Book Review: Kingkiller by Patrick Rothfuss

I don’t generally stick to just one genre, but I don’t read a great deal of fantasy. Not because I don’t enjoy it, it is more because I don’t know who the good writers are and who to avoid. 30 years ago a friend recommended that I should read the Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett. At the time there were only 4 or 5 of them, but I continued to read and enjoy each and every one of them. At school friends raved about the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but I couldn’t get past the first few pages. I tried reading the Mission Earth series by L Ron Hubbard way before I had heard of Scientology, but I found them to be bland and formulaic. The 6 book Dune series by Frank Herbert however was everything I wanted in a book. When the internet exploded a few years ago when Sean Bean’s character in Game of Thrones died I knew that I had to give the first book a try. Subsequently I have read and enjoyed all of the Game of Thrones books, and I admit I was tempted not to watch the last series on TV until the book had been released. As many of you will know, George R R Martin isn’t the most prolific of writers so we could be waiting a while for the series to be concluded. The Winds of Winter is now expected in May 2021.

This was a roundabout way of saying that I don’t know much about the fantasy genre, so when the Guardian published a top ten fantasy list I was very interested. Two authors/books caught my eye. The Stormlight series by Brandon Sanderson and the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. Currently I’m about a third of the way through the second Stormlight book, Words of Radiance.

Anyway, this blog entry is about the Kingkiller Chronicles. So far there are two full books, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. There are also a couple of shorter books, The Lightning Tree and The Slow Regard of Silent Things, which are books 0.5 and 2.5 in the series, although as explained by Patrick they are not essential the main story arc. I’ve also not included book 0.5 as I haven’t yet read it.

The name of the Wind stars Kvothe, our hero who became a legend, an assassin, a lover and a wizard. The book starts slowly with Kvothe in semi-retirement working as an innkeeper. The Chronicler arrives and Kvothe agrees to tell his tale, from losing his parents at an early age and becoming a feral beggar/thief before enrolling at the university.

I was sucked in immediately and couldn’t put it down. I loved how expansive the realm was and how there are sudden leaps in Kvothe’s life. The university is also nothing like Hogwarts.

The second book isn’t quite as good, as it falls into the trap of being the middle book in a trilogy, in that there are loads of loose ends that will need to be tied up in the final book. It also felt that maybe the start of the book should have been when Kvothe leaves the university for the first time, but that would have added a couple of hundred pages to book one.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a stand alone shorter book starring Auri, a strange girl who hides away beneath the university and befriends Kvothe. This book is completely different to the main two as she is the only character. Patrick Rothfuss stated that he loved writing this book but didn’t think anyone else ever would, especially as he takes 8 pages describing Auri making soap. This book was a delight, even though it didn’t add too much to the larger story.

All I can say is that if you’re looking for a good fantasy series, then you can’t go wrong with the Kingkiller Chronicles, although like Mr Martin, Mr Rothfuss isn’t the fastest of writers and it could be a while before book 3 arrives.

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