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The Name of the Wind review

Heroic fantasy meets Dickens

Author: Patrick Rothfuss

Publisher: Gollancz

662 pages • £18.99

ISBN: 978-0-5750-8139-0
Also available in paperback (£14.99)

Rating:

Clichés only ever become clichés because they work – and the latest heavily-trumpeted Epic Fantasy to hit the shelves proves this in spades. Patrick Rothfuss may be a first-time novelist, but in The Name of the Wind (first in the Kingkiller Chronicle series) he’s carried off something seriously impressive, remixing almost every over-worn fantasy plot ingredient you can think of (aged mentor, enigmatic love interest…) in a way that reminds you exactly why they worked in the first place.

Essentially, the book plays like a sword-and-sorcery version of David Copperfield (the classic novel, not the big-haired magician), following the life history of Kvothe, a notorious and almost mythic hero who’s begrudgingly relating his life story to a chronicler of epic sagas. Here in “Day One” of Kvothe’s tale-telling, we find out about his early days growing up in a theatrical troupe, the killing of his family, and how his quest to find the demonic creatures responsible led him towards a place at the Arcanum of the University, and a chance to learn the real secrets of magic…

Pacy, witty and entertaining without getting bogged down by excessive description, The Name of the Wind is a rattling read that steers clear of the darker, more gothic edges of heroic fantasy, but doesn’t hold back from delivering violence and emotional shocks. Rothfuss has crafted a fully convincing world and an expertly thought-out magic system, while even managing to make the hoary old cliché of the “magic school” seem fresh. On top of this, in Kvothe he’s created a brilliantly engaging central character with multiple dimensions, and a love of music that leads to some of the book’s most lyrical and beautifully written passages. Don’t expect it to radically redefine the genre, but Rothfuss’s debut shows exactly how good heroic fantasy can be when it concentrates on the virtues of a good tale, well told. Roll on Day Two…

Saxon Bullock

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