Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Name of the Wind -- Patrick Rothfuss

I don't usually sit down and read a book of over 650 pages, but I'd heard good things about The Name of the Wind, so I thought I'd make an exception. Do I regret it? Well, yes and no. How's that for a straight answer?

Some of my problems with the novel are just picky stuff. For example, I believe that "all right" is two words and that "alright" is just wrong. But I'm an old English teacher and hard to deal with on things like that. I also don't much care for hissing the unhissable, like this: "'What?' he hissed." Or this: "'Don't be stupid,' she hissed."

As a staunch defender of adverbs, I shouldn't object to them, but Rothfuss, like J. K. Rowling, can't resist using them as speech tags. So you get people saying things softly, distractedly, dubiously, sharply, and so on. After 650 pages that sort of thing can wear on a fella.

Finally, I knew going in that this was the first book in a trilogy. I just didn't realize it was going to end with so many unanswered questions. I should have; I just didn't. What we really have here, as the protagonist says on page 654, is "the groundwork . . . . A foundation of story to build upon."

There's more than that, of course. Here's the deal. Kvothe, a legend in his own time, has withdrawn to a small town and become innkeeper under an assumed name, for reasons I suppose we'll learn in future installments. Into town comes Chronicler, whose intention is to tell Kvothe's life story. Kvothe agrees to tell the story, finally, and what we have is what he tells Chronicler in a single day. The story turns out to be -- Harry Potter.

Well, that's not fair, but there's a lot of truth in it. I'd say about 400 pages of the book are devoted to Kvothe's adventures in the university, where he makes a couple of good friends and a dangerous enemy, takes classes from a group of eccentric masters, one of whom seems to have it in for him, and discovers that he has powers far beyond those of most men. He needs the most eccentric of the masters to bring it out of him, but that's something else for the next book. He always has in the back of his mind the murder of his parents by some mysterious and powerful group called the Chandrian.

Rothfuss, I believe, began writing his book before Rowling brought us Harry Potter, but the similarities are seem pretty strong to me. I could be wrong, of course, and there are plenty of differences.

Kvothe's adventures are entertaining, and the mysteries surrounding him are enough to make me curious about what happens next. Which, unfortunately, won't be revealed for a long time. Though Rothfuss says all three books were completed before the first one sold, the second, which was to come out this April, has been delayed for a year. Rothfuss says he's a heavy reviser (having revised the first volume literally hundreds of times), and I can certainly understand the reasons he hasn't been able to concentrate on revisions. When he does get around to doing them, maybe he'll omit some adverbs. And some hissing.


Fred Blosser said...

Although I have a perverse fondness for stories in which characters hiss the unhissable (or rasp the unraspable), this doesn't look like my cup of coffee. Then again, neither is Rowling, although my wife and daughters are big Harry Potter fans.

Sam said...

I own this, but have yet to read it. I'm excited by your description, but also put off. It drove me nuts to read the Harry Potter series because of all the adverbial junk. Stephen King said, "the road to hell is paved with adverbs," and I don't hate them completely, but it's annoying to see them run rampant in dialogue.

Unknown said...

He doesn't use the adverbial tag on every "said," and after a while, I just ignore the adverbs. They don't really bother me all that much.