This book is 722 pages of exposition. The story hasn’t really even begun yet. For that reason, and because the protagonist is unbearably arrogant, I feel extremely frustrated with this book.
I feel bad for bashing the book when it was recommended to me by a good friend who was kind enough to even put it in my hands. But it’s not his fault at all that I had qualms with the story. I was also warned by my husband that I wasn’t going to like it—I probably should’ve listened to my spouse. Still, this is one of the most popular fantasy books of our time, so I had been curious about it for quite a while.
This book is basically a washed-up hero, Kvothe, just beginning to tell the story of his glory days. He starts with his charmed and then suddenly tragic (read: cliché) beginnings, and then moves on to his college days. Stories of magic school are usually highly entertaining (Harry Potter, The Magicians), but this one just felt entirely unnecessary to me. I do not give a shit what this impossibly extraordinary human did in college to get in trouble and impress people and make enemies and friends. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things; it’s clear that the real story is what he does after leaving the University. At the end of this book, I’m still 90% ignorant about the people/creatures who upset Kvothe’s life when he was young. He hasn’t gotten close to them, hasn’t even learned anything about them yet. I find that completely frustrating. Why has the author wasted my time with all this pointless backstory and awkward-as-hell love story and not moved the real story forward one whit? At least in Harry Potter we get a glimpse of Voldemort in each book, I think, and the overarching plot of his takeover is advancing book by book. The Name of the Wind is literally just backstory. I don’t even understand what the word Chandrian refers to, exactly. Is it the spider things? Is it the demon people? Is it both, somehow? I’m lost.
The most frustrating thing, though, is that the story has so much potential. This book is extremely well-written. I love the system of magic and how it actually integrates with physics and takes knowledge and energy and skill to perform. I love how nuanced and rich this fantasy world is: its histories, myths, and legends; its culture and creatures and places. One of my favorite parts of the story was at the very end, the Underthing. What a fantastic place. I wish there had been so much more of that stuff and so much more relevant story.
I think I’m supposed to feel eager to read the next book at this point. But instead I just feel pissed. I feel a lot like I did at the end of the first Magicians book; like the author has wasted my time for no good reason, and written one of the most annoying protagonists ever. The Magicians series was worth continuing with because it had a whole cast of interesting characters who grew and changed over the course of the series, and because it totally avoided cliché, or dealt with clichés with exactly the same awareness that the reader of the book would have. The Name of the Wind tried to do that in a couple of spots, but I felt it failed on the whole. Kvothe is the most cliché hero ever: white, male, orphaned, super-intelligent and gifted at absolutely everything and therefore highly arrogant, etc. And I know (because my husband has told me) that he’s never going to become a character that I care about, and he’s the only character who matters in this story. If he died, this story would cease to exist; it’s squarely about him, which I find disappointing. Knowing that, I don’t think I’ll continue on with this series.
But, now I can say I’ve read The Name of the Wind! And I really am glad for that.