I just finished reading The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day 1), by Patrick Rothfuss (Daw 2007, 662 pp). I am sad that I have turned the last page of the story, and will have to wait for book 2, but so happy to be able to say--Wow! Go read this book, or put it in the hands of any fantasy loving teenager asap! It was great!
It starts in an inn, miles from anywhere of importance. It starts slowly, and darkly, with the innkeeper obsessively polishing his bottles in a too-often empty room. Outside, weird metallic spider things that shouldn't be there are attacking people. On the road, drawing closer to the inn, is the Chronicler. He has heard a rumor about this innkeeper, and is coming to find his story. Because the innkeeper is actually Kvothe the Bloodless, the Kingkiller, of whom a hundred stories are told. The Chronicler is about to be told the truth.
Kvothe's story starts with a happy childhood, travelling with loving parents, performing with them, learning chemistry, physics, math, and magic from a wise old man who has joined them on the road. He is beginning to dream of the University, where he might go to read all the books in the best library in the world, and learn for himself the name of the wind.
I don't want to go on describing the plot--why spoil a good story? Very bad things happen, good things happen. There is a vegetarian dragon, the best Magical University I've been in outside of Earthsea, and lots of music. There's beautiful, and not very kind girl, who has secrets. There are chemical accidents, mysterious deaths, underground rooms (that we don't find out enough about here in book one argh), young Kvothe is a great character, and....
There were, it must be said, bits that dragged a tad, which could perhaps have used a bit of editing (I'm not sure, for instance, that the vegetarian dragon added much). And the girl character. I'm not sure what I think about her, but I'm willing to suspend judgement until I find out more.
But wow. It took me longer to get to this book than planned, because I had to spend several days watching my dear husband reading it, drawing farther and farther away from his loving family with each page...here is his reaction: "Didn't you get p....off at the end when you realized you weren't going to find out how the story ends?" He really liked it. Upon reading this, he requests that I add that he "has no patience with fantasy writing that is a mere collection of clichéd furniture with no story to tell."
In short, here is a great book about a teenaged protagonist, a fantasy that is fresh and exciting with no magic talismans (talismen?) or Quests, which leaves the reader dying for more (poor Patrick Rothfuss has gotten some nasty email as a result--he, too, would like to have Book 2 written).
The Name of the Wind is on this year's Nebulla shortlist (that's how I heard of it), and, apparently, would have won the Locus Award for Best Debut Fantasy if the votes of Locus suscribers hadn't been counted twice.
I don't exactly like the American cover, so here's the UK one. I don't exactly like that either.