UPDATE (6-AUG-2014): My second reading made me appreciate this book much more. I picked up more of the subtlety and clever use of language this time aUPDATE (6-AUG-2014): My second reading made me appreciate this book much more. I picked up more of the subtlety and clever use of language this time around, and Jo Walton's reread series at Tor.com helped immensely. So I definitely appreciate what Rothfuss is doing, enough to check out the next book at any rate. I'm still not head over heels in love with it, but that's more because it's still operating in the Tolkienesque tradition and I am completely bored with it at this point: homages, inspirations, subversions, deconstructions--I don't care.
ORIGINAL REVIEW (14-JUL-2012): I'm extremely conflicted on this one. There was some interesting world-building. A lot of the supporting characters are great, and many of the relationships between them feel very real and engaging.
On the other hand, there wasn't really a single original idea. And I'm extremely ambivalent about the Kvothe, the main character. Considering a book like this turns on the protagonist, it probably explains my stance on the book. Kvothe is just good at anything he sets his mind to. There's no effort or struggle for him. Most of the conflicts he faces are a result of his own stupidity, arrogance or thoughtlessness. At these points, it's hard to like him. However, then the book will cut back to Kvothe in the present, relating his story, and he'll admit, "I was young and stupid back then." Well if you admit you were an idiot, I guess I have nothing more to say.
Maybe I'm just burned out on bildungsroman stories in general, or maybe I'm currently enthused by writers with a more distinct voice, but I didn't find Name of the Wind to live up to the immense hype behind it. I didn't hate it, but neither was I blown away.
UPDATE (22-Apr-12): I'm revising my opinion of this book after my second read-through, 2 years later. I was overly harsh in my original review. I thinUPDATE (22-Apr-12): I'm revising my opinion of this book after my second read-through, 2 years later. I was overly harsh in my original review. I think there were a lot of good ideas in this book that needed more development. Most of the characters came across a lot better than I remember them--my opinion may have been coloured by point-of-view character, Quentin, who is extremely flawed. Probably realistically so, but hard to overcome. I'm still unconvinced by his "redemption" at the end.
If anything, this book was a lot of interesting ideas and promises that just seem unfulfilled.
(03-Feb-10): It was a struggle to finish this book. For a good 3/4 of the story, you read about a group of unsympathetic snobbish assholes making oh-so-clever quips while the author skewers every convention of fantasy literature. I don't take issue with the latter when done out of love (Terry Pratchet's career) or with a clear agenda to attack its foundation (Michael Moorcock's "Epic Pooh" essay and Normad Spinrad's subversive "The Iron Dream").
This book instead feels like a mainstream literary author "slumming it" in genre fiction, only without the respect and love for genre that you'd get from a Michael Chabon. As if just adding sex and drugs to Harry Potter and Narnia makes the work "mature". That doesn't work in comic books and it doesn't work here.
That said, the last quarter of the book redeems itself somewhat, probably because it then plays straight the fantasy tropes it mocked previously. Some pathos is finally generated for Quentin, the protagonist. Which just made me wonder where was *that* Quentin for the first 300 pages while his unlikeable doppleganger was hogging the spotlight? ...more