Once in a while a story comes along that demonstrates why the fantasy series is such a wonderful thing, a story which justifies every single word written, and so far, two books in, Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles is one of those stories. Unlike the great series like the Lord of the Rings or the Wheel of Time, this forgoes the fellowship-style cast of characters and viewpoints for a single narrative, following a single character through his journey. That character is Kvothe, called Kingkiller, Bloodless, Lightfinger, Sixstring, and the first volume in the series is The Name of the Wind.
At over 600 pages in paperback this is undoubtedly a hefty tome, but it’s one of those books that as a reader you don’t want to finish; the vast word count means that Rothfuss is able to take his time with the story, pacing it out and giving the plot and the characters time to grow and develop. Many an author has tried this without success, but Rothfuss writes with such grace that it’s a joy to read each page. From the very first page, a prologue that’s written so beautifully and constructed so cleverly that it sets up the whole story, he brings characters and places to life with the skill and deft touch of a veteran author. Amazingly, this is his debut novel.
It’s set up from an early stage as the beginning of a longer chronicle, as the homely tavern setting gives way to Kvothe’s retelling of his own story. Told from his perspective it’s a disarming blend of hubris and humility, his obvious pride in his skill and achievements balanced against a self-deprecation and honesty that’s rare to find in a fantasy hero. Through his eyes we watch as the precocious young Kvothe grows up quickly and sets out on the path to becoming the hero, the legend that he’s destined to become; of course legends being what they are, there’s a certain amount of wry humour as he separates out fact from fiction in the retelling of his tale. Never giving too much away, always keeping us guessing, the story gradually unfolds over the length of the book as we learn more about the world in which it’s set and the systems and structures that make it work.
This is one of those books that rewards the reader with every turn of the page. It’s a clever, twisty, brilliantly-plotted story that keeps you always wanting to know more, while beautiful, lyrical prose imbues everything with such depth and realism as to create a vivid world that you just want to live in and relish. With a second novel released and a new novella about to crest the horizon, there’s plenty more for the hooked reader to enjoy, but the only downside to this book is that so much of the story is yet to be written. Already a modern masterpiece, when the Chronicles are finished it’s going to be a monumental body of work.