For many books, a large part of the suspense is how a character will live through his or her terrible problems. Will the main character remain strong, or be corrupted by evil? Live through the fight with a dangerous dragon? Although it’s usually a given that main characters live (unless the author is George R. R. Martin….), a new fantasy book I recently read completely did away with the “will he?” suspense–the book starts when the main character is an adult, and goes back to tell his story from childhood to the present day! Although it’s strange knowing people live no matter how bad things seem, it’s a new challenge to figure out how the adventures in his childhood turned him into the bitter man he becomes as an adult.

The Name of the Wind

The Name Of The Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicle Day One by Patrick Rothfuss was an incredibly interesting book. The series, of which two out of three books are published, takes place over three days. Kvothe, a man who made legends and inspired hundreds of stories as a younger man, is now running an inn in a small rural town. He goes by Kote to hide his true identity, and seems perfectly content to spend his days baking bread and serving ale to the local farmers. One day a stranger comes into town, and Kvothe agrees to tell him the real story of his life. That story takes three days to tell, hence the “Day One” in the book title. Although I’ve read Day One and Day Two and still don’t know what king he kills!

Kvothe’s story is incredibly tragic. His family is part of the Edema Ruh, a traveling group of performers somewhat similar to Gypsies. The first bit of the book is filled with happy childhood memories of loving parents, exciting travels around the country, and spectacular plays the troupe performs. The excitement starts, however, when they take in a stranger who was educated at The University and can perform “magic.” Ben, who becomes a part of Kvothe’s family, introduces the young Kvothe to the wonders of book learning, magic (most of which is more similar to physics and biology than spell casting), and the idea of attending The University. Under Ben’s teaching, Kvothe begins to study for auditions to someday attend the school, but Ben and his family are taken away suddenly and that dream becomes a dim memory.

Homeless, hungry, and beaten by larger boys on the streets, Kvothe spends several years of his youth just trying to survive. He has no time for studying magic, let alone morning his family and dealing with the emotional pain of being a homeless orphan. After a while, however, he regains his sense of self and applies to the University–and this is where the story truly starts. Life at the University is strange to a boy with almost nothing to his name and grew up in a traveling group. Kvothe quickly makes some friends, falls in love, and causes trouble with professors and classmates.

The Name of the Wind is written beautifully. Kvothe is an extremely emotional boy, partially thanks to his theater background and partially because he lost his family so young. His emotions, which often overwhelm him, are so well described that I cried and laughed along with the character. He is so resilient as a child, bouncing back from overwhelming odds to be a successful student; in the present day part of the story, Kvothe is a bitter disillusioned man who can no longer smile or laugh. I don’t know what happens to Kvothe to change him so much, but I’m willing to bet I’ll cry when that part of the story is finally told in the third book.