It is impossible to discuss The Princess Bride (the novel) without discussing its rather bizarre context. As fans of the movie will remember, the prem...moreIt is impossible to discuss The Princess Bride (the novel) without discussing its rather bizarre context. As fans of the movie will remember, the premise is of a grandfather reading the book to his grandson. One could be forgiven for assuming this construct was added to the screenplay, but that is not the case. The book itself is also written as a story being told, though by the author's father rather than his grandfather. Further, this construct isn't technically part of the story, but rather relayed in the introduction and interspersed notes. The conceit is that the "story" is an abridged version of an older book, by S. Morgenstern (abridged because the original wasted hundreds of pages on boring satire concerning nobility and such). And the icing on the cake is that the first-person author of the book, despite being presented as the actual author, is himself fictional.
Did you get all that?
If you've seen the movie, and you should have, you pretty much know the full story already. In the book they were sharks rather than shrieking eels, and Westley's torture took place in a much more elaborate cavern called the Zoo of Death, but for the most part this is the same great story, right down to the memorable one-liners. (This isn't too surprising when you realize that the author of the novel also wrote the screenplay.) The book moves quite quickly, as half of the version I read (the 30th anniversary edition) is taken up by introductions and extra content.
Since you've most likely seen the movie, there isn't much point in reviewing that aspect of the story. (If you insist, here's a brief version: it's awesome!) The question to my mind was, is the book worth reading? And the answer is a resounding yes. Novels have the advantage of room for explanation, as well as hearing the characters' thoughts, so a few story elements make a bit more sense. The humor of the author's notes is quite enjoyable, and you can really imagine all of the boring stuff he cut. Even the introductory explanation of how the book came to be is quite amusing (due in no small part to the fictional author's relationship with his fictional wife).
The only criticism I could offer is that the story-within-a-story model, combined with the conceit of it being an older story from a fictional nation, can be a bit confusing. It's hard to tell what information is actually legitimate - all the setup is fiction, but what about the believable asides that start with "this is a true story"? I have no idea whether they are or not. And nothing about the book actually indicates that the introductions are fictional. It's a lot to wrap your head around.
In the end, though, this is the novel form of an extremely popular movie, and it's quite enjoyable. It's not as idyllic as the movie, and doesn't star Andre the Giant, but it's still pretty damn good.(less)
The first entry in Brandon Sanderson's previous multi-volume work read well as a standalone novel, and to a degree I was expecting The Way of Kings to...moreThe first entry in Brandon Sanderson's previous multi-volume work read well as a standalone novel, and to a degree I was expecting The Way of Kings to follow suit. As the first book in The Stormlight Archive, a series planned at 10 books long, part of me was dreading being sucked into another neverending series by this book. Well, the bad news is that this is very much a Book One. That said, I'm very much looking forward to reading more.
Stylistically, this is clearly a Sanderson work. Like Elantris and Warbreaker, the story is split into three distinct threads, and you will spend most of the book speculating on how they will all come together in a big climactic finale. Oddly, that doesn't quite happen. Oh, the three storylines intertwine and relate, as do several substories presented as "interludes" between sections of the book, but we'll have to wait until later in the series for the grand plan to come together.
The lack of complete resolution is my only serious criticism of the book. It's not that I expect the first book of a long series to fully resolve things, but based on previous experience (specifically Mistborn), as well as some of Sanderson's blog comments, I was holding out some hope. In many ways his novels are mysteries, but for the reader rather than the characters - what will happen next? How will it all end? And while The Way of Kings offers a fair share of resolution, including a fantastic climactic scene, it doesn't come together as much as I had hoped.
What the book does accomplish is establishing solid characters in a very interesting world. Sanderson is as fond of his magic systems as ever, but with a long series to explore them, The Way of Kings acts more as an introduction to the world of Roshar and its quirks than a full exploration of it. There are many supernatural forces at work in the world, and here we see ancient items of power, old abilities reappearing, and the development of magical technology. Sanderson has said that this book is intended to be somewhat analogous to a beginning to the Wheel of Time's Age of Legends, and that shows.
The world itself is an interesting character, despite being the type of world I'm disinclined to like. I prefer more Earth-like worlds than the ones wracked by some disaster that changes the very ecology (a la Mistborn's). Roshar is constantly scoured by massive storms that leave the land barren, replacing common animals with odd crustaceans and the like. My usual complaint with such worlds, that the differences in the lives of such a world's inhabitants are unknowable and any comparison seems forced, still applies. But despite that, it all works. Partially this is due to the primary setting of the Shattered Plains, an interesting array of plateaus and chasms that makes me want to see a Stormlight Archive RTS made. More than that, though, are the sketches of world elements throughout the books, which are made even more interesting by the fact that they generally come from the text of the novel itself. (This is an especially impressive feat considering the advance copy I read is lacking around half of the illustrations.)
The story features many of Sanderson's usual elements. Religion is present and certainly effects the world, though it's not quite the focus it has been in some of his previous works. There are the obligatory religious debates, but they are kept to a minimum and it is implied that the answers will direclty relate to the long-term plot of the series. The main characters are noble - if you're looking for flawed anti-heroes, you had best look elsewhere. They certainly have demons, and are far from perfect, but when it comes right down to it they all carefully consider the best path and then follow it. There is a fairly positive aspect to most of the inhabitants of the world - even the cruelty and betrayals are at least justified in the minds of those who perpetrate them, making the characters seem more real (but perhaps a bit too idealized).
As I mentioned, the book is divided into sections interspersed with interludes. These interludes tie into the story indirectly or give you information about the world in general, and are short enough that they don't detract from the main plot. The book's structure in general is very nice - everything from the art inside the book to the section title pages makes the book seem somehow more solid. Of most note is the short final section, which picks up on several unresolved threads and manages to build an incredible amount of excitement for upcoming books. You won't know exactly what's going on by the final page, but you'll certainly hunger for more.
All in all, The Way of Kings is an enjoyable read, but I need to read further books in the series before I can be sure how I feel about it. Sanderson's stories are structured in such a way that it's hard to really judge them until you know how (and whether) it all came together, and that simply hasn't happened yet. There is a lot of potential, and he hasn't let me down in the past, but I'm not quite ready to anoint The Stormlight Archive as the Next Big Fantasy Series just yet.(less)
Warbreaker is a highly entertaining book, and a worthy addition to Brandon Sanderson's resume, but I have to be honest - it all feels a bit too famili...moreWarbreaker is a highly entertaining book, and a worthy addition to Brandon Sanderson's resume, but I have to be honest - it all feels a bit too familiar. We've got a city ruled by living gods, a betrothed and politically savvy princess manipulating a city from within, a naive girl thrust into politics she has no place in, conflicts with priests and religion, an enigmatic magic user, and more. Stop me if you've heard this one.
The thing is, Warbreaker has a lot of structural similarities to Sanderson's other work (in many ways the main city of T'Telir is a lot like readers might have imagined Elantis before its fall). Even the magic system plays a similar role, one more of background than the main action as in Mistborn. As the review title implies, Warbreaker often feels like Elantris retold, only much better.
The story has four primary viewpoint characters: two princesses, one long betrothed to the powerful god king of a neighboring land, and the other who is unexpectedly sent in her place; one of the living gods in his court; and one Awakener with a sentient sword. You might expect that the last of these would be the "main character" (after all, talking swords are cool), but the story itself is pretty light on action and heavy on intrigue and inter-personal relationships. In true Sanderson fashion, you may like or hate the characters at first, but they will all grow on you in the end.
Indeed, character development is the strongest point of Warbreaker. While there's no one quite as cool as Vin, there are four solid viewpoint characters that are far less one-dimensional than those in Elantris, with an interesting supporting cast as well. Some of the themes are occasionally a bit heavy-handed - not surprisingly given the author's background, religious discussion is right near the top of the list, but the role-reversal of the "perfect" princess and her irreverent sister takes the cake. It doesn't make the story any less entertaining, just perhaps a bit more obvious.
I mentioned Awakeners, the name for the users of Warbreaker's magic system. As Sanderson's magic systems go, this is probably the least interesting to see in action, simply because the powers are so limited (for the most part, users can "Awaken" inanimate objects to perform simple tasks, such as ropes binding their enemies). Naturally, though, the background it provides the world is both interesting and vital to the plot. Just don't expect to be wowed by amazing feats of Awakening.
If you like Sanderson's other work, you will enjoy Warbreaker. The plot and characters are interesting, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing, and it's a fun world to read about. Plus, it's a standalone book, so you don't have to wait a few years to find out what happens. There's plenty going on in these 600 pages, from the (somewhat misleading) prologue right down to the satisfying ending.(less)
Mistborn was an action-packed heist story, and its follow-up, The Well of Ascension, combined political drama and an excellent mystery. Naturally, The...moreMistborn was an action-packed heist story, and its follow-up, The Well of Ascension, combined political drama and an excellent mystery. Naturally, The Hero of Ages is a philosophical examination of the world of Mistborn. Would you have expected anything less?
Much like The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages keeps a fairly slow pace throughout, and while politics are no longer central to the plot, sieges and negotiations very much are. Combined with certain characters’ tendency to wax philosophical for pages on end, it’s tempting to criticize this book for being perhaps a bit self-indulgent. You can almost see Sanderson telling the reader “wow, I came up with this awesome idea, let me tell you about it!”
Now, if you’re into that sort of thing, or you just like having all the answers at the end of your epic fantasy series, then you will love this book. If not, you probably hated Well of Ascension and stopped reading anyway. But the brilliance of The Hero of Ages is that even if the book itself may not be on par with Mistborn, the conclusions it reaches make the entire series that much better. It wasn’t hard to guess that this trilogy would have an epic finale, but what’s surprising is just how many of your assumptions are turned on their head before all is said and done.
Rest assured that this book ends the trilogy, and ends it well. There are a handful of unanswered questions, none of which are relevant to the plot, but generally this book will answer every question you asked and quite a few you didn’t realize you should have been asking. It continues in the Mistborn tradition of having the characters try to figure out the plot as the readers do (which causes some of the philosophical rambling), and does not disappoint.
In the end, The Hero of Ages is a solid book, but by itself probably not quite equal to Mistborn. But as a conclusion to the trilogy, it is nothing short of amazing. You will want to re-read the first two books after reading this one, and when you do you will be astounded at the number of clues Sanderson dropped into the story. Some were obviously important, but many read like the author was saying “I know something you don’t know” – and those are great. I could not have asked for a more worthwhile ending to an excellent trilogy.(less)
Mistborn was a fun read with a slightly wacky heist plot and some very charismatic and fun-to-read characters, and a large number of great fight scene...moreMistborn was a fun read with a slightly wacky heist plot and some very charismatic and fun-to-read characters, and a large number of great fight scenes. Its follow-up, The Well of Ascension, takes a big risk by changing things up entirely. With the main plot resolved, the book begins almost aimlessly, making the reader ask why it even exists - a question that will not be answered until the trilogy is complete.
Looked at that way, Well of Ascension could be seen as a failure. The optimistic rebels and amazing fight scenes have been largely replaced with scholarly musings and political maneuvering. Where the book succeeds, though, is in continuing Mistborn's riveting storyline. In the end, the first book serves almost as a prologue: it gives some hints as to what's coming, but they will only recognized after you've seen the story resolved, and it does little more than set up the premise of the "real" story.
So, is Well of Ascension a good book? Absolutely. The brilliance of the Mistborn series is that it keeps you guessing from start to finish - as Kelsier says, there's always another secret. The Well of Ascension, despite being the middle book in a trilogy, succeeds as a fantastic mystery story. The familiar narrative provided at the beginning of each chapter is the basis of the plot this time around, instead of merely informing it. And like the first book, Well of Ascension answers most of the questions it asks, with the notable exception of the Big Question at the end (hint: buy book 3!).
I've criticized Well of Ascension's story and characters as compared to the first book, but they are not actually much worse, just entirely different. If political maneuvering and sieges aren't your thing, you might find yourself bored by what is ostensibly the main plot of the book. The characters, however, remain as strong as ever.
Well of Ascension is also a much darker book than its predecessor, placing itself firmly into the Empire Strikes Back position of the trilogy. This book is not about a happy-go-lucky band of thieves, it's about survival. These characters have a lot on their plate, and their struggles are what make the story compelling.
The unfortunate truth is that the Well of Ascension, as the middle book in the trilogy, tells a story that will remain somewhat incomplete until you've finished the series. Things have to get worse before they get better, and mysteries have to appear before they can be solved. The book does an admirable job of advancing the epic plot of Mistborn while remaining self-contained, but the true experience will have to wait a few more months.(less)
Elantris, Brandon Sanderson's debut novel, is a story of a fallen city (Elantris) which was, up until ten years ago, populated with nearly immortal an...moreElantris, Brandon Sanderson's debut novel, is a story of a fallen city (Elantris) which was, up until ten years ago, populated with nearly immortal and generally benevolent demigods. The story begins with one of the three point of view characters being thrown into Elantris, which is now the final resting place of the zombielike Elantrians who cannot die. The catch is they also cannot heal, and the pain of even minor injuries invariably draws them to madness, with gibbering Elantrians lining the streets.
The premise of the book is interesting, a failed magic system based on runic symbols that stopped working in the cataclysm that caused Elantris to fall. It is somewhat strange for a fantasy magic system, especially one as interesting as is described here, to be nonfunctional in the story. Indeed, the Elantrian main character, Raoden, is faced with the puzzle of how to fix this broken system, and how to restore hope to the utterly defeated Elantrians.
But Raoden's story is only a third of the book. Sanderson follows a strict rotation of three points of view, and the near-perfect prince Raoden is only the first. His bride to be, Sarene, a slightly more flawed but still pretty perfect character, begins the story legally wed to Raoden though she has never met him (and doesn't know he has been thrown into Elantris). She is a strong, fairly interesting character with a few significant insecurities, but her main plotline does come across as a bit weak. Her fairly heavy-handed political machinations are a bit unbelievable, though she has the most character interaction, and many of the characters in Elantris are quite fun to read about.
Predictably, there is a romance angle between Raoden and Sarene, though it features a surprising number of standard romantic comedy sequences. Though they are not nearly as blatant as in your average chick flick, the romantic arc is fairly predictable, though it still manages to be sweet and even uplifting.
The third point of view character is certainly the most interesting from a personality standpoint - Hrathen, a high-ranked priest of a religion looking to convert the masses around Elantris, manages to be a convincingly sympathetic villain. His motives are relatively pure (his task is to convert the people before an imminent invasion that will result in the slaughter of non-believers), and his internal conflicts and justifications only grow more interesting as the story goes on. He is a contradiction, a priest with little true faith, but a firm basis in the logic of his religion and his task.
All in all, the story in Elantris has a little bit of something for everyone - mystery, intrigue, romance, philosophy, even a big logic puzzle. The writing is good but not great, especially compared to Sanderson's Mistborn novels, and some of the plot points could have been dealt with more smoothly. A few of the plot twists appear to exist simply for the sake of being plot twists, and some (though not I) complain that the characters feel too modern for the setting.
If you're a Sanderson fan, Elantris is worth a read (and if you're not, read Mistborn and come back when you are). It's a good story, even if the presentation isn't perfect, and it stands on its own as a complete plot. You may not like all three main characters, but you're practically bound to like at least one, and the others grow on you. And there's no denying that the setting is really cool (Raoden is, after all, basically a zombie hero).(less)
The Final Empire, the first book in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, is a success on a number of levels. The premise is that of a world where the...moreThe Final Empire, the first book in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, is a success on a number of levels. The premise is that of a world where the standard issue peasant-turned-hero failed, taking a novel spin on that basic story. The magic system is brilliant in its simplicity. And the storytelling is refreshingly open and easy to connect with.
Mistborn's world is one of ash and depression, the product of 1000 years under an immortal tyrant who long ago saved the world. Despite the depressing world, the main characters are surprisingly optimistic and fun to read. The Mistborn the title refers to are those rare people who can use the eight basic powers of Allomancy (and a few others), the series' main magic system. Most Allomancers are limited to a single one of these powers, and the story opens with a Mistborn hero gathering a group of lesser Allomancers to overthrow and rob their immortal ruler.
Mistborn's story is nothing if not unpredictable, though, and things soon get a lot more complicated. The beauty of the story is that, unlike most stories (whether they be books, movies, video games, or what have you), Mistborn makes the reader feel invested in the many mysteries and secrets contained within at all times. Just when you find yourself thinking "hey, maybe then can do X!" a character tends to try exactly that (and sometimes it even works!). Instead of asking a question and leaving it unanswered until the big, final payoff, Mistborn analyzes these questions like people do in real life, and it makes for a fun read.
Mistborn has a fine story, but equally fine are the action scenes. Allomancy revolves around metals, both as fuel for allomantic abilities and as the basis of some of those abilities. It is amazing just how much mileage Sanderson gets out of the relatively simple abilities to push and pull metallic objects directly towards or away from a given allomancer. His combat scenes are vivid and exciting, and he never seems to run out of cool ideas on how to use his system. If you're a fan of fantasy action, you'll be hard pressed not to like the fights in Mistborn.
The premise isn't the only part of Mistborn that seems to have been written as a reaction to standard fantasy procedure. Despite being the first book in a trilogy, Mistborn: The Final Empire stands alone as a novel just fine. It sets up a sequel, but as a follow-up, not a continuation of the plot. It leaves some important unanswered questions, but the basic storyline concludes quite satisfactorily.
Mistborn is well worth a read because it's fun, it's cool, and it won't leave you hanging or make you feel like you've wasted your time. It's not the deepest novel ever written or anything, it's just a wholly enjoyable read. It has action, it has intrigue, it has romance, it has twists, it has a 16-year-old girl kicking ass in her underwear - what more could anyone ask for?(less)
Red Seas Under Red Skies is the somewhat surprising name of book 2 of the Gentleman Bastard series, the first book of which is The Lies of Locke Lamor...moreRed Seas Under Red Skies is the somewhat surprising name of book 2 of the Gentleman Bastard series, the first book of which is The Lies of Locke Lamora. I say it's surprising because, if you've read the first book, you'll know that Locke Lamora doesn't seem to know anything about sailing, which the title implies the book will be about. Indeed, not only is the book about sailing, Locke's complete inexperience on the seas is a major theme.
The story picks up where Lies of Locke Lamora left off, but like the first book this one is for the most part a self-contained story. There are certainly callbacks to the previous book, especially in terms of the enemies Locke made in that book, but you won't be lost if you haven't read it. (That said, both books are really good, so there's no reason not to read the first one first.) Once again we have Locke involved in a grand heist story that quickly spirals out of control, and we spend most of the book wondering how he'll get himself out of this mess this time. And enjoyable, if you are anything like me, the answers are often not at all what you would expect.
While I enjoyed Red Seas Under Red Skies nearly as much as its prequel, a few things didn't sit right with me. The book opens with a teaser scene that has a solid payoff, but not one solid enough (or important enough) to justify starting the book with it. It's kind of random. This book also jumps around chronologically like the first book did, but the hard and fast pattern is abandoned halfway through and it seems a bit chaotic. (That said, the jumps in time do an exquisite job of asking and answering just the right questions to keep the reader at peak interest.) And while I have no idea if the naval terminology was correct or not, there was enough of it to be a bit annoying. It could have been much worse, and I'm glad I had my Kindle to confirm that "larboard" actually is an archaic synonym of "port," but still. I hope this series doesn't grow too focused on piracy.
There are two main plot threads at work here, though it often feels more like three. We have the basic heist, which is somewhat reminiscent of Ocean's 11 in terms of its general feel, if not the size of its team. The big twist in that plotline was so surprising it probably would have felt cheap, had this been the only plot line, but as it was, it was pretty awesome. I love that Lynch can so effortlessly surprise me over and over. The second plot thread is divided into the sailing bits (which I'll get to) and the involuntary alliance bits. The latter is vaguely reminiscent of the Gray King thread in the first book, but not in a bad way.
Though it's less than half of the book, the core of the story here involves Locke on a boat. Aside from the naval terminology making my head spin, these are the best parts of actual story. Lynch seems to know which threads are all about the big reveal, and which are about character growth, and this is very much the latter. It's a story of piracy, fast talking, love, loss, betrayal, and pretty much every other pirate novel cliche, but it works. Unlike the rest of the book, it is a bit predictable, but you can't have everything I suppose.
I want to make one point I believe I passed on making in my review of The Lies of Locke Lamora. I suppose it's a minor spoiler for the beginning of that book, but oh well. Locke is a priest as well as a thief, in fact a priest of the thief god. Had anyone told me this before reading the books, I'm not sure I'd have thought it could really be pulled off, but in many ways it's my favorite part of his character. It's just such a fantastic monkey wrench thrown into the whole thief cliche, and I love it.
The good news is, two books in, the Gentleman Bastard series is still going strong. The fact that these books have been so self-contained so far is very nice since, although there are a few major unresolved issues left at the end of this book, the wait for the next one is not going to make me lose much sleep. It feels more like a serial than an epic, and I'm excited to read more of Locke's adventures whenever they happen to be printed. I'm not a huge fan of the whole "new author immediately starts writing a new series" thing, but Scott Lynch named his lead character after my favorite character in my favorite game series, so I'll give him a pass on that one.(less)
Having just branched out and read not one but two more or less random books (this and The Name of the Wind), I can't help but want to compare them. I...moreHaving just branched out and read not one but two more or less random books (this and The Name of the Wind), I can't help but want to compare them. I don't feel that would be entirely fair to The Lies of Locke Lamora, but I need to get it out of my system. The two books are actually surprisingly similar in structure: both alternate between past and present, for instance. The difference is, one of was designed to frustrate me, while the other was designed for my enjoyment. And that's this one.
The Lies of Locke Lamora follows the exploits of the title character and his crew of thieves. Locke himself is quite talented in many respects, though he's far from invincible. He's not much of a fighter, and when he fails, he tends to fail spectacularly. He is noble to the point of disbelief, but then, that's how I like my heroes. The rest of his crew is nearly as endearing. The concept has some shades of Mistborn, but this isn't a book about clever magic systems or toppling gods. It's rather mundane, and in a refreshing twist for modern fantasy, real magic is both rare and powerful. And outside the hands of our heroes.
That is the aspect of the story that drew me in the most: Locke and his Gentlemen Bastards are generally at a disadvantage, working with less information and less real power than their enemies. They don't lack for material resources, but there's a lot of using cleverness to escape from dire situations, and I eat that shit up.
The book is set in the city of Camorr, which is your basic fantasy city divided into the side for nobles, and the crime-ridden side filled with commoners, thieves, brothels, and so on. Despite its lack of originality, it is a setting filled with interesting little touches. For instance, the city has many structures and such made of an unbreakable material called elderglass. Will this material's unknown origins become a major plot point over the planned seven-book series? Who knows. But they certainly give the city a unique character, along with an alarming obsession with sharks.
Lynch does an excellent job keeping the reader guessing, which I also like. The information isn't always there to guess what will happen, but many plot threads are laid down and take an unexpected, but interesting path. I particularly liked how the two main conflicts eventually interweave, though again, that's exactly the sort of thing I'm a sucker for.
All in all, I don't have much to complain about (and therefore not much to really say beyond "I liked it!"). Though in fairness to my Name of the Wind review, I should point out that this book does include a large, perhaps gratuitous, amount of modern-day swearing. Turns out that doesn't bother me as much when there aren't a host of other things to nitpick. Also, conversations regarding whores are fairly uncommon, so that helps.
If you like your heroes being heroic, despite being on the wrong side of the law, and even in rather dark situations, this is the book for you. It is the first book in a relatively new series (first published in 2006), but it's very much a self-contained story. I wouldn't have even known it was part of a series if no one had told me, in fact. I was not disappointed, and I imagine you won't be either.(less)
I sometimes like to leap right into my criticisms with these reviews, so I can end them on a high note, but I feel like it's important to say a few th...moreI sometimes like to leap right into my criticisms with these reviews, so I can end them on a high note, but I feel like it's important to say a few things up front. The Name of the Wind was a good book, a good story that I couldn't put down until it was done. I enjoyed it, and certain parts of it (such as Rothfuss's portrayal of a 15-year-old who's too smart for his own good trying to understand women) ring especially true. However, this book may as well have been designed to frustrate me as a reader. So with that in mind, let me explain.
The basic premise of the book, and indeed the entire planned trilogy, is the telling of the story of a legendary character named Kvothe (pronounced "quothe") who has retired from his adventures and is trying to live a normal life. However, most of the actual story is told by Kvothe himself, in the first person. This construct lets Rothfuss get away with a few narrative tricks that may otherwise have felt a bit cheap. However, framed as they are, they feel like quirks of Kvothe's storytelling and fit in quite nicely. The interruptions in his story, which take us back to the here and now, are so refreshing that I actually found myself more excited to see a chapter marked "interlude" than not.
The first, and most serious, problem with the book is that this is very much the first book in a trilogy. It feels more like the first third of a book. There's no build up to a climax, and the story's ending point seems almost arbitrary. There isn't really any connection between the Kvothe of the internal story and the Kvothe we see in the present, either. After getting a small taste of his abilities early on, it's disappointing to see him learn a completely different set of them in his own tale.
The tone of the book, and to a lesser degree the writing style, also irk me. Early on, I was reminded of Exalted, and looking back it's not just the basic mythology that echoes that game. The language and tenor of the world also feel like they were pulled from a White Wolf sourcebook's backstory. The word "whores" seems to slip into almost every conversation, and having read the Wheel of Time, the use of modern epithets here seems almost lazy. The world isn't full of depravity or anything, it's just a bit dark and vulgar for my tastes.
I also felt like Rothfuss pulled some sleight of hand on the story. We know from the start that Kvothe attended the University where he learned at least some of his skills, but I really didn't expect that he'd still be in the middle, or perhaps even the beginning, of learning there by the end of the book. Parts of the story, particularly three years Kvothe spent in a large city, seem irrelevant to the larger tale, included primarily because Kvothe is being thorough. There are two books left that could prove me wrong, but it felt much like the first hour of The Postman, which wasted 1/3 of the movie setting up one scene at the end (though in the case of The Name of the Wind, the setup isn't even paid off in this book.)
The story is blatantly trying to not be "one of those stories," an idea that was once clever, but I can now only stomach in small doses. The number of times the phrase "that only happens in stories" or its equivalent shows up is embarrassing. Maybe I'm going too far here, but this and other aspects of the writing make me almost feel the author's arrogance. It's like he thinks he's above giving people what they want. Of course, it does work in the book's favor at times. You expect Kvothe to be heroic, and for the most part he is anything but. He's not an antihero, or a terrible person misremembered as heroic, he just fails as much as he succeeds, if not more. Whenever there's an obvious scene of triumph coming up, it gets turned on its head. Which again, is good in small doses, but is overdone here.
All that sounds much worse than it really is. Like I said, it's an enjoyable story, particularly the parts at the University. Kvothe's friends and enemies are interesting, and his "romance" (if it can be called that) is fun to read, if a bit frustrating for 15-year-old Kvothe's thickness. It did seem odd that every major character Kvothe interacts with aside from his teachers and drinking buddies is an attractive woman, especially given the 10:1 male to female ratio at the school. The less said about what I think that says about the author, the better.
If nothing else, The Name of the Wind has some great bits of dialog. One in particular, concerning a dragon, made me laugh out loud, and almost got submitted as a site quote. Don't be put off that this book wasn't exactly my thing - I suspect anyone who loves the world of Exalted and similar mythologies will feel much more at home in this book than I did. Still, I am left wondering if I missed something, based on the recommendations and Amazon ratings that lead me to read the book in the first place. I kind of wished I just waited for the whole trilogy.(less)