Book one of the Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy.
When I was first given this book I was sceptical as it was given to me with the promising catch-line as the “next Game of Thrones”. For those that know me, that sets the standards very high. I trust people’s opinions when things are recommended but I’ve read enough failures branded the next GoT to err on the side of caution.
An epic fantasy in all forms of the word, it follows the life of the renowned musician, arcanist and warrior known as Kvothe (pronounced like Quothe). Little is really known about this feared man with stories unsure whether to proclaim him a hero or brand him a monster. Rothfuss begins the story in an interesting fashion, set in the present time Kvothe (or Kote as we know him to begin with) is used to introduce to us the patrons of his tavern. Mysterious events allude to Kote’s mysterious background but it takes a few chapters for us to find out that he is the king killer named Kvothe. By the end of the book, I’m still not sure which king he has killed, and I’m not sure if I’ll find out in the next book either.
On a dark, foreboding evening, the Chronicler arrives in the inn of the man previously known as Kvothe. He is there to write his story, and is informed that it will take three days for Kvothe’s tale to told. And so the real story begins on Day One.
As a young Edema Ruh, Kvothe travelled with his family of performers who are soon to be joined by Abenthy, an arcanist. Abenthy teaches Kvothe about the art of magic known as “sympathy” as well as history, science and how the world works. He is given all the tools he needs to get into the prestigious University. Accepted at 15 years old due to his quick wits and sarcastic intelligence, our protagonist makes it in 3 years younger than most. He moves through the ranks fast but manages to make enemies faster.
We follow him as he progresses in magic and falls in love, and even as he manages to talk his way out of the stickiest of situations, although we are constantly forewarned of his inability to get out of everything. Whilst Rothfuss artfully weaves his story, and allows readers to work out how each event will affect the characters, he also tries to leave us hanging in expectation of events which aren’t in this book, but will be in the 2nd or last book in the series. Although it does give a sense of the wider picture of the story, too often it leaves us wondering about things too far in the future and distracts us from the problems facing Kvothe at the time.
Rothfuss develops each character thoughtfully and carefully. As readers we become invested in them,we have times where we have to put the book down to the sheer stupidity of some actions, and tears slip down our faces at the heartbreak of others. Not only is Kvothe this god-like figure of terrifying power, he is also so full of charisma that he commands to be heard. But we see that he is human too, despairing after events long past; he is left lonely and full of sorrow from the death of his family despite the time passed.
Rothfuss’s small but complex twists on all aspects of his story make him the next genius in the fantasy scene. He appreciates his reader’s intelligence by letting them gather their own clues and creates a system of of magic (“sympathy”) that is so well reasoned it could almost be happening now. The system is based on the similarities of objects and the strength of theses similarities to build connections capable of moving, mending and sometimes setting fire to these objects. But the most powerful magic is all in the name of things, and in this book Kvothe shows us the power of the name of the wind. Full of logic and reasoning, Rothfuss gives the book depth as we learn how the laws of this world work. What makes it enjoyable it that these laws aren’t stretched beyond believability in any setting, what has been set down as possible isn’t broken in any of the events so far.
The next book in the Kingkiller Chronicles is The Wise Man’s Fear.