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Book Review: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

Initially, Patrick Rothfuss’s fantasy novel The Name of the Wind drifts along at the pace of a gentle breeze. But it races like a tempest by the end.

Cover of The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss.

The story starts slowly because Rothfuss sets it up as a tale within a tale. The first few chapters are in third person, hinting at larger events while introducing us to Kote (an innkeeper in a small town), Bast (Kote’s assistant), and Chronicler (a traveling scribe). Chronicler identifies Kote as Kvothe, a legendary magician, and offers to transcribe his life’s story. Kvothe accepts, and the narration switches to first person for the rest of the book, except for occasional interludes back at his inn.

It took me a while to appreciate this structure. At first, I thought Rothfuss would have been better off jumping straight to Kvothe’s point of view and his retelling of how he came to be a clever orphan who self-finances his education at a more adult version of Hogwarts. Because that story has lots to recommend it: a distinctive, self-reliant protagonist; a convincing magic system; a larger mystery to unravel (concerning why Kvothe lost his parents)—good stuff all around.

For much of the book, though, the scenes in the inn didn’t seem particularly necessary. But as the main narrative proceeds, the interludes allow Rothfuss to drop clues about what’s in store and interject a joke or two. More importantly, the presence of these scenes makes the novel’s inconclusive ending more palatable: when Kvothe agreed to share his story, he warned Chronicler it would take three days to tell in full, and the first day’s recording amounts to the 600+ pages in The Name of the Wind. Days two and three (presumably) require separate books.

A lesser author wouldn’t get away with this. But Rothfuss’s writing is strong, Kvothe is a hero worth rooting for, and the final sequences are exhilarating. So, like Bast and Chronicler, I’m eager for another day’s tale—I’ve already started reading The Wise Man’s Fear, the sequel to The Name of the Wind.

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Cover of the historical fantasy novel Witch in the White City, by Nick Wisseman.

Millions of visitors. Thousands of exhibits. One fiendish killer.

Neva’s goals at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago are simple. Enjoy the spectacle—perhaps the greatest the United States has ever put on. (The world’s fair to end all world’s fairs!) Perform in the exposition’s Algerian Theatre to the best of her abilities. And don’t be found out as a witch.

Easy enough … until the morning she looks up in the Theatre and sees strangely marked insects swarming a severed hand in the rafters.

"... a wild ride sure to please lovers of supernatural historical mysteries." – Publishers Weekly

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