Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Name of the Wind (finished) and Harry Potter (Years 1-1.3)

This is the second post in my "Summer Reading" column—the post title is too long without including the column title, so I think I'll leave it out from now on.

I'm loving this reading-for-fun thing. The bookworm within me needed only a little encouragement to come out from her cave. Before I knew it, I was staying up all night and letting books distract me from responsibilities. In the past week, I think I've read almost 900 pages. Five years ago, that wouldn't have been a big deal, but that was before anime distracted me. Since then, I've only read a few just-for-fun books each year. I forgot how these pages can consume me. At 4:00 am, I can still be saying, "I'm not sleepy yet. Just one more page... and another... and another..." It's worse than YouTube videos.

Anyway, this week's titles are The Name of the Wind and the ever-so-controversial Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I've also begun Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
This would be a much better picture if I had The Name of the Wind
in print. But I would have had to request it from another branch in
our library system, and then wait. So I borrowed it via Kindle instead.

I finished reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss a few days ago. It was even better than I remembered. In addition to what I talked about last week, here are a few more elements I enjoyed:

- The Name of the Wind begins in third person, following the activities in the Waystone Inn. Then, as Kvothe tells his own story, the majority is in first person. Every now and then, he pauses his story, and we enjoy another chapter in third person. This arrangement enhances the intrigue. Kvothe's adventures clearly changed him, and we still don't know exactly how.

- On a similar note, Kvothe makes an entertaining, interactive storyteller. Every now and then, he'll make a comment like, "If you're not a musician, I don't expect you to understand." When he says such things, I'm pulled back into the Waystone Inn for a moment, where I sit next to the Chronicler and Bast, listening to Kvothe tell his tale.

- The magic in The Name of the Wind often draws from science. For example, Kvothe occasionally mentions that energy can neither be created nor destroyed—a law that my Physical Science professor mentioned a few dozen times last semester.

- The poetic epilogue mirrors the prologue. It's not exactly the same, but it shares its rhythm and several lines.

Now, I can't say I love every aspect of The Name of the Wind. I feel obligated to give a disclaimer: there's sexual innuendo, and it's clearly not written from a Christian worldview. Rothfuss's approach to his world's mythology is particularly interesting. He's developed myths that draw a bit from Christianity. Some stories about the great Tehlu remind me a lot of Jesus' life on Earth, though Tehlu's mercy and justice aren't nearly as magnificently executed. (No, I won't go into the details... you know that if I start, this post will become 1,000 words longer, and I don't have time for that. But if you've read this book, please feel free to comment about it.) In addition to the basic myths, there are superstitions. And the main character, Kvothe, is very skeptical about much of it.

The Name of the Wind is only the first in the series. Kvothe will take three days to tell his story, and this book was only the first day's worth. The second book is already out, and I plan to request it at the library soon. I think Rothfuss is still working on the third book, but there is another, smaller, related book already out about one of the side characters—of course, I plan to read that this summer, too. All-in-all, Rothfuss has developed an interesting world populated with interesting characters, and I definitely recommend it to fans of fantasy.

Now, onto the second topic of the week: Harry Potter. Some of you might be thinking: "Wow, Annalyn. Are you sure? I mean, that anime stuff is suspicious enough, but Harry Potter? I heard that good and bad get mixed up in that series. And that it promotes real witchcraft. And other stuff."

Okay, I'm not exactly a Harry Potter expert. My parents didn't explicitly ban me from reading them when I was young. If I'd asked, I'm sure Dad would have given them a read and then let me at 'em. But I knew some of my friends weren't allowed to read it, so I didn't push the matter. Now, as a young adult, I'm starting to feel woefully uninformed. I'm a creative writing student who loves fantasy, and who has ties to various nerdy communities. One of my literature professors has made connections between Harry Potter and a book we read for class. I was one of few who has neither read them nor sat down to watch all the movies (though I think I've seen all or most of them at various points, mostly over my cousins' shoulders when I was living with them).

For the accusations about morality: uh... sorry, but everyone I've talked to who's actually followed the entire series seems to disagree. You'd have a much better case against Pirates of the Caribbean.

For the quibbling about witchcraft and other religious matters: Go with your conscience with this one. But from what I've seen and read, the magic in the HP series has very little to do with real Wiccan or occult practices. And J.K. Rowling has repeatedly said that she is a Christian. Granted, she's no conservative. A quick glance at quotes on Wikipedia suggests she and I wouldn't see eye-to-eye on a few religious matters. But she most certainly isn't Wiccan (contrary to one rumor that I heard years ago).

Now, a quick note on the books themselves: Sorcerer's Stone was fun.  (Yes, I know it should be called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and American publishers changed it. Since I'm already acquainted with alchemy and the philosopher's stone, thanks to Fullmetal Alchemist, the changed wording annoys me. But whatever.) It has a whimsical, story time feel. The Dursleys are absurdly cruel. I have to suspend my disbelief for them and for unreasonable teachers more than I do for the magic itself. I enjoy the world Rowling has created with wizards and muggles and their interactions.  I worried that I'd find it lacking, since I just finished The Name of the Wind, but it's plenty entertaining.

I started the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, this evening. It, too, is entertaining. There's a bit too much recap of the first book for my taste, as if Rowling expected some readers to pick it up without reading its predecessor. But that's a minor annoyance. Unless I have some self-control, I might finish this tonight.

Next on my reading agenda: the sequels to the two series mentioned herein. I probably should pick up one of the non-fictions on my To Read pile, too. Also, the plays and screenplays my Play Writing classmates are sending to me—of course, I won't write about those here. Actually, I need to finish my own screenplay... I think I'll be the last one to send mine out. I should probably set aside reading for a bit and work on writing instead.

Have you read The Name of the Wind or Harry Potter? What do you think of them?

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