The Kingkiller Chronicle #1
by Patrick Rothfuss
Published by Gollancz, 2007
662 pages. UK £8.99
This book, this marvellous debut novel by Patrick Rothfuss, has to be my new favourite book. It is thoroughly well developed, as it had better be; the man spent seven years writing it. Those years were certainly not wasted. He managed to create one of the most compelling fantasy stories I have read in a very long time.
How to go about reviewing it? I have hardly the words for it. It is a beautifully written narrative of the life of the man Kvothe. The frame story takes place in an inn where Kvothe tells his story to a scribe, better known as the Chronicler. Therefore the main part of the story is written as a first person narrative, which is highly complimentary to the nature of the tale.
What I find to be one of the most amazing things about this book is that we already from the beginning are told some of the things that are to happen later on. Take for example the blurb on the back of the book:
"I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the mistrels weep.
My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me."
Now, not all of these things have been elaborated upon yet, but those that have, Rothfuss has managed to put into a completely different light than the one it is shown in when written down like that. It happens several times during the book. Kvothe stops his tale and talks a bit with the other men in the room, sometimes revealing part of what the current piece of the story is leading up to. But it never happens the way you think it will.
It is a book of endless surprises. Just when you think you know what is about to happen, something completely unexpected pulls up from behind and shatters whatever thin thread of certainty you might have had. This is probably one of the main reasons why I love the book so much, but it is far from being the only reason.
Kvothe is a young man and altough his childhood does end rather abruptly he still has much to learn. He is exceptionally clever when it comes to any sort of academical field, but when it comes to women he is hopeless. Not that he does not know how to charm them; he gets plenty of female attention, he just has a hard time noticing it or knowing what to with it, not to mention that the one woman he is hunting after is completely unobtainable.
Kvothe is a believeable character, and that in turn makes the entire story completely believable in spite of whatever incredible things are happening. This is an important trait for a fantasy author to possess, the ability to make the impossible seem not only possible but also credible, and Rothfuss? He has got it in plenty.
The story is set in marvellous universe full of history and old songs of legends. As in most mideaval-ish worlds there are a lot of uneducated people and a lot of superstition. Everywhere the people have their own mythical creatures or legends that they fear. But there are also some legends that they fear everywhere, and why might that be? The question is raised and answered along with many others.
Kvothe has always been full of questions, but it is not until the day he meets his first teacher that the flame that is his desire for knowledge is truly kindled. He sees the man speak the name of the wind, and the wind answers his bidding.
The story contains various different kinds of magic, but the naming of things is undoubtedly the most powerful. And the rarest. The man who knows the names of all things has a divine power like no other. This is what Kvothe is striving for (sometimes consciously but most of the time subconsciously) from the day he sees the wind do the bidding of a man.
I will not reveal too much. I will suffice to say that this book proves an extraordinarily enchanting adventure. In its execution and style I deem this book highly original.
This book has swept me away and subdued me to a torrent of various emotions. I have found myself laughing out loud to the increasing amazement of the people around me, and I have found myself crying bitter tears for Kvothe and the pains he has had to go through. I have been filled with such an excitement and curiousity that it has kept me reading on through half the night on several occasions.
So, yes, I think I can safely say that this is my new favourite book. I am looking forward to reading the next one, but it will unfortunately have to wait a while. All in all, I hope you will all do yourself the favour of picking up this book and allowing it to engulf you in its adventure.