I finished a book with great sadness this week. It wasn't a sad book. But I become so deeply invested in it that to finish the last page was like walking out on a relationship. I'll be back, there's a sequel on its way, but… You know. The book was The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss, number two in the King Killer Chronicles. The first book in the series was called The Name of the Wind and I picked it up on the recommendation of iPhone traitor, Andy Inatkho. I think he recommended it during Mac Break Weekly.
I was drawn to it for the same reason I was drawn to Stephen King's The Stand as a teenager. Bulk. Value. The Name of the Wind runs for more than forty-five hours and it set me back only one Audible credit. A despicable way to value a book, I know, and yet Name of the Wind is such great value that I'd be doing you, Rothfuss and Audible a disservice if I didn't pimp it out simply on its dollar metrics.
Having got that unpleasantness out of the way, allow me to gush. This is one of the best books I've read in about ten years. Not just one of the best genre titles, or fantasy novels. One of the best books, period. I'll have to qualify this of course, because I listened to rather than reading it, but having listened, I'm going to do something I almost never do and go back and buy myself a reading copy.
The narrator, Rupert Dégas, deserves a special commendation. I don't know how much they paid him, but it probably wasn't enough. He narrates the English edition, and while I understand the American narrator is very good, I just don't know how he could possibly bring the same awesome to a story which is set in a thinly disguised ye olde England. Degas' voice just seems to suit the text. And he is a great voice actor, with hundreds of different accents to draw on; useful given that although most of the book is narrated in the first person, there are hundreds of characters with speaking parts. I'm not exaggerating. Hundreds. Dégas gives each of them a life of their own. I think I miss his storytelling the way a child misses bedtime stories when they have grown too old for them.
But, he did not write the book. That was Patrick Rothfuss, and to him I say props my good man and huzzah. There was so much for me to potentially hate about this book. A redheaded hero, who plays the lute and… Well, that's enough. But Kvothe, the narrator, is also a kick arse magician and a sort of medieval ninja. The long arc of chapters where he acquired his ninja skills, slowly and painfully, was one of my favorites. The story is his biography, in effect, as told to a traveling scribe known as Chronicler. He has apparently done something awesome and terrible and is now hiding out, incognito, posing as an innkeeper in some awful village at the end of the world. Dark forces are gathering, natch. But they're doing it in the background.
Most of the story is concerned with how he got there.Rothfuss is a great writer, is obviously something of an autodidact and these books are so long that he has more than ample opportunity to indulge himself in a little showmanship about how much he knows. It never feels like info dumpage, however, and I came to look forward to these diversions as much as I did to the swordplay and the splodey.
A precis of the plot? It's Harry Potter. A remarkable kid finds out he has remarkable powers and he kicks ass with them. It's way better than that though. There's a beautifully written love interest. Er, for the ladies. And I think the thing that really sets it apart is the time Rothfuss takes to show us everything. Almost as thought we're reading in real time. It sounds potentially eye glazing, but it's not. It's hypnotic. As testimony to how much I enjoyed this novel I'm writing this out before I've finalized my Amazon Associates status, so I can't make any money off recommending it. I can only recommend that you go read it, or listen to it, because it's really that fucking good.