Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Reviews: Fandom, Fantasy, and the Name of the Wind

Sometimes... I think something is wrong with me. 

Some days I think it would be sooo nice to read or watch something, say "well that was good," put it back on the shelf and move along.

But no.  When I read or watch something - especially if it's expansive - suddenly I'm completely engrossed and I have to know ALL the things.  I thinking about it all the time.  I have dreams about it.  I read theories and interviews and every scrap of information I can find.  I scour etsy and thinkgeek, dreaming of the small, nerdy ways I could show my support (see this Finnick necklace, Avengers earrings, TARDIS journal, Sherlock necklaceLothlorien leaf, etc...).

Basically, this is totally accurate:

It's been happening with Doctor Who for a while. 

But it's happened again.  Last night I finished the 2nd novel in a fantasy trilogy - and now I must wait! Grr... Now is also when I remember why I mostly read dead authors.  I'm horrible at waiting.  And it makes the obsession worse.  Because there are forums and reddit threads and theories galore about what or how things will happen.  It's just... I'm pretty much a lost cause.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I suppose I should give this something like a proper review.

First, due credit: Jennifer, my coworker had been telling me about it for a while and lent me the first book months ago.  Then, in Powell's, I saw it on their "employee recommendation" shelf.  Both excellent commendations. 

The series is called the Kingkiller Chronicles.  It is a high fantasy told in framed narrative by the central character, Kvothe [pronounced like "Quothe"].  When we meet him, Kvothe is likely in his mid-thirties and is, quite literally, the stuff of legend!  Born to a gypsy-like performer's troupe, he is a gifted musician, singer, and actor.  He is a ginger.  He's a quick wit and, from an early age, studies "magic" - something, in this series, much closer related to the sciences than what we think of as magic.  He's an instantly lovable character that acts stupid for most of the first book.  He should be dead many-times over; and frankly it's a mercy on Rothfuss's part that Kvothe is the one telling the story, alleviating unbearable suspense.  (I often have to remind myself, "he survives!  He's the one telling the story, ergo, he survives!")  All in all, he's a gifted hero who has had the most extraordinary, fantastical adventures and experiences.  But in the story's "present day,"  Kvothe is tired of being hunted and so has intentionally "killed off" his heroic character to settle down as a humble inn-keeper.  And yet, even at the Waystone Inn, he can't help being a hero down to his bones.

[One fan's fantastic rendering of Kvothe]

Rothfuss sums up: " In some ways it's the simplest story possible: it's the story of a man's life. It's the myth of the Hero seen from backstage. It's about the exploration and revelation of a world, but it's also about Kvothe's desire to uncover the truth hidden underneath the stories in his world." 

With so many stories swirling about him, he's decided to set the record straight and tell his story with all of it's bruises and misadventures. He agrees to tell his story in three days - with each day taking an entire book. Day / Book 1, Name of the Wind (2008) was 700 pages & explained up to age 15. Wise Man's Fears (2011), the one I just finished, was 1,000 pages and covered about 2 years. So basically, the third book (expected 2014) is going to need to be 5,000 pages in order to finish the story.  JK.  Kind of.

How do I talk about the story without giving too much away? Well, I will start by saying that many would, correctly, label the story "episodic." But while episodes within a single novel tend to break the pace and lead to distractions,  I'm not sure how an author writing a saga could achieve moving the character through new locations and groups and adventures without feeling episodic.  Mind you, many of these "episodes" are 200 - 300 pages long.  I moved from one to the other, reluctantly at first, but found myself appreciating a new cast of characters and becoming familiar with new regions of Rothfuss's fantasy map.  One of the most significant aspects of fantasy is integral world-building, and it is one of the many things Rothfuss excels at.

So what type of these adventures does Kvothe go on?  At heart a wanderer, and after an unorthodox youth - including a stint as a street urchin, Kvothe spends time at University studying the "magic" of sympathy and naming; he fightss a dragon-like creature, he serves at a royal court; he entertains both pubs and princelings with his music; he wanders into fairyland for an unknowable length of time; and he is trained to fight by some of the best mercenaries in the world.  Of course, there is a pretty, mysterious lady in his life too.  All the while, he is searching out dangerous creatures that everyone else take to be the stuff of nursery rhymes. 

"Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..." - the Kingkiller Chronicles includes them all.  This series has made me cry real tears.  It's made me anxious.  One time, I was reading it home on the bus, got dropped off at the park & ride and proceeded to sit in my car for the next hour and a half because I couldn't put it down.  Most of all this book has made me care.  Of course I'm rooting for and pretty much in love with Kvothe.  But it's not just him.  I genuinely care to find out what happens to his friends and teachers and the whole realm Rothfuss has created.  I eagerly await the final installment, Doors of Stone, due out sometime next year.  In the meantime, I'll probably meet a lot of other characters and take in many other stories.  But I'll be waiting.  Waiting to hear the rest of Kvothe's tale and hear what comes after.

If you like fantasy or are just looking for an engaging book, you might want to check out this series.  The world, characters, and plot are all well developed and, despite the length, I read both in just over a month.  I should mention this isn't a children's series.  As Kvothe becomes more of an adult there is, well, adult content.  Although some may consider this an immature reason to read - I certainly don't - I will add that at ComicCon last month, it was announced that Fox has optioned the series for a tv show [Watch out, Game of Thrones].  If for whatever reason you do decide to pick up the book, let me know and tell me what you think of it.

I'll leave you with a few favorite quotes from the series:

"Stories don't need to be new to bring you joy. Some stories are like familiar friends. Some are dependable as bread."

"It's the questions we can't answer that teach us the most."

"All the truth in the world is held in stories..."

1 comment:

  1. Based almost solely on this wonderful review I've requested this book from the library! :) I should be reading it very soon!