Who is Kvothe? Kvothe is the main character of The Kingkiller Chronicle, a fantasy trilogy-in-progress by Patrick Rothfuss. He debuted with The Name of the Wind in 2007 and recently published A Wise Man's Fear (out just a month ago). The basic premise of the trilogy is that Kvothe, an infamous, near-legendary figure, has retired to a sleepy town and adopted the persona of Kote the innkeeper. He is accidentally found by a scribe named Chronicler, who convinces Kvothe to tell his story for posterity. The Name of the Wind is subtitled The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One, just as A Wise Man's Fear is subtitled The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two, because Kvothe insists that the telling of his story will take three days (hence a trilogy). And while Kvothe's story dominates the two novels, there are also dark and important events transpiring in the present, which no doubt will become increasingly more important as Kvothe's story draws to a close.
What do I like so much about these books? Well, I enjoy the story-within-a-story format, though that is by no means novel. I like Kvothe as a character. I am impressed by Rothfuss's storytelling prowess, and most of all I really dig his treatment of magic. See, Kvothe is known by many epithets, such as Kvothe Kingkiller (hence the name of the series) and Kvothe the Arcanist. Yes, he is a wizard (of sorts), though not in a traditional fantasy sense; in fact, I do not think the word 'wizard' is ever used. Kvothe learns magic in the course of his life, and there are two principal kinds: sympathy, which is basically a sort of arcane thermodynamics-meets-quantum mechanics, and the much more powerful but mysterious naming, which more or less involves knowing something or someone's truename, and thus gaining power over that thing or person. The "name of the wind" refers to just such a truename.
Now the novels are not without their problems. Kvothe's life story is far more interesting (so far) than what is happening in the present, so the portions of the novels that return to Kvothe's current situation as an innkeeper are comparatively slow (though important details and events do occur). And much of the story deals with Kvothe trying to making ends meet, which while realistic is oftentimes trying, because you know Kvothe is and will be capable of great and terrible things, and as the reader you are waiting expectantly to see at least glimpses of these abilities.
Nonetheless, The Kingkiller Chronicle is my favorite fantasy series in recent memory, and alongside A Song of Ice and Fire, has forced me to break my previously mentioned fantasy novel rules:
- I do not read series more than five books in length.
- I do not read as-of-yet-unfinished series.