Review: “The Name of the Wind”

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.
I’m not a very successful fiction writer, but for aspiring writers of fiction — myself included — this book is one to learn from. He manages to pace a 750+ page book so tightly that I would have read it in one sitting, were I still capable of staying awake for 48 straight hours.
Actually, I probably would have done it anyway if it weren’t for my meddling kids. Seriously, borrow this book and read it. If you love it, buy a copy to support Rothfus’ efforts. He’s a genuine talent, and we should encourage him.
Thanks for listening.

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