A little while ago, I finally finished Patrick Rothuss’ The Name of the Wind, after giving it a second chance. My second attempt, though much more enjoyable than my first (I actually finished with it, instead of just getting 10 percent through), still urged me to immediately post the following blurb on Amazon from my Kindle:
Narrated in the first person by Kvothe (pronounced quothe), The Name of the Wind is a smug, self-congratulatory account of how a self-righteous brat manages to get his way again and again thanks to luck and Rothfuss’s half-convincing displays of his main character’s cleverness. Mostly good prose and background story earns this novel two stars, but Rothfuss’s setting would be much better not see through the lens of Kvothe’s narration, which is like listening to a compulsive liar try and make up for obvious self-esteem issues.
In all honesty, though, it’s a wonder that the novel isn’t worse than it is; it breaks all the unwritten rules of writing a good story. The story, at first, is told in the third-person present, but soon the action devolves into long stretches of past-tense narration, in the form of protagonist Kvothe telling his story to a chronicler named… Chronicler. Kvothe is arrogant and self-absorbed, and neither he nor any of the other characters display any relevant level of personal growth or development, which is a real shame considering the various trials they go through together.
The Name of the Wind is often described as a novel for Harry Potter fans wanting more. While I’m not huge HP fan, I couldn’t help but find some irony in the fact that this novel made me want to return to Hogwarts. The best parts are, without a doubt, when Kvothe is living at the magic University, getting along with his various peers. But even Rowling approaches her own characters with more of a critical eye. Harry becomes a whiny jerk by his teens, but Rowling, unlike Rothfuss, never gives you the impression that Harry’s commendable for being so. Kvothe, in contrast, loves victimizing himself, even when the trouble he gets himself in is well-deserved and long overdue. And Rothfuss expects you to feel good about it, when Kvothe’s cleverness grants him another free pass.
Lots of people like The Name of the Wind. Lots of people also like the idea that they’re always right, and the other guys is always wrong, and any bad things that happen are obviously someone else’s fault.