The Name of the Wind is a big book, with a big reputation. It has been recommended to me a number of times, and I finally decided to listen to it via audiobook. I love reading big books (this is 662 pages in print), and I particularly love listening to a big book – the audiobook version takes 27 hours and 56 minutes to complete. I listen when I am walking my dogs, exercising, and sometimes when cooking or doing housework. In the case of exercise, I find that I walk longer if the book is good, and that was definitely true for this book.
This is the story of Kvothe, a young man who will become a notorious wizard. It is told as a reminiscence by the adult Kvothe to a scribe called Chronicler, and to Kvothe’s assistant Bast. When I started the book I did not realize that the book did not tie up all ends in the story told in this first book of a potential trilogy. I know some people do not like to start a series until all the books are published, but as was pointed out to me by an author, the author may not be able to finish a series unless sales are strong enough to prove to the publishing company that there is an audience for additional books. If this is a problem for you, this is not the series for you. The second book was published in 2011, but Patrick Rothfuss is still writing the third book. Comparisons have been made to George R. R. Martin and his still unfinished Game of Thrones opus, but I think the comparison is mainly to eager readers waiting for unpublished books, not to the actual content of the books. (Although Game of Thrones is a good series, and also worth your time.)
The world building was very good. It apparently took Rothfuss 9 years to write (while he was a student), so he definitely had the time to get it right. The role and use of magic, known as “sympathy”, was very interesting. I have not read all the popular fantasy titles, so I am not sure how unique this is, but to me it was new and interesting. We follow Kvothe as a young boy who is a member of traveling group of performers and after, as a student at university learning to be an “archanist” (basically a wizard, although the book characters would strongly disagree with that description), and briefly as the adult Kvothe who is living as a rural innkeeper when he meets the Chronicler and begins to tell his story.
I think I enjoyed best the first part of the book, before Kvothe enters the university. It was fun learning about his world, and while his life was still relatively happy. Be aware, however, that bad things do happen eventually to Kvothe, and his world is turned upside-down. His time at the university is when we learn the most about sympathy, and how it is manipulated. While a student Kvothe gains a powerful nemesis, and their interactions drive most of the plot in the second half of the book. I felt this section dragged a bit, because it seemed like Kvothe was always running into some horrible problem because of his enemy, and I think we did not need to experience the results of their antagonism quite as many times as we actually did.
The audiobook was narrated by Nick Podehl, and he did a really great job with all of the different accents. I felt that some characters felt more real to me in audio than if I had just read them on the page, because of the great voices used. This is exactly what an audiobook should do, and I am glad I experienced the book this way.
I recommend this book, and definitely recommend the audio version.