by: Patrick Rothfuss
This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while and finally got around to this past week. And it’s so very excellent. If you like any type of high or epic fantasy, I would highly recommend this book.
It’s set up as a story within a story. The outer story is very slow and takes up minimal space in the book, but the reader can feel that it is headed somewhere important. (This book is the first installment of the Kingkiller trilogy.) The inner story, told by the main character, Kvothe, is his life story. Kvothe, however, is still a young man and I would bet that he is the main character in the outer story as we get to the third book – which is, I imagine where the inner story will take back stage to the outer story.
The story is set in a fantasy world, based loosely on various European cultures of the 1600s or so. There’s magic, of course, which a select few can wield. There’s dangerous creatures and daring adventures and even a journey or two. It has everything a good fantasy needs.
The pacing in the book is excellent. The first few pages were a bit difficult to get through, but after that it was nearly perfect. I was completely absorbed in the story and nothing flew by so fast I couldn’t understand it, but neither did I find myself skimming over bits to get to the next good part.
I really liked the main character. He was intelligent and flawed; since he is telling his own story, there is reflection on his youthful arrogance or stupidity. Kvothe is both likable and charismatic; even if I didn’t particularly like him at certain points in the book, I was still invested in what happened next.
Rothfuss excels at world building. Since we follow Kvothe from a little boy, the reader is present as he learns about magic and the rules of his world. Often, we’re given information as Kvothe uses it to puzzle something out – Jim Butcher uses a similar technique in his Harry Dresden series, though Rothfuss has a much greater mastery over it. (Sorry Jim! I still love your work!) There is nary one instance that felt like info dumping.
I didn’t like Kvothe’s love interest, but I did appreciate how Rothfuss used her as a gentle remainder of challenges specific to being a women, especially in the cultures/time periods he’s pulling from. A lot of authors will build their characters into worlds with significantly different gender roles but not specifically acknowledge the problems that presents their (female) characters; it’s really nice when an author takes a few sentences and does acknowledge them.
Also, I just liked the writing in general. It was clean and engaging as a whole; the writing itself was easy to follow, though the plotline and content added a welcome complexity to the overall story. Rothfuss is one of, if not the, best fantasy writer I’ve read in a long, long time.
My only critique would be that the inner story is so focused on Kvothe – it is from his perspective, after all – the some of the side characters are not as well developed as I would like. Several of the characters that he spends a great deal of time with aren’t as well fleshed-out as they should be. The reader doesn’t get any sense of them beyond their role in their life and maybe one or two defining characteristics. A bit frustrating, though they still read as believable people.
This book is really excellent. If you like high or epic fantasy, if you crave Tolkien-esque adventures, or if you’re looking to try out a classic fantasy adventure, this is definitely the book for you. If you only read the best-of-the-best in any genre, this book is for you. If you avoid fantasy at all costs, then this, sadly, isn’t the book for you.