Hirondelle's Reviews > The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
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May 12, 11

bookshelves: fantasy, mary-sue-land
Read from May 09 to 12, 2011

I do not know how to assign a numerical rating to this. As Sheryl Crow complained "if it makes you happy, it can´t be that bad". But it makes me happy and yes, I think it is bad, sorry. This was a good read, it made me keep turning the pages and wanting to just go sit down reading it till I finished it. But it is, for my taste and from my point of view, bad - the writing, the plotting, the characterization.

First the good. It´s a massive brick of a novel, seems to be designed to be one third of a story arc told in flashback, with almost all plot resolution left dangling, many unexplained actions and lots of foreshadowing for things which will happen on the next two thirds of the story. I have a major weakness for those elements so for me it counts as good, lots of fodder for fans to try to decipher and predict.Based on just this first book, I guess there are many many hints of plot left dangling to be explained on the next books. Also counting as a plus (for me) it is sort of a growing-up story. And an element I like very much and did not expect, a school-university story.

It´s epic as well, large in scope, a literally super-special main character. Lots of familiar tropes, characters and storytelling tricks, from standard fantasyland EFP ( Smith´s apprentices, magicians, professional travelers one must not offend, redheads), but also more recent ones (Joss Wheddon is sort of the new Tolkien at least in influence to derived products). This setting also reminded me a bit of Sandman, particularly the Worlds' End arch - the inn setting, the story structure, even the main story arch, while chronologically flowing seemed episodic. Also the tone is very american-comics, the way some action scenes are set up, some of the pomposity.

But it is just that pomposity, the cheesiness which is precisely my beef with this. Cheesy might be in the eye of the beholder, so I better give examples of what I think is cheesy, but keep in mind these are just random examples. My problem is not with just those one lines or paragraphs flawing a whole book, it´s that the whole book is written like that and my examples are just random things I am just picking. And taste is subjective: some people might think it cheesy, some people think it is thrilling, so you decide for yourself. And if you think it is thrilling, of course you should read the whole thing, plenty more on it. But if you have a problem with these examples, then keep in mind this is the author´s voice and is prevalent throughout the book.

Right from the first pages and quoted on blurb "I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me." Hmm, no. As a friend pointed out, loved women seems to be on the same level of accomplishment as talking to Gods or writing songs which make minstrels weep. The verb tread can be past or present, right? Breaks the rhytm and logic. And I have a hard time not rolling my eyes at a character who says something like that of himself and means it, without the author in some way acknowledging to the reader *winkwinknudgenudge* what a monstrously vain windbag the character saying that is.

Other examples of what I did not like in the writing, the endless foreshadowing as a way to end a chapter ("In hindsight, it was as foolish as taunting an angry bull. And, if I had to guess, I'd say this particular piece of insolence was the main reason Ambrose eventually tried to kill me.", "I watched her sleep with the calm contentment of a boy who has no idea of how foolish he is, or what unexpected tragedies the following day will bring.", "I should have been more cautious. I had talked too much. I had said too little."), the odd rhytm of the episodes, some just half a page long, and of the storytelling in general in that some episodes are tacked on unlikely ways (view spoiler). There is a lot of repetition, both intentional and (probably) not intentional - but both quite annoying. For example: chapters frequently start with weather :
prologue "It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts." Then two pages ahead chapter 1 starts "It was felling night and the usual crowd had gathered at the Waystone Inn.".
Chapters often start with Kvothen waking:
Chapter 28, "The next day I came blearily awake to the sound of the hour being struck."
Chapter 34 not long after that starts "The next morning I blearily awoke after two hours of sleep, bundled myself onto one of the wagons and proceeded to drowse away the morning."
Then there are clunky sentences "It's all a chase, and when the race is done, I think I pity women chaste who run." which just do not strike me as good prose (Seriously, shouldn´t the adjective be before the noun? or is chaste serving another purpose? I do not get that sentence!).
No, the writing does not work for me.

But then there are the characters, or better said character because only Kvothe really has prime time. His personality is not always consistent but not in a way that indicates an intentionally unreliable narrator (though I expect one of the big plot twists for future books will be a reveal of Kvothe having lied about something crucial. It is that type of story). I will give examples (view spoiler). And then there are the women characters. This really does not pass the Blechdel test but without even getting there (view spoiler).

I think in all, while I liked the ambition to the story and it is a favorite type of longwinded not-too-demanding story, I do not have much respect for the mechanics of the storytelling here. I will read the sequels, or at least the next sequel, but I will definitely wait to read it when I have a chance to read it for cheap (paperback coming out, probably, library not an option) and save that read for when i am in the right mood for cheesy.

PS - With major spoilers for the next book (seriously, you are warned) a awesome review of the sequel which has many very relevant points for what is not good (in my and the reviewer´s opinion) with Rothfuss´s books : http://ferretbrain.com/articles/artic... and a topic close to my heart, the double standards in judging male and female Mary Sues.
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Reading Progress

05/09/2011 page 100
15.0% "Lots of people praise this for being well written. Maybe it improves, because so far, it´s not bad, but the writing is a bit pompous, a bit clunky and stereotypical. Interesting universe so far, but frankly was expecting the second coming of ASOIAF or something."
05/10/2011 page 300
45.0% "And I am liking it, despite thinking it is very very cheesy (the purple prose, the mary sue-ishness, etc)."

Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by j (last edited May 23, 2011 08:37AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

j thumbs up for this review! you said everything i was thinking, except i listened to the audiobook and had trouble citing examples in my review. don't understand the near-universal orgiastic acclaim for this one...

the worst scene for me in terms of cheesiness was when he went to buy his first pair of shoes and the kindly cobbler gave him a foot massage. i thought it was going to turn into a porno.


Hirondelle I know! It was ridiculous - and nevermind how on the scene before he seems to be able to impersonate an aristocratic brat having a fit all the while without giving thought to his naked (Callused I presume!) feet. Nevermind his explanation for not having clothes, but feet which do not wear shoes ever, would surely look different. Nitpicking probably.

And it fits the Mary Sue definition - apart from occasional meanies and baddies, most of everybody who meets our Kvothe goes out of their way to be kind to him - the guys giving him a ride to the city (and offering him a place on their farm), the random stranger checking on him after he was beat, the cobbler, the wife of the merchant in the caravan where he bought a seat, and so many others...


Marie You linked to ferretbrain too! (sorry, I just don't know how I found that site in the first place, and I've never seen it linked to by any friends in my usual forums) :D

This is a great, detailed review. Great points about Whedon and the convenience-factor for Kvothe (even as aside from the Sue-ness of him)


Ryan Moblo you used a sheryl crow line to dis this book?


Jeff Wells "It's all a chase, and when the race is done, I think I pity women chaste who run."

Oh come on, how do you not get this sentence? It's a play on words! He's saying he pities women who don't fool around before they get hitched (or ever, if they never manage to get hitched). They run the race of life, they've got all sorts of guys chasing them, but they stay chaste and miss out on all of the fun. The specific choice and positioning of the word "chaste" is to maintain the running and chasing theme in the rhyme.

Also, I'm pretty sure he's breaking tense with the "tread by moonlight" line, considering "others fear to speak of" is clearly present tense. So, I'll agree with you on that one.

Personally I don't get all the hangups on proper form and prose and whatnot, if you enjoyed the book enough that you couldn't put it down, why find reasons to hate it? But then again I actually manage to enjoy a lot of amateur fiction, in which you must ignore a significant amount of very bad writing to get anything good out of it, so I guess that's just me.


Hirondelle I can not put down an open can of pringles after a sensible ammount either - it does not mean I think it is good cooking or healthy and I regret it as soon as I finish because my stomach knows best. So this book -> Pringles! Not an item I recommend even if I had trouble putting it down.

And yes, the writing is appalling IMO. And besides the positioning of "chaste" shouldn´t it have been "ran" rather than run? Nevermind it all, those were just examples, I found the writing awful, stupidly contrived grammar which often seemed wrong.


Anna Great review, that is mostly what I would have said. But what is the GGK syndrome?


Anna Also, your link to a review of the sequel leads to a "502 – Bad Gateway" (error message) website.


Anna "Cheesy" is my main problem with the book too. I actually did enjoy reading it too (except where I got too annoyed about the tone and lack of coherent plot) - it is cosy and gets familiar after a while. I may also read the sequel even though I felt like it is low quality literature except in a few brilliant passages - a tiny percentage of the 720ish pages. It is captivating like an oddball TV drama that goes on for years. I am glad you mentioned both the good and bad aspects of the book.


Leqaf I have problem with your first example. That was not him showing off his accomplishments but introducing himself through his reputation. The whole book is about telling the real story behind the legend. For example, (SPOILER)we later find out he was not the one who burned down Trebon but the one who saved it.


message 11: by Eric (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eric Great review! I had a very similar reaction. I have the same question as Anna about GGK Syndrome - what is it? I'm glad to now know about the Bechdel Test - great criteria for evaluating media.


Andrew I like this review. I disagree to an extent, but I still like your review. You didn't criticize people who enjoyed it. I enjoy this book. I don't think it's a particularly well written or impressive literary work, but for me it is enjoyable. Just like fast food and alcohol are enjoyable. You don't want to only read this book, because it's terrible for your literary health. That being said, sometimes it's nice to unwind on the couch with a bag of doritos and a bad book. I enjoyed this, and think it has its place in my reading life because I don't just read as a mental exercise but as a way to relax. And for that, it holds value to me, and was worth buying and reading (admittedly I did wait until it and its sequel were on paperback). I disagree about this book being terrible, but recognize that that is because I was looking for junk food not a balanced meal (if you'll pardon the extended metaphor).


Maximiliano Narváes This, 1000 times this, exactly how I feel about this book


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