Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Summer Reading: The Name of the Wind (Ch. 1-6)

In yesterday's post, I told you about two summer blog columns: one for books, and one for anime. Both will be casual, much like my Rewind posts. I'm starting these summer columns to keep me accountable. But I hope you'll enjoy them, too. Maybe you'll decide to check out one of the books I'm reading... or maybe you know of a book I absolutely must bump up on my priority list.


I'm starting with Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind—The Kingkiller Chronicle Day One.  I read it several years ago, before the sequels came out, and I loved it for the fun, excitement, and fantasy. Now, I'm reading it with a new level of appreciation. Literature classes have taught me to slow down and enjoy descriptions, to delight in wording and unique metaphors. Writing classes have taught me to notice voice and perspective, to think about pacing and characters. Last time I read The Name of the Wind, I didn't notice the details. I forgot entirely about the first six chapters. I don't think I'll forget again.

The descriptions and wording in general make me happy. Look at the first two sentences:
"It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts."
Rothfuss spends the short prologue describing the three parts, and it's rather poetic. I'm certain some elements of it are symbolic, but this is not a school paper, so I'll refrain from delving too deep. Instead, I'll skip to the prologue's last sentence. "It" refers to the third silence:
"It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die."
Whoosh. What a way to end that beautiful prologue! But the man to whom the third silence belongs is still young. His hair is "red as flame." Why would he be "waiting to die"? This is the first of many questions to cross my mind.

In the first six chapters, we learn a little bit about the main character, known in the town Newarre (wait... "no where"? "New war"? Both? Hmm...) as "Kote": He has owned the Waystone Inn for about a year, and he's careful to keep the appearance of a "simple innkeeper." He's younger than thirty, but his experience makes him old, and he already has a student (who clearly comes from his pre-innkeeper days). His red hair and green eyes get brighter and dimmer. He has experience fighting nasty creatures that the smalltown folk would call "demons." It seems obvious that he is the "Kingkiller" mentioned in the book series' name. But he won't admit anything directly for almost 50 pages.

Then, the Chronicler comes to town. He wasn't sure if he'd find the legendary man, but he came anyway, hoping to collect the story of Kvothe the Bloodless. At first, Kote refuses. He's a little angry. Chronicler could be putting him in danger, could reveal his identity and location. And his story apparently includes quite a bit of pain. But Chronicler is persuasive. Kote/Kvothe finally agrees, but on his terms: he will take three days to tell the story, starting the next morning.

At the end of Chapter Six: "The Price of Remembering," a change occurs. Chronicler muses about Kote's unusual terms and explains them by saying, "You are Kvothe." After that, "the man who called himself Kote" smiled, and "a spark was kindling behind his eyes. He seemed taller." From then on, "Kote" is Kvothe.

Names are important in The Name of the Wind—important to the main character, to the author, and thus to the readers. Kvothe chose the name "Kote" very carefully when he came to Newarre. I don't know what it means, and was of no help, but hopefully I'll eventually learn its significance. But the names of things are important, too. Knowing something's name allows one to command it. I don't know the details yet.

So far, the narration has been third person limited, almost third person dramatic at times. The narrator occasionally gives insight to characters' thoughts, but not word-for-word. And often, the action plays out like a movie, and we must interpret the images without hearing the characters' inner thoughts. The effect is just removed enough to be mysterious, but it's also inviting, warm. It seems to say, "If you stick around this inn for a while, I'll get that innkeeper to open up. Then you'll hear a better story than his patrons have ever told."

Kvothe starts telling his story in Chapter 7, which I am about to read. This is where the real tale begins.


Coming up on my reading list:
- Finish The Name of the Wind
- The first two Harry Potter Books (I reserved them at the library, so they have to be next)
- The next installment of The Kingkiller Chronicle.
- A non-fiction... maybe I'll start with The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. It's thin—a good warm-up book.

Have you read The Name of the Wind? Did you take time to notice all the cool images and descriptions? If you haven't, I hope you'll add it to your summer reading list. Then we can have fun talking about it together.

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