One wonders: where were Rothfuss’s editors, and what were they thinking? The novel is just shy of 800 pages; it could have been cut to perhaps half that.

An at least equally serious problem with the book is its poor character development. As the tale unfolds, Kvothe himself gets to be a bit much; he is gifted beyond comparison in music, magic, and intelligence. This means that he is able for the most part to make fools of his enemies. It begins to seem that this young man has much to teach the world, but that the world may not have much to teach him.

About midway through the book, the narrator coyly acknowledges that his story is in need of a girl. The reader awaits her arrival, tries to be patient; the tale meanders and swirls some more. At last she appears: Denna.

She is not actually a new character, it turns out, but rather one whom Kvothe had encountered earlier in the novel. If I feel jerked around a bit, I am willing to let it go if I will get to know Denna better this time around.

The dark-haired beauty promptly charms Kvothe, and Kvothe maintains his cool even as a young man bewitched.

Denna comes and goes over several hundred pages, but by the end of the book readers really don’t know much about her. Just that she’s a kind of hardhearted seductress, a transient who has an unspecified connection to the Chandrian. I wanted more character development than this—after all, Denna is perhaps the second-most-important character in the book.

Other characters—including Kvothe’s nemesis, Ambrose, and Kvothe’s mentor, Elodin—are also poorly developed. This characterization problem disappoints in a book of the stature of The Name of the Wind. It’s enough to steer me clear of the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, which clocks in north of 1,000 pages.