Sunday, February 7, 2010

Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I've lately been interested in more complex forms of story telling, multiple plot threads with multiple points of view. Patrick Rothfuss takes a different angle at the complex story. His is a tale within a tale, old as Arabian Nights, with the tale being autobiographical, the teller a born dramatist, with hints of tragedy dropped from the beginning. The story is almost classical Heroic fantasy fiction, though there is no sense of fate or destiny. There are no prophetic verses guiding the hero, or calling out signs for those around him to follow. Still, the hero is intelligent, witty, able to learn anything that he puts his hand to. Such stories often degenerate into action driven tales, propped up by the charisma of the hero. They often lack meaningful relationships besides loyalty, and a simplistic romantic love. The exception here is that Rothfuss realizes that capability does not equal constant triumph. Not all circumstances can be overcome with a plucky quip, a sturdy sword, and a well thought out plan. Real love requires more than a romp through the woods and a convenient stream. Friends can be loyal without being sidekicks.

The premise of hero as talented storyteller is novel, and the crafting of the story is well done. The language isn't complex, but there is care for how the words flow. Once the story within the story begins, it's quite immersive. The level of intensity ebbs and flows, so that you could sometimes call it uneven, but no story can maintain the same intensity over 700 pages. The book ends without any sense of completion, but is satisfactory nonetheless. Many books I've read recently end with an action packed climax, and then tying up loose threads. Instead, Name of the Wind ends with a quiet threat. There is no sense that, "Here Ends the First Book", but instead just an intermission in the tale. 5/5

Which is in contrast to:
Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erickson
I'm beginning to understand how this series will feel. Its complex, multiple plot threads are all understated, with the characters knowing more than the reader, until it is revealed, and is a surprise to both reader and the character, as their expectations are not quite spot on. With characters that hide as much as these do, the plot must be action driven. This is not to say that it's not fun, just that the characterizations are not deep. I'm getting the sense that as the series goes on, the characters will be revealed and developed slowly. While I will continue to read these books, it won't be with the same anticipation that I await:
1. The next Brandon Sanderson book(either Wheel of Time or otherwise)
2. The next book in A Song of Ice and Fire
3. The next book from Patrick Rothfuss
4. A book by an author I don't even know exists yet.