Monday, June 9, 2014

Review (ok, maybe Rant): Name of the Wind


186074Title: The Name of the Wind
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Genre: Fantasy, adult fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Told in Kvothe's own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet's hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

I'm really divided on this one. It's swinging between 2-star and 4-star rating, so I called it a 3. But really it's oscillating between 2 and 4.

It's been a couple of weeks since I finished the book, and I still can't quite decide whether I like it or not. I don't particularly dislike it, and as I said in a status update, I appreciated the cleverness, but after a while I felt like the author was too self-indulgent in his own cleverness.

Examples of Cleverness Gone Wrong:

Exhibit A: "If this were a story..."
The whole novel is basically an infamous wizard telling his story to set the record straight, since half the legends about him are gross exaggerations and the other half never happened at all. At one point, the infamous wizard, Kvothe, says something along the lines of, "If this were a story, I would know exactly what to do next and I would accomplish it. But this is not a story."

Ummm...excuse me, Kvothe, but I believe this is a story. In fact, it is a story in a story in a story. Unless of course you wanted the reader to become hyper-aware that the novel was nothing but a story, in which case you succeeded.

Exhibit B: "I am brilliant. No really. Not just average brilliant but brilliant brilliant."

Kvothe thinks he's clever, and as we see during his grueling interview to get into the University, he is. But it's one thing for a main character to be clever, and another thing for the character to know he's clever, and yet another thing entirely for said character to be so convinced of his cleverness that he feels the need to mention it all the time. And I do mean all the time. I didn't make the above quote up - I just paraphrased something that's already in the novel. Yes, he does say something along those lines. My goodness.

For the record, I was cheering for him up through the grueling interview and even the infamous punishment for the incident in the library. Once he started using his reputation to propel himself places and started harping on how clever he was...to put it nicely, I stopped cheering.

Exhibit C: "I really don't want to idealize you or objectify you, but..."

The narrating Kvothe goes to so much trouble in his introduction of Denna. He fusses about how and when to introduce her, exactly which words to use, exactly which feelings and moments to highlight. He's supposedly trying not to idealize or objectify her, yet he manages to do exactly that.

Denna herself was not such a great character for me. Which brings me to major annoyance category number two:

What Made My Inner Feminist Scream Bloody Murder:

This book doesn't have many female characters in it. This wouldn't be a problem if the few girls that are in the book weren't defined by the fact that they are girls.

Let's take Denna. Other than the fact that Kvothe spends a good 50 pages thinking about how to introduce her in the oh-so-perfect-but-not-idealized light, he also spends a good deal of time talking to his friends about how oh-so-gorgeous she is and how he can't possibly ruin their friendship by asking her out because we all know what happens to guys that ask Denna out...

She proves herself resourceful at times, and she can sing like an angel. All very good things - it's not Denna herself that bothered me as much as how other characters reacted to her. The men were either ogling her, loving her from afar, putting her on a pedestal, or pretending to be helpful while hiding lecherous intent (that last one was only implied, so perhaps that one isn't quite true).

Also, Fela. She's portrayed as this weak, timid girl who can't stand up to Ambrose and needs a little kid to save her. And when Kvothe knocks on her door one night and she opens the door with a sheet wrapped around her and asks him if he wants to come in, Kvothe leaves while thinking I can't believed I turned down an offer to be in the same room as a half-dressed girl!. Really now. That made me want to slap him.

I think perhaps Devi was the only girl in this book who was resourceful, independent, and not defined by the fact that she was a girl. Although at one point, she does make a withering comment about how people expect her to be someone more imposing (implication: a man).

Other minor annoyances

Kvothe is poor.

And of course, you the reader holding a book in your hands could not possibly understand the feeling of having to give away the last penny in your pocket because you have never been so poor.

I'm willing to bet the author hasn't been so poor either.

In case you needed another reminder, because you the reader couldn't possibly have understood quite how dirt poor this kid is, he's destitute and doesn't even have a penny to his name.

Did I mention Kvothe was poor?

A second minor annoyance: I felt like there was no real overarching plot or tension that made me want to keep reading. Sure, there's the Chandrian thing, but it comes and goes and is never spoken about for hundreds of pages at a time. The petty conflict between Ambrose and Kvothe got tiresome, and the whole thing with the not-dragon was an anticlimactic end to the story.

What I liked about this book

After all that ranting, it may seem like I didn't like anything in this book, but I did say in the beginning there were some 4-star moments.

I really liked the first 200 pages or so. I loved Kvothe's parents and his teacher (whose name I am blanking out on at the moment). Kvothe's childhood and the Chandrian encounter was fascinating, and I appreciated how the author dealt with the aftermath of the Chandrian encounter. Kvothe didn't magically pick himself up and save the world - he mourned, pulled himself together very slowly (and realistically!), tried to eke out a living for himself, and then considered revenge.

I also liked Bast's scheme. It finally gave the novel a purpose, which I felt had been lacking until then. Still, it came so late and so abruptly that I am not particularly inclined to read the second book.

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8 comments:

  1. This is right on the dot for me. My friends have been raving about this book so I finally read it and...yeah. It didn't quite do it for me. I mean it was nice, quite good at certain times but for such a long ass book and how awesome Kvothe is supposed to be. I just don't see it. I also ended up giving it a 3 lol.


    Also learned that, that kind of narration isn't for me. Which is why I haven't managed to pick up the second one. For now I'm going with the excuse that I'm waiting for the third book to come out xD

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  2. Sometimes I feel this way about a book where I like aspects of it, but then there are things that REALLY bother me - and it's so hard to rate those! So, yeah, sometimes all you can do is give it a 3 and then explain why.


    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  3. I am so intrigued by this book. My manager at the library I work at keeps telling me to read it, she absolutely loved it - said she couldn't put it down. But the problems you had with it sound like annoyances that would really start to grate on me. I think I will still give this a try, at least now I know to expect certain things from this book. Thanks for the great review :)

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  4. Yeah, these are the hardest books for me to review because I have such mixed feelings. Sometimes after I write my review I realize which way I'm leaning, but that didn't happen for this one.

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  5. It is clever and well-written; there were just a lot of little things that added up for me. Maybe once you know what to expect you'll like it more!

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  6. Michelle {Book Hangovers}June 17, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    This is still on my TBR list! Just haven't found the right time to devote to reading this.
    Can't wait to see how I'll feel about it!
    Thank you for sharing! I'm glad to see some more insight on it, rather than just: "This book is awesome"
    Big Hugs
    Michelle xo

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  7. Interesting review. I read this one and its sequel a few years ago after hearing everyone rave about it. And yes, it was very readable. But I totally agree with the flaws you pointed out, and I think the lack of women (and queer people) becomes even more noticeable in the second book.

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  8. haha yeah I've been thinking I should give this series another chance but I'm probably going to wait for the third book too :)
    I'm glad I'm not alone - all my friends (read: guy friends) say this is one of their favorites and I was just not impressed.

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