The Name of The Wind review

The Ballad of Dirk Oxenhammer: An Origin Story in Three Parts

Dirk Oxenhammer, veteran literary editor, sat back in his zebra-skin armchair and surveyed the pile of manila envelopes on his desk, each one adorned with a large red REJECTED! stamp.  The exclamation mark wasn’t strictly necessary, but Dirk though it made the job a bit more fun. Sometimes he liked to imagine a loud buzzer went off every time he sentenced a manuscript to the trash pile. He’d have to see about getting one installed.

But for now, it was bourbon time.

Dirk opened the bottom drawer of his desk and selected a 92′ New Jersey Amber. He poured it into one of those round glasses with the flat bottoms that he’d seen on Mad Men and lit a cigar, letting the smoke curl around the glass in a way that seemed particularly gritty and hard-boiled. It was at times like this, when the office was empty and the crushed dreams of a dozen hopeful authors lay before him, that Dirk truly loved his job. He thought of himself as that giant dog from the stories, the one with three heads, guarding the gates of Writer Hell. And by God, he took his job seriously. No one was getting past him without meeting his impeccable standards.

Dirk was imagining himself plucking scruffy college dropouts from the ground and tearing them in half with his jaws when he noticed a corner of manila peeking out from underneath the latest issue of Gun-Fishing magazine. He froze, his glass halfway to his lips.

He could just stamp it and throw it on the pile. No one could prove he hadn’t read it. It was probably terrible anyway.

Dirk sighed and put down his glass. The Oxenhammer family name didn’t have a whole lot of glory attached to it, but they always finished what they started. You kept shooting until the screaming stopped. His grandfather used to say that. No one would ever tell Dirk what he did for a living.

He picked the envelope up, wincing at its considerable girth. There was a little sticky note attached to the front, no doubt from some underling trying to sway the judgement of The Hammer. Dirk swept it imperiously from the envelope with the back of his hand, causing it to flutter onto his desk instead of flying dramatically across the room like he had planned. He pulled the manuscript out and glanced at the title page.

The Name of The Wind

by

Patrick Rothfuss

——————————

Before I summarize my thoughts on The Name of The Wind I think it’s important to remind everyone of how this book has been received by critics and fantasy fandom at large. You may mentally insert appropriate music, possibly something like this. Names have been omitted to protect the tasteless.

“Best Books of the Year” (2007) – Publishers Weekly – Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror

“This is why I love fantasy so much. After a recent string of okay fantasy novels, a couple of good ones but nothing to get really excited about, I’ve rediscovered my passion thanks to this book. I’m so impressed, and so in love, I can’t begin to describe it.”

“One of the reviews I read compared it to The Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings, saying that the book was equal to the best of fantasy written thus far. Well let me tell you, this doesn’t stand alongside the fantasy greats, it knocks them off the shelves.”

“But when you read this book, you’re immersed in Kvothe’s world. The cultures and geography and characters and details, everything is amazingly well developed.” […..] ” If you’re a worldbuilding junkie, you should enjoy this one.”

“I know many people have praised Rothfuss’ prose before me and I can only agree with them. It was stunningly good. I simply loved reading Rothfuss. Especially the little poems in the book and that comes from someone who rarely reads or enjoys poetry.”

“Now, The Name of the Wind isn’t something you just plow through. It’s not just some McDonald’s you picked up to satiate the appetite. You have to saver it, like a fine wine or my favorite, a delectable piece of Lindt chocolate.”

“As soon as I finished page 722, I turned back and started reading page 1. By far the best fantasy I’ve read in years. Depth and richness unparalleled since Tolkien. Greatly superior to Rowlings and Jordan in creating a believable world, even down to the laws governing it’s particular brand of magic.”

“It’s a great piece of fiction that I feel is really original. The amount of effort that went into this particular book from the research I’ve done was outstanding. The author really put it all into it and then some.”

“THIS BOOK IS AWSOME!!!

MUST READ!!!

I’ll show you how good this book is … in two ways .. one way for the girls and one way for the boys …

GIRLS … this book is AS GOOD AS:

Christina Aguilera’s Closet”

“This one starts out slow, but picks up tremendously around page 80, again at page 200, and is addictive and impossible to put down by page 300.”

“This is what fantasy is supposed to be. There is nothing I can say that can really do it justice.”

“What elegant writing, what a wonderful, rich, sweeping story that is so epic and complex it defies any thought I would have of trying to summarize.”

“This outstanding fantasy debut from Patrick Rothfuss exceeds all expectations. Tolkien fans will be enthralled, Harry Potter fans will rejoice, and even non-fantasy readers will be held spellbound by the captivating story of Kvothe”

And so on. I would like to emphasize that I didn’t write any of these myself or alter them in any way.

What really makes me feel as though these reviews must be describing a different book is the fact that people keep praising Rothfuss’ writing as beautiful and rich and complex even the prose in the book is workmanlike at best and laughably overblown and amateurish at worst. I can’t remember a single sentence or line of dialogue that struck me as eloquently written or memorable in any way. Reading this book is like wading through lukewarm oatmeal, except some of the oatmeal is actually piranhas.

I have a checklist in my head of common amateur writing tropes, built up over years of trying to read first-time YA authors during the post-Twilight boom. The Name of The Wind hits damn near every one of them, from the self-important purple prose to the need to pair every line of dialogue with an action to the fact that everyone won’t stop fucking grinning.

Let’s talk about Kvothe. Oh, is there ever a lot to talk about.

 Right off the bat Rothfuss joins the seemingly endless ranks of mediocre writers who don’t have a grasp on how to write young characters. “Old” Kvothe in the framing story acts like a world-weary 50 year old despite being around 25 or so while 15 year old Kvothe acts like, well, a 25 year old, confident and well spoken and easily able to navigate the world of adults as though he’s been doing it for years. What’s more everyone else acts like Kvothe is far older than his given age as well. Kvothe is supposed to be exceptionally young to be in wizard school but this never comes up. No one treats him differently or looks down on him apart from Ambrose and Not-Snape, who are just irrationally jealous of his talents, he has no trouble socializing or fitting in.

This is far from the only time Kvothe’s actual persona differs wildly from what he tells us about himself. Throughout the story much is made of how Kvothe is inexperienced and shy around women, as helpless as a baby lost in a forest, yet the second a woman appears he turns into a smooth-talking ladykiller seemingly moments away from acquiring a harem of adoring groupies. Rothfuss is simply having his cake and eating it, setting Kvothe up as awkward and inexperienced to appeal to his awkward and inexperienced audience, but unwilling to actually give Kvothe any flaws.

Kvothe does not change throughout the book. He’s more or less the same at ten as he is at fifteen, and at twenty-five, give or take some angst. His descent into numbness and grief on the streets of Tarbean is the only point at which his character seems to change, but that passes with such little fanfare that might as well not have happened.

There are other character In The Name of The Wind. It would be easy to forget, obscured as they are in the penumbra of Kvothe’s all-consuming shadow. They are two-dimensional automatons, existing solely in relation to Kvothe. Ambrose exists to hate him. Ben exists to teach him, and vanishes from the story as soon as his function is fulfilled. Denna exists to be in love with him. She has some sort of dark past but only so Kvothe can claim virtue by promising not to hurt her as she was hurt before. The Masters are there to praise Kvothe or hinder his progress as the plot demands. I have no sense of who these people are as people, no idea what their interests are or what their lives are like. They may as well cease to exist as soon as Kvothe leaves the room.

I can accept this kind of storytelling if the protagonist is sufficiently fascinating to carry the entire story on their shoulders, but Kvothe falls far short of meeting that requirement. I didn’t care about him at any point in the novel, nor do I care about him having finished it. Even the brief spark of sympathy Rothfuss garnered during the Tarbean sequence was extinguished when it became apparent how laughably maudlin and over the top the book’s idea of drama is.

In terms of story…. well, there is no story. The Name of The Wind doesn’t have a plot.

No, seriously. I’m not exaggerating at all, it really doesn’t. The book sets up the characters and scenarios it’s ostensibly going to be dealing with, spins its wheels for hundreds of pages with irrelevant side-stories that don’t have any purpose and then abruptly stops at a point no different from any other in the preceding chapters since Kvothe arrived at wizard school. Please try to tell me what the actual point of all of this was. Kvothe didn’t grow as a character, he didn’t learn anything or do anything, he’s no closer to his goal of defeating the Chandrian than he was five minutes after his parents were murdered. The Chandrian themselves may as well not have been in the story. Their only purpose is to motivate Kvothe to eventually end up at the University- something he was seemingly inevitably going to do anyway- and then prompt a trip to Trebon that serves no purpose. They show up once for about five pages and then are never seen and barely mentioned again after that.

Four things happen in the plot of this book: Kvothe’s parents are murdered, he goes to wizard school, he finds a way back into he Archives, and in the present-day story Chronicler finds him at the Waystone. Those are the only events that actually move the plot forward. Oh, there are certainly things filling in the rest of the space. Characters go to places and say things. But it’s all pointless. It’s all quirky conversations and inane banter and stabs at humour and moon-eyed swooning between Kvothe and Denna and some bullshit about a dragon. And Kvothe Needs Money. Let us not forget that in what is supposedly an epic fantasy novel the protagonist spends a good third of the story trying to pay off his student loan.

I made a joke early on wondering if Rothfuss was trying to hit an arbitrary page number for some reason, but as the book went on I started to seriously suspect that this might be true. Despite the gossamer-thin wispiness of the plot Rothfuss feels the need to fortify it with vast, heaving buttresses of conversations and world building and travel sequences. Nothing can be allowed to happen until it has been bracketed by chapter upon chapter of the characters farting around doing nothing of consequence. Only then can the narrative inch forward with the pace of a wooden block sliding down a 179° incline.

The Name of The Wind is a book defined mostly by negative space, by characters not doing things. Kvothe spends three years not going to the University or trying to find a way out of Tarbean. Then he doesn’t try to find out more about the Chandrian or get back into the Archives. He learns about  the Underthing and a secret route into the Archives but waits until the end of the book before deciding to enter the former to look for the latter. In Trebon he learns that a mysterious Chandrian-related artifact may be hidden in the burned out farmhouse and proceeds to spend about ten chapters not going inside for no obvious reason. If the point of all this is to show us that the origins of myths are dull, tedious stories about teenagers sitting around in fields then mission fucking accomplished I guess.

The other thing most reviewers talk about, apart from the sterling prose, are the “meta” elements of the story, wherein Rothfuss deconstructs fantasy tropes and examines the interplay between myth and reality. Both have been done before and both are executed here with all the skill and self-assured bravado of a high schooler trying to emulate their favorite novelist. Instead of organically bringing up situations in which we can appreciate the differences between the reality of Kvothe’s life and myths that grew around him Rothfuss has scenes- sometimes entire sub-plots- which seem to exist only so that two-dimensional NPCs can later make up stories about them. In the deconstruction department Rothfuss tilts at windmills that have lain broken and shattered for decades, frequently accompanied by having Kvothe flat out state that the scene we just read was Not Like It Would Be In A Story. Sometimes flash-forward chapters are devoted entirely to the characters sitting around talking about how what we just read was Not Like It Would Be In A Story.

Except that this is a story. A boring, plodding, meandering story populated by two dimensional shadows and the burning orb of flaming ego in whose light they are permitted to exist.

——————————

Dirk sat slumped at his desk, his fifth quart of bourbon in front of him. The night was quiet outside his office window save for the occasional gunshot and associated ambulance siren. Even the taxis had turned in. The city was asleep.  The clock on his desk read 3:30 am.  

For the first time since his days as a gung-ho student at Literary Editor Academy Dirk had read through an entire manuscript in one sitting. Not because he was enjoying it- dear God, no- but because he had been gripped by a deep, existential yearning from the first page. Who would write a book like this? Who would ever want to read it? He picked up the author photo that the Rothfuss kid had for some reason included with his manuscript. It offered Dirk no clues, although maybe he was just having trouble getting past the gnome outfit. 

Dirk leaned forward and plucked the yellow sticky note from his desk, for the first time in his long career eager for the opinion of one of his peons.

Kvothe – real “Nice Guy”

Should be popular with the Reddit crowd

Dirk furrowed his brow. He guessed Kvothe was kind of a nice guy, but what did that have to with anything? And what was a red it crowd? Maybe it was supposed to be “read it” crowd, as in the readers? He couldn’t imagine any of the people who lined up in droves to buy his company’s bestsellers like Knife of Blades: The Bladeknife Chronicles and Throne of Kings: book one of the Throne of Kings Cycle going for this. 

Dirk turned warily to the computer on his desk and blew the dust from the monitor. He didn’t like new technology. If typewriters were good enough for Shakespeare they were good enough for him. But sometimes you just needed answers. He turned the machine on, clicked through the explosion of porn ads that filled his screen ever since he had downloaded that helpful Snailware toolbar for his browser, and typed Reddit Nice Guy into the search box.

Alone in his dark office, he began to read. 

To understand.

——————————

While reading The Name of The Wind I frequently found myself thinking about how I’d tell the story differently. Now it’s easy for me, a non-writer, to sit here and lecture a published author on how he should write his own story, so let’s get started.

I’ve already written at length about why I think the framing story doesn’t work. Out it goes, replaced by Chronicler’s biographical notes written after Kvothe’s death (although I fully admit I could change my mind on this depending on how the last book plays out). After a brief opening chapter to set things up we get straight int Kvothe’s backstory. It’s much the same as the real version, except the Edema Ruh are changed up a bit. First of all they’re named something less dorky. Literally anything would do- you could call them Wordsketeers or Trundlesmiths and it would be better than the name Rothfuss gave them. They’re not rich elitists in this version, but poor itinerant actors who are educated and intelligent but forced to live just above the poverty line by prejudice that prevents them from holding any other profession. This is where Kvothe gets his scrappy survival skills, rather than on the streets of Tarbean. Ben comes along and teaches a slightly older (like 15 or 16) Kvothe for awhile then the troupe gets Chandrian’d like in the real story, with one crucial difference- Kvothe learns part of the story his parents were killed for knowing, perhaps by eavesdropping on them, enough to indicate that the first piece of the puzzle is in the Archives of wizard school. Also the Chandrian purposely decide to spare Kvothe, deciding he’s not a threat to them.

In this version the Chandrian are a semi-known quantity instead of shadowy mythical figures. Dark forces are at work wrecking shit and killing people in the countryside and it’s known that some ordinary humans are conspiring with them, either for promises of wealth and power or to spare them and their families from some sort of coming apocalypse. The exact nature of the entities behind all of this isn’t known, and different religions ascribe it to their particular Satan analogue or the work of demons.

Straight after this Kvothe goes to the University and gets admitted as he does in the book, through a mixture of intelligence and trickiness. In this version instead of giving him three talents the Masters agree to continue funding his education as long as he meets high academic standards, and rather than being a once in history exception this is a rare but recognized incentive given to talented students in Kvothe’s situation. Also, Kvothe accidentally lets slip during the interview that he knows something about the Chandrian.

Once in wizard school Kvothe socializes for a while and makes friends, having trouble fitting in due to his age. He meets Denna in Imre and the two tentatively strike up a friendship, but he’s hesitant due to his unfamiliarity with wider society outside the troupe and his status as a Not-Edema Ruh. Denna meanwhile seems reluctant to become attached to people for unknown reasons. They’re both involved in the local music scene and admire each other’s talents but don’t really get close initially. During his time at wizard school Kvothe learns magic. Not this over-complicated sympathy stuff, it’s just magic. There can be super special name magic as well, but we’re told early on what it is and what it’s about, and Kvothe learns it in a way that makes sense instead of  discovering that the power was in him all along.

During all of this Kvothe steadily homes in on the book his parents were looking for, but on the cusp of finding it the Archives are attacked by a seemingly supernatural force. Kvothe is nearly killed and the book is stolen. The Chandrian have come to kill Kvothe to tie up their loose end, which he surmises means that they learned that he knew more than he was letting on from one of the Masters or someone close to them- either way there’s a Chandrian associated elements at wizard school and Kvothe has to figure out who it is and find out what the Chandrian are trying to hide.

And then nothing else that was in the book happens. There’s no endless wasting time at the University, no getting banned from the Archives and no fucking dragon. The plot is focused like a goddamn laser on Kvothe’s quest for revenge against the Chandrian and nothing else. Kvothe’s legend can grow and all that shit, although I’d just as soon toss the entire concept, but it has to be believable and organic. Maybe you could have short (short) intermissions where Devan tells us stories about Kvothe and we can try to spot for ourselves where the real version and the myth differs. And the book doesn’t fucking tell us where the two versions differ, we have to work it out.

The biggest change would be that the version of Kvothe we see most of the time in the real book- the suave badass- is the mythical Kvothe while the “true” version of the character is more grounded in reality and sympathetic. Honestly, I can’t even think of what specific changes you’d need to make to the character to achieve this. My overwhelming impression of Kvothe, as much as I have one at all, is a vague sense of annoyance ad irritation.

More than anything, in my ideal hypothetical Name of The Wind things would happen, frequently and with gusto. It would be a smorgasbord of events and phenomena, a medley of occurrences. You wouldn’t be able to move for all the things happening.

Now I’m not saying that my version of the story would win the Pulitzer price and top worldwide best seller lists, but it totally would.

——————————

Dirk stood at the window of his office and watched as the first light of morning washed over the city. He was a different man to the one who had opened that envelope a lifetime ago. What he saw on the Reddit had changed him.

He saw the Nice Guys. The PUAs. The MRAs. A great roiling mass of adolescent entitlement and adult anger. To think that such forces could exist just below the trembling membrane of a reality that until moments ago had seemed so solid, so unbreakable. They stirred in the darkness, hungry for light. They were coming. And this character, Kvothe, would be their king. No- their Prophet.

It was clear to Dirk that a terrible burden had been placed on his shoulders. Down one path lay the promise of the hard earned dollars of lonely, frustrated nerds filling his bank account, at the possible cost of the very fabric of civilization. Down the other path lay safety. Security. Gambling debts. A different man- a weaker man- would take his own life on the spot to escape the torment of such a choice. But Dirk Oxenhammer was no such man.

With trembling hands he reached for his phone and dialled a number. The call went through on the second ring. Only silence greeted him on the other side. Dirk’s underlings knew to be available at all hours of the night, and that they didn’t need to bother speaking to follow orders. He opened his mouth to say the words, his tongue dry, his voice hoarse.

“Publish the Rothfuss book. No edits.”

He threw the phone to the ground without bothering to hang up and looked at the first wave of early morning commuters swarming like ants below him, completely unaware of the forces that had just been unleashed into their world.

——————————

So why did The Name of The Wind turn out so bad?

You’re probably expecting me to say something about Rothfuss being a talentless hack, but that’s not it. In fact I don’t really blame Rothfuss at all. I blame the fans.

Let me explain. I read a lot of bad webcomics, mostly to make myself feel good about my own art and writing skills for research and I’ve noticed a trend in bad webcomics: they tend to also be the first webcomic the author has ever put out. Because everyone sucks at first. Doesn’t matter if it’s writing or art or zero-gravity topiary, if it’s your first time doing it you’re going to vomit out an amateurish mess. That’s fine. It will be a stepping stone to something better. Unless you then put it out on the Internet, where it somehow attracts a following. People flock to your forums to sing you praises, they buy your crappy home mode merchandise. Maybe you even start making enough money to live off full time. And suddenly, there’s no reason to get better. You’re already on top. And what should be a stepping stone turns into the end point of your progress as a creator.

Now Rothfuss didn’t self-publish online, but the situation is broadly similar. This is clearly an amateur work (I don’t think I need to present any further evidence to convince you of that) that somehow got published and was received ludicrously well by a great number of people, most of whom were presumably suffering from blunt force trauma to the head while reading it. It should never have seen the cold light of day outside of Rothfuss’ hard drive, but it did, and the world is a worse place because of it.

To make matters worse the book was written over quite a long stretch of time. Rothfuss says seven years but I suspect he was at least mentally arranging the story in his head long before that, possibly back as a teenager. The book goes through several different “eras” each with notably different writing styles and influences. I’m not going to try and put them in a precise chronological order or anything, but here’s an overview of the different geological strata of The Name of The Wind:

1) The framing story. Grittier and darker than anything else in the book, it’s the most well plotted and paced but also has the most hysterically bad writing, possibly as a result of trying too hard to be literary as opposed to lack of experience. Most clearly influenced by George R.R. Martin.

2) Kvothe’s childhood and Tarbean. The best part of the book in my opinion, with some rather nice imagery that makes me suspect this was written later than the rest. Reads like a mix of Harry Potter and Wheel of Time leaning more toward the latter, particularly in the myth infodumps.

3) Wizard School and the dragon business in Trebon. This is where the book goes totally off the rails. The tone is much lighter and more YAish than what came before it and the dire pacing makes me suspect this is a reworked version of something Rothfuss came up with in his teens.  Fully influenced by Harry Potter, by way of Earthsea.

The problem with The Name of The Wind (okay, one of the problems with the Name of The Wind) is that it’s such a mishmash of different elements and influences working at cross-purposes. The book has no idea what it wants to be and so most of the time ends up being nothing.

Despite the many, many words I’ve devoted to ripping this book apart I didn’t hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand erupting volcanoes. It’s not the worst book I’ve ever read, or even the worst fantasy book I’ve ever read. It’s just deeply boring and mediocre, inducing such frustration in me mainly due to the number of people who keep insisting it’s not.

I think that’s several thousand more words about The Name of The Wind than it deserves. I’m going to take a week or two off from blogging then jump straight into The Wise Man’s Fear, which is apparently longer and hated vehemently even by people who loved the first book.

Can’t wait!

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43 thoughts on “The Name of The Wind review

  1. Matt

    Thank you for this review, you have restored my faith (somewhat anyway) in humanity. I read this book a a fourth attempt to find a fantasy author worth reading after having been sucked back into the genre after a 20-ish year absence by GRRM’s SOIAF series, which I think is simply fantastic.
    My mistake I am coming to learn was to rely on amazon reviews to point me in a direction, but so far amazon is 0 and 4, and the Name of the Wind may have been the worst of the lot because I actually spent time on it, almost finishing it, so I feel betrayed by the author because it actually starts off decent enough but by halfway through you are starting to think, wtf am I reading? wheres the story? wheres the plot? the adventure, suspense, drama, tension, anything at all remotely related to an actual STORY!?!?!?!
    In short, I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of this book, while the author can write in the sense that his writing does not interfere with the reading, his story is just terrible — I guess Quothe’s one skill that he has not mastered is storytelling, cause he sucks at it.
    I simply do not understand people who rave over this book, it is laughable garbage, the post above says it best: “I’m not dismayed that a book like this could be written; I’m dismayed that there is a huge audience for it.”

    Reply
  2. Haffrung

    ” It’s not the worst book I’ve ever read, or even the worst fantasy book I’ve ever read. It’s just deeply boring and mediocre, inducing such frustration in me mainly due to the number of people who keep insisting it’s not.”

    Thank you for this. The popular acclaim of Name of the Wind left me deeply shaken. I understand that people can enjoy reading dreck as a guilty pleasure. But the staggering praise this novel inspired is absolutely baffling. Can our education system have failed us so badly that this is the best prose so many bookish nerds have ever read? Perhaps hundreds of extruded YA products and Forgotten Realms novels swamp any foundation of literary sensibility built in school.

    And is there really such an appetite for wish fulfilment among nerdy 20-something men? And not even lurid, punchy wish fulfilment, but a remarkably bland, milquetoast kind. Is this what the latest generation of male geeks long for – being witty and admired in college and having girls fall for them over playing the guitar? Why not just set the thing at community college in Minnesota? It’s bewildering. What’s next, a fantasy treatment of a father of two working out marital problems and a mid-life crisis by getting the band back together and playing at the wizard school reunion?*

    I’m not dismayed that a book like this could be written; I’m dismayed that there is a huge audience for it.

    * I’m reading that over again and I smell money. Lots and lots of money. I’m off to steal a march on Rothfuss…

    Reply
  3. Cat

    “I’ll show you how good this book is … in two ways .. one way for the girls and one way for the boys …
    GIRLS … this book is AS GOOD AS:
    Christina Aguilera’s Closet”

    Ha ha, very funny. You shit-faced doucheweasel.
    Christina Who? Okay, I know who she is, but when was the last time she was popular?
    All joking aside, the sexism of this comment makes me want to HULK SMASH. Us girls don’t read fantasy unless you entice us with something girly like CLOTHES, amright?

    Reply
    1. August

      You realize those are the words of a critic that was PRAISING the book right? Not the words of ronanwills, the author of this blog.

      Reply
  4. Julianna

    I actually rather liked The Name of the Wind. It was written in a way that if you don’t pick it apart piece by piece, it’s actually entertaining (go figure). Some books hold up well when scrutinized under a microscope, even when the reviewer holds a grudge from the get go (as is obviously the case. Sorry, but anyone who dislikes the main character from the first page is not exactly going to be objective). This is not one of them. As with many fantasy novels, TNotW is more of a big picture kind of story. It’s ‘terrible writing’ and ‘purple prose’ form an atmosphere that drives the book forward. The relationships between the characters and their ‘banter’ are the center of the story, as opposed to the events. Now, I do agree with the reviewer in certain respects. As with most writers in fantasy, Rothfuss can’t hold a realistic female character. Like I said, Devi is good – she is (quite obviously, might I add) manipulating Kvothe. Other than that, there are really only three other female characters of even relative significance – Fela, Ahri, and of course the wonderful Denna. Fela’s known as the most attractive girl in the school. Ahri is mad (though I do Like their banter the best. It’s very different). Denna… is an unrealistic *manic pixie dream grl* who for no apparent reason makes her living by men being attracted to her, despite the fact that she is also portrayed largely as intelligent, and apparently also musically gifted. Granted, she also is shown to have something of a free spirit, but seriously, she’s only 17 or so. I don’t like the way Rothfuss has portrayed this woman as ‘perfect.’ The ideal. Beautiful beyond compare, but only useful for that and some pretty amaze-balls flirting (NOT). Ugh. I also thought it was quite ridiculous how he obviously put some effort into trying to circumvent tropes, because it didn’t work. He didn’t circumvent anything, and it most definitely wasn’t anything original. E for Effort though. I actually thought sympathy was pretty neat, though. Especially the duels and whatnot. Oh! And I always skip poetry in these type books, and I was most definitely better able to enjoy those bits. I know they always suck.

    SO, overall, I liked the tone of the book, and I thought Rothfuss did well with that specifically. He needs more feminism (cause, MR. Feminist my ass), and he just needs to quit on originality cause it’s really, really not working for him. I didn’t find it boring, though I guess if you were expecting an action-adventure novel you would find it disappointing. Fin.

    Reply
    1. Octo

      I really have a hard time understanding anyone who doesn’t recognize how poorly written this work is. I don’t mean to be rude, but in all honesty it is probably most loved by people with little life experience and a poor pedigree of previous reading. It is a disaster on all fronts.

      Reply
  5. Ronan

    Wow! I haven’t seen this much steaming, ranting pile of stinking shit of an opinion since I saw the cunt Ann Colter open her mouth about…well, pretty much anything. Anybody can take a shit on someone’s work, but, you apparently do it for sport, to gain points for taking cheap shots while putting forth no legitimate substance whatsoever. You’re a joke. You’re a wannabe. You harvest fans who yap in support while you make yourself feel better by shitting all over the work of others. Still in high school I see, or is it grade school. Who cares. You write like a douche.

    See, when one is stunted, can’t make friends, is rejected by the fairer sex, and can’t really come around to produce anything of real value, read – can’t contribute to society, it’s really not hard for one to resort to tearing others down in the hopes of gaining a mundane fandom. God you went on and on and on without doing anything more than taking a shit and holding it up as a valid, sound, and credible opinion. Your attempt at dismissing Rothfuss with your accusation of argumentum ad populum is a joke. Granted, I felt the same way with Harry Potter, thinking, “how in the fuck did so many people (adults) like this book??” But Rothfuss is no J. K. Rowling. Where Rowling is a cliche, Rothfuss makes fun of the cliche, and you don’t even get it. You douche.

    Oh, I loved this line of yours, “even the prose in the book is workmanlike at best and laughably overblown and amateurish at worst. I can’t remember a single sentence or line of dialogue that struck me as eloquently written or memorable in any way.” You didn’t huh? Well, that’s because you’re a fucking douche! You douche. I’m not just being a jerk, I’m calling you a douche because of the way you criticize a successful novelist. It’s pathetic. If you didn’t laugh, if you didn’t get chocked up, if you didn’t get or catch or understand the inside joke that Rothfuss created, (especially after going to the extent you did to criticize) then, there’s nothing more to be said than, “you’re a douche”.

    Go shit on some more books in your pathetic attempt to get some laughs. hehe, what a joke.

    PS. I just now realized who you reminded me of. I had a certain…howdoyousay…taste of tainted cum in my mouth while reading your words, or better yet oil and vinegar. I realized what it was and who you really are. ..you’re Ambrose. The king of douches. No wonder why I hated reading your words.

    If you’re going to be a credible critic, at least try not to be so fucking douche about it. Douche.

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Let’s Review The Wise Man’s Fear | Doing In The Wizard

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  9. Tams

    Thank you for this wonderful review. It was a pleasure (for the readers) to follow your steady descent into the frustration that is reading TNOTW. Without any regard for your mental health; i’m looking forward to see your reaction to the next installment in this massive series.
    Good luck!

    P.S. Would you consider doing a post about recommended books?

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I’ve been thinking about maybe doing a series on my top ten or whatever. Posts like that can get a bit self-indulgent though so I’m a bit wary of the concept.

      Reply
    2. GilpinSt

      Here to request the same thing! I’m really curious to hear some examples of what you consider good fantasy to add to my reading list.

      Reply
    1. Andrea Harris

      Considering the last of her later novels that I tried to read (Tehanu and The Telling) were pretty much dreck, I think her powers of discernment aren’t as great as they used to be. (The sequel to Tehanu, yet another revisit of the Earthsea world whose title I can’t bring to mind, seemed even worse — complete with Exotic Princess who comically talked in patois accompanied by hand gestures — but after flipping through it and reading those passages I put it back on the shelf.)

      Reply
      1. sushisneeze

        Tehanu and The Telling weren’t her best — Lavinia was lovely, though. And her earlier contributions to fantasy are so freaking brilliant (Earthsea, Left Hand of Darkness, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters etc etc) that I have a hard time not cutting her some slack for the later stuff. But yeah…surprising re. her reaction to TNOTW.

        Reply
      2. Andrea Harris

        I think it was a mistake for her to write sequels to the Earthsea books, but I think she felt she needed to “fix” things (like, Earthsea in the first three books was not an enlightened world, let’s just say. I don’t think her two followups really worked. (Tehanu did have nice bits.)

        I don’t get what people see in TNOTW. Especially if you’re looking for fantasy that isn’t Just Like All The Others — a sprinkling of labored “metacomment” doesn’t make anything new. (Tolkien did it seventy years ago ffs, and even his “we’re in one of those stories Mr Frodo” bits got to be a bit much.) And the female characters are so stock male-gaze products (Endangered Damsel, Mysterious Heartbreaker, Dead Mom…) that I don’t even know why any woman would give the book the time of day.

        Reply
  10. Orryia

    This was wonderful. Thank you.

    I remember reading The Name of the Wind a few years ago, after hearing very positive impressions. I didn’t read any detailed reviews, so I had no idea what the story was about, but seeing the praise on the back, I expected something really good. I remember liking the prose at the time, but everything else was sorely disappointing, and it was baffling how so many people loved the book and thought it to be the height of fantasy literature.

    Every negative review I can find, (and they are very, very few) is like an oasis to me.

    Reply
  11. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    You know those characters, the ones who are aware that, wink wink nudge nudge, they’re in a story and can’t help but comment on how the things that are happening would only happen in a bad story, which should clue you in about the quality of the work. Well I’ve often found myself wondering what those people act like in the parts of the story that aren’t depicted. Do they talk about narrative structure and genre tropes when they’re getting a tooth pulled or sitting on the toilet? Or are they aware that 90%+ of their life is made up of the parts that aren’t left out of stories and so they keep quiet?

    TNoTW seems like Rothfuss had a similar idea and set out to write a story where that self-aware character narrates everything. And it turns out that no, they cannot shut up and have to view everything as a story. And they seem to think that including all of the these pointless details somehow makes them subversive and deconstructive. Because apparently if it’s not depicted in a story it never happens, hence Rothfuss’ obsession with cataloguing every last scrap of minutia that Kvothfuss undergoes. The author and the character are just as conceited to mistake their mundanity for the heights of epicness.

    Reply
      1. sonamib

        Well, considering this one finishes with the tragic death of a lute and the epic battle between Bast and Devan over the best way to write a story, it wouldn’t be that surprising.

        Reply
  12. katz

    The book I first felt this way about–“WTF? People actually like this?”–was Artemis Fowl. I read it in high school after many recommendations and assurances that it was the Best Book Ever…and then it was all riding magma flares and LEPrecon and it all reminded me of stuff I had myself written when I was thirteen and then thrown away when I realized it was crap.

    Reply
      1. katz

        Wherein someone actually named a wizard “Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander.”

        At least Terry Goodkind is, I think, generally regarded as a pretty good fantasy author, rather than receiving the heaps of praise that Rothfuss and Colfter routinely get.

        Reply
      2. braak

        Now he is, I guess, but when I picked it up there were giant displays of SWORD OF TRUTH ET CETERA in the bookstore. Wasn’t he hailed as the Second Coming of Tolkien for a while?

        Hopefully, we can all look forward to a Kvothe TV show — shot in New Zealand for budgetary reasons — airing on the CW on Sunday afternoons.

        Reply
      3. Reveen

        To be fair, that’s a pretty kickass name in a pulpy sort of way, if you got rid of the apostrophe that is. Rothfuss’s names are just laaaaaame.

        I thought the main consensus about Goodkind was that he’s, well, kinda batshit with his objectivism and logic in general. Dunno if he mellowed out later, but his books had alot of crazy shit that Pat could only dream of emulating.

        http://sandstormreviews.blogspot.ca/2006/08/goodkind-parodies.html

        Reply
      4. braak

        I don’t know, I never got past the first quarter of the first book; my understanding, though, was that his Objectivism didn’t really kick into high gear until later.

        Reply
      5. braak

        Also, Jesus Christ what is it with Objectivists and hundred-page speeches?

        It’s like their plan for winning converts is to wear them down with shear verbosity.

        Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I enjoyed that book when I was like 11 but it’s really for kids. I wouldn’t recommend it to adults or even teens

      Reply
        1. ronanwills Post author

          I’m not necessarily saying that “it’s for kids” is an excuse for poor quality; in fact I don’t really think the book is bad at all. I’m just saying an older reader going into it is probably not going to find it very appealing. I’m kind of surprised people in high school were recommending it so highly

          Reply
      1. katz

        *shrug* Bad worldbuilding is bad worldbuilding. Can’t go saying that Rothfuss’ dragons make no sense but then just accept “elves turn invisible because vibration.”

        Reply
  13. halikon

    I enjoyed your “Let’s Read TNOTW” posts immensely (which, I think, retroactively justified the publishing of TNOTW) and look forward to you doing The Wise Man’s Fear.

    Question: Have you read Ready Player One? It’s in the same situation as TNOTW, I feel: an amateurish work that somehow made it through editing and wound up becoming a hit. I’d love to see your take on it.

    Reply
  14. welltemperedwriter

    If you’re interested, a pair of pretty good (and reasonably short) books that explore the association between myth and reality, and are ALSO enjoyable stories, are Jane Yolen’s “Sister Light, Sister Dark” and “White Jenna”. There’s even a pair of dueling scholars arguing about what it all means. And the writing is enormously better.

    Reply
  15. Greentree

    Now I’m unsure whether to read The Wise Man’s Fear simply because I enjoy reading these blog posts… really didn’t think that would be a book I’d be picking up

    Reply

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