A couple of weeks ago, two people whose opinions I trust recommended Patrick Rothfus’ The Name of the Wind to me, independently of each other in separate conversations.
I don’t love fantasy, especially 800-page fantasy tomes that would make Larry McMurty weep. But I tried it….and it’s the best fantasy novel I’ve read in the last ten years. I could go on about details of character, voice, style, tone, the world, the magic system, but for today I want to focus on his action.
When we think of action in a work of fiction, we think of violence: epic battles, wrestling on rooftops, chase scenes. The Name of the Wind has all of these, but Rothfus brings the tension and conflict of a good battle to surprising venues.
- He makes a musical performance a nail-biting chapter by giving it important stakes.
- He captures the narrow margin of living above your means, turning a simple shopping trips into perilous excursions.
- He adds time pressure to journeys so as to make each step feel like winning a fight against time.