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The Kingkiller Chronicle

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This is another one that I’ve been meaning to write a post about for a while. I was first introduced to these books a couple of years ago. A Kindle message board I’m a member of has a monthly game where they pair people up to assign each other to read a book that may be a little outside their respective comfort zones. I decided to participate over the summer, and I was given The Name of the Wind as my assignment.

The book is a fantasy, a genre I certainly don’t have anything against, since there are a few on my all-time favorites list. Still, it’s a tricky genre for me. I feel like it’s a fine line to walk between having a fully-formed, believable world and too much unnecessary detail. I don’t typically seek out a fantasy book unless I’ve gotten a specific recommendation.

In this case I did have a recommendation, so I toodled off to Amazon to purchase the Kindle version. I started reading, and found it a bit hard to get into at first. It feels like we get dropped into the middle of some sort of political and/or metaphysical conflict that the characters understand somewhat but the reader does not. The characters are all sort of bland and stereotypical small village-type people. (That is, people living in a small village, not a short rock group.) A man named Chronicler is robbed on the road and then rescued from spider-shaped demons by Kote, the local innkeeper. After the ordeal is over, Chronicler recognizes Kote as Kvothe, an almost mythological figure in that land. Chronicler gets Kote to agree to tell his story so he can record it. Kote says it will take three days, and The Name of the Wind is the first day of the story.

This is where things started to get interesting. Once Kote/Kvothe took over the narrative, the book sprang to life for me, kind of like Dorothy stepping into a Technicolor Oz. The characters he talked about were real, flawed, beautiful people. I don’t want to spoil any of the story for you, but Kvothe goes through more situations in his early life than you would have thought possible. From traveling with his family of performers to learning what we would call magic (although they treat it very scientifically) at University, the thread that runs through the story is his desire to learn more about the Chandrian, some sort of evil beings, or spirits, that most people in his world believe to be fairy tales, especially at the University. When bad things happened to Kvothe, my own gut twisted with the unfairness of it all. When things worked out for him, I was elated. It was hard to put the book down.

The end of the book comes at the end of the day. Kote the innkeeper wraps up a few threads of the story, but we know that there is plenty more to come in the next two days. Somehow this all must connect to what is going on in the “present.” A late-night visit and request that Chronicler receives from Kote’s student (or at least that seems to be their relationship) only adds to the mystery.

Thankfully I didn’t have long to wait for the second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, which came out later that year. I was anxious to spend more time with Kvothe, and I devoured this one, too. I have to admit that I didn’t find the second installment quite as compelling as the first. It seemed to drag a bit in the middle. (Frankly, part of the draginess was that Kvothe discovered sex.) The story did advance quite a bit, although we still haven’t learned why Kvothe was called “kingkiller” (despite his stint in the royal court during which no kings died, killed by Kvothe or otherwise) or much new information about what is going on in the “present,” except my growing conviction that it must have something to do with the Chandrian.

Now I’m stuck with all the rest of author Patrick Rothfuss’s fans waiting for book three, though, which isn’t even available for pre-order yet. (According to it’s projected release date is May 1, 2013.) Sigh. At least that gives me plenty of time to re-read the first two books, the first of which weighs in at a hearty 676 pages, the second at just over 1000!

Bottom line, these books are excellent overall. Except for the knowledge that sex is being had, they are pretty tame and probably appropriate for the YA crowd. You should check them out. I’d love to know what you think about them!