Feb 182013

So before I tell you how good these two books are please let me warn you: There will eventually be three of them. The first book, “The Name of the Wind” was published in 2007. The second, “A Wise Man’s fear” in 2011. Unless the publisher decides to release the third one early we are looking at a two year wait for the conclusion. The book is written and done, according the the author so I “can’t not know” why they must make us wait. Maybe they’re just mean.

Having said that, go get the books and start reading. It will do my mean little heart good to know that someone else is waiting with me. That, and the books are really good. You now have my opinion and advice. Feel free to ignore the rest of this.

One of the things I most enjoy about Science Fiction and Fantasy is the ability of a good author to create a  completely new world. In the case of SciFi that world is constrained, at least loosely, by science. In the case of Fantasy the canvas is blank and the rules are whatever the creator of the world chooses. Some of my favorite worlds include Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, a flat disc carries through space on the backs of four elephants standing on the back of an extremely large turtle, Terry Goodkind’s world of confessors and wizards and Robert Jordan’s tale of good and evil in “The Wheel of Time.” In every case a new world is created, one with new ideas, new races, new magic and new rules that are fun, exciting and most importantly self-consistent. There are lots of books that simply borrow from those who have come before. How many books are there with Orcs, Elves and Dragons? Too many to count. How many books are there where the hero journey’s across hill and dale to perform some act that saves the world? Way too many to count. This series does none of those things.

A great example of this is the “Fae.” As you might expect Fae and Fairy refer to the same group of people but these aren’t like any fairy you’ve met before. At one point we are told that because the Fae can choose to look like humans they are often seen as similar to humans but they are not. To quote the The Name of the Wind:

Bast leaned closer until their faces were mere inches apart, his eyes gone white as opal, white as a full-bellied moon. “You are an educated man. You know there are no such things as demons.” Bast smiled a terrible smile. “There is only my kind.” Bast leaned closer still, Chronicler smelled flowers on his breath. “You are not wise enough to fear me as I should be feared. You do not know the first note of the music that moves me.”

We think we know the Fae as soon as we meet Bast in the first book, but its not until the second that we find how wrong we were. It is a grand voyage of discovery. In A Wise Man’s Fear we get this passage:
Wise Man's Fear

Without taking his eyes from Chronicler, Bast laid his bloody palm flat on the table. The wood groaned and the broken timbers snapped back into place with a sudden crackling sound. Bast lifted his hand, then brought it down sharply on the table, and the dark runnels of ink and beer suddenly twisted and shaped themselves into a jet-black crow that burst into flight, circling the taproom once.
Bast caught it with both hands and tore the bird carelessly in half, casting the pieces into the air where they exploded into great washes of flame the color of blood.
It all happened in the space of a single breath. “Everything you know about the Fae could fit inside a thimble,” Bast said, looking at the scribe with no expression at all, his voice flat and even. “How dare you doubt me? You have no idea who I am.

Another reason to read this series is the author has done such a masterful job of using just the right number of words. This review has way too many words. I should have stopped after the second paragraph but didn’t. Patrick Rothfuss describes a long period of editing where he stripped the story to is base components and removed anything that didn’t add to the story. In fact, he wrote an introductory chapter and then later removed it completely from the book. In the second book we meet a race reminded me of the Japaneses, except they weren’t. The more we learned about them the more differences I recognized, until I wasn’t sure I knew the “first note of music” that moved them. There is an interesting passage in The Wise Man’s Fear that both tells a story about this people and the author:

He shook his head. Serious. “You already know too many words.”
“Too many? Tempi, I know very few.”
“It is not the words, it is their use. In Adem there is an art to speaking. There are those who can say many things in one thing. My Shehyn is such. They say a thing in one breath and others will find meaning in it for a year.” Gentle reproach. “Too often you say more than you need. You should not speak in Ademic as you sing in Aturan. A hundred words to praise a woman. Too many. Our talk is smaller.”
“So when I meet a woman, I should simply say, ‘You are beautiful?’ ”
Tempi shook his head. “No. You would say simply ‘beautiful,’ and let the woman decide the rest of what you mean.”
I thoroughly enjoyed both books. As is often the case in fantasy there is a bit of swordplay, but nothing that I thought was very graphic. Its a grown up story, so sometimes it deals with unhappy endings for some of the people we meet. Its also, in some very impoerant ways a coming of age story. When Kvothe discovers sex the story includes it, but I thought it was very inoffensive and well done. If I had a 12 year old I’d let him or her read the book.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly I really enjoyed the tone and timbre of the story. I’ll leave you with one last quote, this one from The Name of the Wind that serves as a great example of what a great author can do with limited words. The passage is short, meaningful and meaningful on multiple layers. I hope you enjoy the books as much as I did.
 “Remember this, son, if you forget everything else. A poet is a musician who can’t sing. Words have to find a man’s mind before they can touch his heart, and some men’s minds are woeful small targets. Music touches their hearts directly no matter how small or stubborn the mind of the man who listens.”


 Posted by at 10:20 pm