An enchanted land, mysterious people, dangerous threats, larger than life stories, and complex characters; this is a fantasy book in a nutshell; not to mention the seemingly impossible task to top the first book with the next installment.
In a world full of fantasy fiction, courtesy of The Lord of The Rings and Game of Thrones, it is hard to pinpoint the next big thing. We’ve read almost all types of fantasy. But in this illuminating world, there is one author who has a thorough grasp over fantasy. His style is distinct, and his stories are absorbing.
The Name of the Wind is not just a good fantasy story. It is a very distinct fantasy story. From all the fantasy books I’ve read over the years, there couldn’t be a point where my excitement turned into a complete immersion. A good story turns your stomach with enthusiasm, but a great story grabs your hand and takes you inside those pages.
Today, Word of The Nerd will evaluate the art of writing fantasy as Patrick Rothfuss does it.
Spoiler Alert: Mild spoilers for the first 250 pages.
The Permeating Idea
The Name of The Wind has something different, a fascinating idea. Let me illustrate my point.
The author gently begins with an idea, an idea he will carry throughout the novel. The first chapter is cleverly named ‘The Silence of Three Parts’. This chapter introduces us to the three types of silences:
The first silence was, “A hollow echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking:
- The Lack of Wind
- The Lack of a Crowd
- The Lack of Music
The Second silence was “A small sullen silence which added to the larger hollow one. Caused by men huddled at one corner of the bar, drinking with quiet determination. It made an alloy of sorts, a counterpoint.”
The Third Silence was something that, “You might feel it in the wooden floor, the rough splintering barrels, the weight of the black stone hearth and in the movement of a white linen cloth rubbing along the bar.” The third silence is an introduction to Kvothe, the protagonist. The prologue ends with the line: “It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.” In the silence, we have sound, but it is not a generic sound, notice the word, ‘cut-flower’, it paints a sad picture in our minds.
Further, in the novel, any silence can be attributed to one of these three.
Another striking aspect of the novel is the attention to the environment. The atmosphere just doesn’t convey a mood; it’s alive, an entity. Regardless of location, there is a minute attention to the environment. We are never detached from it. Even in the midst of a conversation, we are almost always aware of the surroundings. Even when Rothfuss introduces a character, there is a strange aroma surrounding him/her that makes the introduction captivating:
“His sword was pale and elegant. When it moved, it cut the air with a brittle sound. It reminded me of the quiet that settles on the coldest days in winter when it hurts to breathe and everything is still.“
The word ‘brittle’ is in contrast with the quiet of the coldest day of winter. The silence present here is of first nature- The Lack of Wind, i.e., the quiet on the coldest day.
We also have small details. They slide in and out of the story like a cameo in a movie. One example would be the name of Kvothe’s inn- Waystone: it is a carefully chosen name. In succeeding chapters, we learn that names are important to Kvothe. Further in, we find the origin of the name. The explanation is never highlighted, it is merely passed in conversations. Those keen enough to remember the name of a simple inn might catch up on this tiny detail, while others will sorely miss it.
Another example can be of Encanis– the cleverest demon in The Four Corners of Civilization (the world of the book). In chapter 22, Kvothe is living on the streets, one day, someone beats him up. As he is lying down, hurt, a person (not really Encanis) comes to help him, and he describes him as:
“He was a form of darkness, black hood cloak, black mask, black gloves. Encanis stood in front of me holding out a bright bit of silver that caught the moonlight.”
In Chapter 23, ‘The Burning Wheel’, we learn about Encanis. It doesn’t matter if you remember Kvothe’s remark, you learn about him either way. But reading his story and going back to the description Kvothe made just highlights the character to us.
Some may miss these subtle details, but those willing to pay keen attention will find a well, of information, beneath the surface.
I would love to go into more details, but that would mean giving you spoilers. The Name of The Wind is a terrific book, and each chapter has something to capture our attention and keep us engaged. The amalgamation of the beautiful environment and fascinating characters keeps us turning pages dissolving our lives inside another world, never to be seen again.