I’m in the middle of writing a few pieces on Mass Effect: Andromeda. In the meantime, here’s some other stuff.
Am I getting old?
I first read The Name of the Wind in high school. At the time, I was writing a story with a similar frame structure, and I was super impressed with TNOTW’s ability to shift back and forth in time, keep my attention, and above all have such a blast doing it. Because, at it’s core, that’s what I love about this book. It’s a story’s story – a story with huge muscles. Because it has got huge muscles, it can pull a lot of weight and be impressive with its sheer presence. But ALSO because it’s got huge muscles, it has to be careful. It has to be delicate. It has to know when it should flex, when it should pose, and when it should relax. It’s a delightful story, and I can still feel the warmth and excitement that vibrates off of the page due to the sheer momentum of the story, and Rothfuss’ talent as a writer.
That all being said, this same kick-assitude makes it awkward. On the re-read, I went away slightly less impressed for all its glory. I was no longer captivated by Kvothe, or interested at all in the frame’s supposed complications. I was bored by the content of the adventure when it wasn’t overwhelming me with grandeur. By page 200 I was sick of the protagonist’s genius and quick wit, his charm — it was boring, rote, repetitive, repetitive, repetitive. The frame went from a cool narrative device to a crutch. The little I got from Bast became way more compelling, possibly because he displays what, to me at least, seems like the most authentic emotions in the story, and he’s in less than 10% of it.
That seems to be my biggest frustration with it. The emotional center of the piece is all over the place. I don’t sympathize with Kvothe (yet) because there’s nothing sympathize with. He’s sooooo annoying. You’ve got to work to make me like characters like him in this story climate. He’s a kind of empty character, and from what I remember, only becomes convincing in WMF. Some of it’s best moments come away slightly dry. Whenever the Big Story disappears is when I’m most interested. The world building is super cool, but feels more like a garnish than seasoning.
I think this is all just to say: I still love me some Rothfuss, but I’m anxious going to read Wise Man’s Fear because, for me at least, if it doesn’t mature in some ways, I might not want to read the third one.
That’s a lie, obviously, but one that is rooted in something that I’m becoming acutely aware of as I grow older. Fiction is untidy, but it needs to be comfortable being untidy. The Name of the Wind is a bodybuilder of a story, and excels when it pivots between high intensity and low intensity, contrasting high and low fantasy. I don’t love it for it’s plot, but how its plot sits. I don’t love it for its characters, but for how its chief character balances in third and first person.
At its best, The Name of the Wind is a carnival: grotesque, silly, self-effacing.
At its worst, it’s self-serious.