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jcunningham

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The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles Series #1)

The Name of the Wind  - Patrick Rothfuss I must preface this review by stating that my experience with fantasy is somewhat limited: the Harry Potter books, George R.R. Martin, a dozen scattered other novels and series. The more of it I read, the more I realize traditional "epic" fantasy of the multi-book series tack is not quite for me.Or maybe I am bad at choosing, since I really like some of it (Martin, Bujold). Some of it, not so much. Take, for instance, The Name of the Wind, one of the most celebrated fantasy debuts in years, with glowing praise from... just about everyone. In some ways, I can see why. It's very well written. The characters are engaging. There's good dialogue. Drama. Adventure.But it's also very long. I'm not against a long book if I feel like I got something back for the time invested. But TNOTW doesn't tell an epic story to match its epic length. To be fair, it's the start of what promises to be an epic story, but that means I'll have to read the next two books in the series to be satisfied. This book is not a satisfying installment on its own. The episodic structure means large parts of the book are largely inconsequential when you get right down to it, so if they aren't interesting, well... they feel like a waste of pages. Which means while I really enjoyed the scene of Kvothe earning his silver pipes, I *really* could have done without the extended horse bartering/fevered riding/detective work/battling dragons section (which was about 150 pages I think), as it didn't advance the story... at all, really. Not even when you throw in the romance angle.What I liked: The structure of the book is interesting. I like the idea of the narrator telling his story. In fact, because of this I can somewhat excuse the episodic feel (and the appallingly thin, idealized female characters, who have no substance and next to nothing to do), even if I don't always like it. It also does a great job of slowly revealing the mechanics of its world without too much exposition or too little explanation, and some elements, like the explanations for sympathy and "real magic," are very satisfying. The prose and dialogue are better than the narrative; I would read other books by this author (just, er, no more books like this one).What I didn't like: Rothfuss is a little too satisfied with the ways he's working to break fantasy conventions even as he seemingly reinforces them (i.e. a unassuming boy is secretly a genius and a chosen one, goes off to a magic school, excels at everything he tries, etc. etc.). I can't even count the number of cute comments like, "If this were a story, X, Y, and Z would have happened. But this is not a story." This might be a revolutionary concept in fantasy writing, but considering much of post-modern literature is built on metafiction, it struck me as one one interesting element; certainly not enough to excuse 600 pages of narrative inaction.