It seems that every year now the hype machine fires up in praise of at least one new epic fantasy series. Last year, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch seemed to get the most attention. The only trouble is that at over 500 pages a book, one can only commit to so many of these enormous series. This year’s most likely candidate for new star in the fantasy firmament is Patrick Rothfuss, who weighs in with The Name of the Wind, the first book in The Kingkiller Chronicles. Is this one worth your time?
A summary of the plot will remind you of other fantasies. Young Kvothe travels with his family as part of a troupe of players. When disaster descends on their group one day, he must move on, to survive first on the mean streets of an enormous city, and then in the treacherous world of a magical university. If you read fantasy, you’ve seen some of these concepts before.
But Rothfuss makes this book special with sheer storytelling skill. Young Kvothe’s story is told by an older Kvothe, hiding in the country as an innkeeper for reasons which for now remain unclear. Tracked down by an equally mysterious archivist known as the Chronicler, Kvothe is convinced to tell his story over the inn’s evening fires. Every detail is spot on in a beautifully-realized, highly-believable fantasy world. Short chapters, an engaging lead, and plenty of excitement will help you keep the pages turning quickly. Lacking the explicit language, violence, and sex that has crept into many recent fantasy epics, this is a book that readers of all ages should be able to enjoy equally. I, for one, look forward to Rothfuss’ next volume with excitement.