Someone recently asked me what this book was about. I wanted to say it is about a journey, and there’s magic and a magic school…but that sounded too much like Harry Potter. I decided I couldn’t properly remember, and I needed read it again and write a proper review. I write these reviews because I have a terrible memory. I mostly remember the feeling I had when I read a book (and this one left me with a great feeling). Needless to say this book is a 5, if you haven’t read this…get it! Read it! Now. Seriously.
Here’s a breakdown…
My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement. Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers. Continue on at your own risk!
This is a story of stories- but all the stories tie together, as Skarpi says “I only know one story. But oftentimes small pieces seem to be stories themselves.”
In the simplest words, the story is about Kvothe- “I trouped, traveled, loved, lost, trusted and was betrayed.”
Kvothe has quite a reputation- “I am a myth…A very special kind of myth that creates itself. The best lies about me are the ones I told”. “Reputation is like a sort of armor, or a weapon you can brandish if need be.”
The story starts with Kote working in a small town at an inn (“…he’d only been in town a year or so. He was still a stranger”) He “seemed rather sickly. Not exactly unhealthy but hollow.” When The Chronicle tracks him down to get his story, we get the real scoop behind some of the stories going around. The telling of his story is meant to remind him who he is, because, hiding as an innkeeper is affecting him- “there’s a fundamental connection between seeming and being.”
Plot Score: 5/5
Kvothe (pronounced Quothe)- The man had true-red hair, red as flame. He is of the Edema Ruh. A story telling people who travel around entertaining. He is a genius. He is not a perfect character, he makes enemies and plenty of mistakes. He forgets who he is and what is potential is, and we spend a lot of time wanting him to be bolder, to pursue his girl and to play his music and, most importantly, to start naming things!
Nicknames: Kvothe the bloodless (when he gets publically whipped at school, he takes medicine prior that restricts his blood flow and stops him from passing out).
Abenthy (Ben)- one of the first mentors for Kvothe- the first one he saw speak the name of the wind.
The Chronicle- Related to the duke, he is documenting Kvothe’s story. One of the few people who know the name of iron.
Bast- son of Remmen, Prince of Twilight and the Telwyth Mael. Kvothe’s student and friend. He tells The Chronicle “You are not wise enough to fear me as I should be feared. You do not know the first note of the music that moves me.” We don’t get to find out who he is and how he ends up with Kvothe, but I can not wait to hear this story!
Skarpi- When Kvothe was homeless on the streets, he heard Skarpi tell a story and it reminded him who he is and what he needed to do (go to the university). I hope he has a bigger role later, as when The Chronicle first comes to Kvothe, he says he’s been traveling with Skarpi.
Elodin- the master namer at the university, he sponsors Kvothe to Relar (a higher level of student). At one point he has a class called “Unlikely Maths” – the time of the class was ‘now’ and the location was ‘everywhere’.
Diane/ Denna- Kvothe’s love. I love this book in the same way Kvothe describes his love for Denna- “…she was beautiful. That is all that can be well said. That she was beautiful, through to her bones, despite any flaw or fault. She was beautiful.”
Amrbrose- Kvothe’s nemesis. A rich student who doesn’t take well to Kvothe’s not cowering to his bullying. “To deem us simply enemies is to lose the true flavor of our relationship. It was more like the two of us entered into a business partnership in order to more efficiently pursue our mutual interest of hating each other”
Characters Score: 5/5
My favorite part of this world is the stories. The way the stories and rhymes that are told have a kernel of truth.
The History of the world
“The beginning, as far as I know, the world was spun out of the nameless void by Aleph, who gave everything a name. Or, depending on the version of the tale, found the names all things already possessed”
Then there is Telhu, who made the world and who is lord over all. Who comes to the world to kill the demons. There is one demon who eludes him (Encanis), and he ends up killing him, but also dies in the process (at least his human incarnation). (This is the story Trapis told in his basement)
Lanre/Lyra- Lyra knew the name of many things and Lanre was a fierce warrior. During a major battle Lanre is killed and Lyra calls him back from the dead. But something happens to Lyra and Lanre seems to lose all hope (unable to kill himself because he had already come back from death). At this point he becomes Haliax. He traps his friend Selitos while burning his city. Selitos curses him so his face is always covered in shadows. Selitos puts a knife in his own eye as his punishment for not seeing Lanre for who he was. He wants revenge and asks Aleph, who does not give his permission. Selitos forms a new group called the Amyr in memory of his ruined city to fight Haliax and the Chandrian (Telhu is the first to join the Amyr). Aleph grants the Amyrs wings of iron and glass, or stone and blood to help with their mission. (this is the story Skarpi tells)
The Chandrian- The bad guys, working with Haliax. There are signs they are near (blue fire, rusted iron) There are seven of them (Chaen means seven, Chaen-dian means ‘seven of them.’). In the Trapis tells there is one demon named Encanis, who is ‘the swallowing darkness’, his face hidden in shadows, sounded like Haliax who is described as ‘wrapped in shadow’.
The magic system involves knowing the name of things and being able to call them. In this story Kvothe doesn’t master it, but we do see him (inadvertently) call the name of the wind.
Words/Names- “There are seven words that will make a person love you. There are ten words that will break a stron man’s will. But a word is nothing but a painting of a fire. A name is the fire itself.”
Sympathy- Imposing your will on the world. One of laws is that the more similar two objects are the greater the sympathetic link. Reminded me of voodoo with objects other than people.
Heart of Stone- a mental exercise that let you set aside your emotions and prejudices and let you think clearly about whatever you wished.
World Building Score: 5/5
Sometimes I wonder if authors keep list of clever little phases they think of or hear and then use them in their novels. My favorite clever lines:
- “Five fingers and flesh with blood beneath. One could almost believe that on the other end of that hand lay a person of some sort.”
- “Everyone thinks chemistry and alchemy are so similar, but they’re really not. They’re not even related. They just happen to live in the same house.”
This entire book is written so beautifully. I feel like every word was purposefully chosen. And there was no skim reading at all.
Style Score : 5/5
Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)
“The difference is between saying something to a person, and saying something about a person. The first might be rude, but the second is always gossip.”
Our minds ability to cope with pain “First is the door of sleep. Second is the door of forgetting. Third is the door of madness. Last is the door of the death.”
“Isn’t that the way of the world? … We want the sweet things, but we need the unpleasant ones.”
“Wisdom precludes boldness”
Life Lessons Score: 1/5
Is Patrick Rothfuss really Illien? The most famous story teller of the Edema Ruh?
Myths that we haven’t heard the ‘real’ story
- How Kvothe had gone looking for his heart’s desire. He had to trick a demon to get it. But once it rested in his hand, he was forced to fight an angel to keep it.
- I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings.
- I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life.
- I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in.
- I have tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day.
- I have talked to Gods
Total Score and Recommendation
21/25- If you are reading this review and haven’t read this book – read it!