Book Review: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

There are those books that are just interesting and fun to read and there are those books where you feel something magical has happened. The Name of the Wind is the latter. I read this book a few years ago, but because it’s summer and I’m behind on my normal reading, this was the perfect time to finally review it. 

The story:

As the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicle, The Name of the Wind introduces us to the famous Kvothe, who is trying his best not to attract attention by taking a fake name and serving as a small town innkeeper. When Kvothe rescues a traveling scribe known as Chronicler and is recognized, the scribe asks to record his real story and his unfortunate rise to fame. As with many popular main characters, Kvothe’s life is full of hardship and misfortune. Lucky for him, these misfortunes tend to open doors, often in the most unexpected places. 

The story that’s recorded covers his childhood with a traveling performer troupe, his lost days as a beggar and pickpocket, his desperate attempt to get into the University where he can track down information, the many different ways he works to get enough money to attend the school, and all the many problems he encounters along the way. And trust me, there are plenty of those.

My Review:

I’m a sucker for any fantasy book. But, when I can find a book with an unusual magic system, a well-formed world, and beautiful language, it’s a rare treat. The Name of the Wind has all three. Perhaps Rothfuss’s greatest strength is his ability to transform his ideas into evocative fluid images. You can’t help but feel pulled into his world. 

Another strength is in the construction of the story itself. Instead of the standard narrative tale starting with a character discovering a great need, this book starts at the end and then carefully gives the readers the pieces of Kvothe’s story through a scribe. From the first page, the reader is presented with questions that need to be answered. Part of the joy in reading it is piecing together the clues to see how everything fits together.

The last point that I loved, but some readers might be squeamish about, is that Rothfuss does not shy away from including physical injuries and their care afterwards. Poor Kvothe has many enemies who really like to hurt him. With inexperienced writers this can often be a pitfall, but Rothfuss weaves it in as a natural result of danger and adventure and it really works. 

Recommendations:

This is a fantasy that is better suited for older readers, I’d recommend it for readers no younger than sixteen because of the beautiful language and puzzle-like nature of the story itself which might be too abstract for younger readers. For those who love a unique magic system, beautiful writing, and plenty of danger, this is a good pick.

For readers who prefer knowing clearly what is going on from the beginning, and not having to wait, often several books, for the answers, this book might prove frustrating. 

I give it a 5 out of 5


Psst! Jodi here. Did you enjoy today’s review? Did it help you decide if this book was for you? Cool, eh?

Guess what? You can do the same for me. If you’ve read Stonebearer’s Betrayal, head on over to Amazon, Goodreads, or the book site of your choice and leave me a review.

It doesn’t have to be big and long like this one – a few sentences is perfect! Thanks in advance!

Book Review: Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson

The beautiful Spanish Edition cover of Elantris

Growing up, I always had a book tucked away with me in my school bag, or violin case, or carry on, or simply stuck under an arm. The epic saga of the Wheel of Time filled in the gaps between classes at high school and during longer orchestra breaks when the second violins had to go fend for themselves.

While Robert Jordan’s vision of the Wheel of Time world and its characters is still a masterpiece in my mind – the tone of the story itself grew darker with each giant book to the point where it became harder to see if anyone would have a happy ending. Like the rest of the fans of the series, Jordan’s early death caused me a great deal of worry. Would whoever took the reins and finished the story be able to do it justice?

Knowing what I know now, I shouldn’t have worried. When Sanderson took up the story, he captured the story and its characters and breathed life and hope back into them. Readers could imagine the satisfying ending they’d been wishing for and then he delivered it.

But, this post isn’t about Wheel of Time. It’s about Brandon Sanderson’s first published book, Elantris.

The Story:

Elantris was once a city of magic and those with incredible power lived there. When the cataclysmic event of the Reod happened, the city and its inhabitants became cursed. The gates of Elantris were closed to the outside world. The inhabitants of the city couldn’t die or heal and were doomed to suffer continuous pain from any injury for the rest of their days.

When Prince Raoden shows signs of the curse, he’s thrown into the now closed city and is doomed to suffer with those living there. He’s not willing to accept that, however, and immediately goes about trying to make things better for those condemned in Elantris. While he does this he discovers vital clues that will help him solve the mystery of why the magic stopped working.

Against him are the gangs in Elantris who gang up on any new comer to steal what meager provisions they might carry and a high ranking priest mandated to convert the country to the Derethi religion. With him is the resourceful and determined Princess Sarene with whom which he was destined to wed if not for the curse.

My Review:

I love a strong fantasy with magic that feels real and makes sense, so this book already had a lot going in its favor before I even opened it. Prince Raoden is the kind of character that you want to root for. He genuinely wants to make things better despite his own problems and is willing to work. He knows how to organize people and inspire them to his cause. The situation he’s thrown into is a hard one. It would be way too easy to fall into despair, but he refuses. Of all that happens in the book, his character is what makes the story successful.

There is a fair amount of political maneuvering in the book and for the most part it serves its purpose, which is to raise the stakes for our heroes. But for me, it also ground the action to a halt.

That said, I loved how the big problem was solved (no spoilers!) and thought that the solution itself was nothing short of ingenious.

Recommendations:

This is a solid fantasy book that will clearly hold a lot of appeal with fantasy readers. I would recommend it for readers 12 and up for descriptions of injury and political intrigue. There is no offensive language or overly romantic situations. While this would be a good starter book for those who would like to familiarize themselves with the fantasy genre, I wouldn’t consider it a typical example of a fantasy novel.

I’d still give it five stars. 🙂


Psst! Jodi here. Did you enjoy today’s review? Did it help you decide if this book was for you? Cool, eh?

Guess what? You can do the same for me. If you’ve read Stonebearer’s Betrayal, head on over to AmazonGoodreads, or the book site of your choice and leave me a review.

It doesn’t have to be big and long like this one – a few sentences is perfect! Thanks in advance!


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Book of the Month: Howl’s Moving Castle

71sst0-sdELI’ve had a soft spot for Miyasaki movies ever since I first watched the acclaimed Spirited Away and so reading one of the books that inspired another Miyasaki movie was a treat. There is a bizarreness to these stories that is both refreshing and thought-provoking.

About the book:

Howl’s Moving Castle is the story of Sophie Hatter, the oldest daughter of three, who is destined by birth to be a failure. Or so she thinks.  When she is cursed by the Witch of the Waste to be an old woman she finds it an inconvenience albeit she is somewhat relieved. Being an old woman grants Sophie a much greater freedom in her actions and speech than what she’s felt as an adolescent.

With this new found freedom she leaves the hat shop which has been her prison and heads into the countryside. It is there that she runs across Wizard Howl’s magical castle drifting along. She forces her way inside to get out of the damp and meets Calcifer, a fire demon who powers the castle, and Michael, Howl’s young assistant.

Howl himself is a selfish and vain man who has too much interest in the ladies and not enough in common sense.  Throughout the book we see how Sophie wins her way into his heart by not putting up with his foolishness.  They help each other in turns as they prepare to face the ultimate battle with the Witch of the Waste.

My Review:

There’s a lot to be said about having characters with strong opinions and preferences. In this book we see the importance of speaking up for yourself when we read about Sophie’s life both before and after her transformation. This is contrasted against Howl, who refuses to have any useful discussion with anyone and because of it comes across as cold and uncaring, even though he secretly does care deeply for Sophie.

Then there’s the inventiveness of the story elements themselves.  First, the totally awesome castle that wanders around the countryside and has a magic door that opens into different cities all over the realm. Not only does this provide Howl and Sophie ease of access to different places but it allows for some whimsy as well.  One of the doors is anchored to the very real Wales while the rest are in the magical world. Then you have my favorite character, the fire demon Calcifer who is cursed to live within the confines of chimney and hearth and at times acts like a petulant child, even though he is the most magically powerful of the three main characters.

It’s a fun and lively story and a great read for upper middle grade readers all the way to adults. I’d recommend it to readers of Piers Anthony, David Eddings, and Rick Riordan.

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Want to recommend a book? Let me know in the comments!

Have you read Howl’s Moving Castle? What was your favorite part? Favorite Character?

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Next month (February) I will be reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, and in March, Everneath by Brodi Ashton. Come join me!

Related posts:

2nd Quarter Reading – Done!

I’m happy to report that I’ve finished the second quarter reading with a few weeks to spare, namely because I fell in love with  The Lovely Bones and read it in four days. The longest read from this quarter clocks in at a mind-boggling six weeks to finish Midnight’s Children.

Here are this quarter’s books –

Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie: As mentioned before, I struggled to get through this book, not because it is poorly written or uninteresting but because it is extremely long and the prose is very dense. This isn’t to say there isn’t some fascinating reading in there, only that the reader is required to patiently sift and sort through a mixed jumble of thoughts and ideas that bounce back and forth in the time line of the main characters life.  It’s confusing.  Rushdie does a masterful job weaving different themes in and out of the story so by the time you get to the end you can see the whole picture – that is if you get to the end.

Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro: Reading this was like watching Downton Abbey from the perspective of the butler.  It is a melancholy and thoughtful read as we are shown the highlights of his life and efforts to become a truly great British butler at the expense of missing out on having a life of his own.  Like Midnight’s Children, it is not exactly a story but rather an experience of someone else’s life experience.

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold: After reading these other books, this book was a wonderful breath of life.  Finally, a real story with conflicts and problems to be solved instead of a rambling narrative. The main character narrates her story, sharing her point of view and feelings about what’s happening in her family, but the kicker here is that she’s dead.  The book opens with her remembering the details of her murder and she continues to follow her family as they struggle to cope with her loss.  Riveting, fascinating, and the best book on the list so far.

Here are the rest of this year’s picks, feel free to read along with me!

  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving200px-PrayerForOwenMeany
  2. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  3. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  4. Dune – Frank Herbert
  5. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

 

Related posts:

1st Quarter Reading – Done!

Back in the beginning of the year I set forth to read 12 books from the popular BBC Big Read list.  Now the first quarter is over and three of those books are complete. Here’s  here are my reactions to each book –

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens: I wanted to like this book, I like the story and have enjoyed the different movies from Patrick Stewarts down to Albert Finneys versions.  It’s a classic and I don’t regret reading it.  What better way to invite a feeling of Christmas than to read about Scrooge and his magical transformation from miserable miser to generous soul. What I do regret is that I couldn’t find quiet alone time to give it the attention and focus it deserves.  Dickens is not the easiest reading even for experienced readers. I wanted to be sucked in and be able to live through the story in the same way I enjoy modern fiction but it wasn’t to be.  The words refused to come alive for me and I didn’t have the patience to force them to do so either. This book is best enjoyed in front of a fireplace with a glass of wine and time for quiet contemplation – not from one’s phone while holding a wiggly toddler who is watching one of their obnoxious TV shows.

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte – Somehow I escaped reading this in High School and perhaps it was for the best that I did.  Along the same lines of Christmas Carol, this book requires lots of attention to keep track of what’s going on.  I had more quiet time to work on reading this time, which helped, but in the end I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy the experience.  The characters are not likable which makes it hard to empathize with their multitude of plights.

conradjoetext96hdark12aHeart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad – Once again, this was a harder read, although it seemed easier than Wuthering Heights. Maybe I’m finally getting the hang of 18th century literature, who knows? Then again, Heart of Darkness takes place deep within the Congo, a setting I find fascinating.  It also deals with more urgent matters than Wuthering Heights, such as life and death situations and slavery, which I prefer over stories where the main plot question revolves around the question, “Does he really love me?”

So far I’ve been enjoying the challenge of reading books that fall far outside my preferred reading bubble.  The language of these books is distinct and delicious and meant to be savored, like foreign chocolate. I can’t wait to get a taste of the next one!

Here are the remaining books left on my personal list for this year –

  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving200px-PrayerForOwenMeany
  2. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  3. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  4. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  5. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  6. Dune – Frank Herbert
  7. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  9. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

What are you reading this year?  Share in the comments!