The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss this is a really absorbing mixture of epic fantasy tropes and The Story of Kvothe: The Harry Potter Years. the novel, besides its framing story, is divided inequally between three parts of the protagonist's early journeys: a bucolic life on the road with romany-like entertainers, a hard-scrabble life on the streets in a typically hard city, and a life of mystery & romance & wonder in a sinister school for sorcerors. all three portions are nothing new; in fact a person could call out each scenario as an obvious cliche of the genre. happily, nothing felt derivative to me and kvothe's adventures were a pleasure to read from beginning to end. it is hard for me to put a finger on why this is so, other than to state the obvious: the writing is excellent. now this is not especially lyrical or literary writing - i never felt the need to put the book down and savor a brilliant or haunting phrase. but what it is, well, is perhaps even more enjoyable: a truly well-crafted page-turner that escapes derivativeness by virtue of its straightforward humanism, its carefully constructed mysteries, its relaxed pacing, its many scenes of derring-do, its equally frequent scenes of contemplation & moodiness, and its splendid hero - one who manages to be both somewhat of an everyman and yet also a singular & highly individualistic oddball. sometimes a classic formula works perfectly, and this novel manages to take three classic situations (theatre types on the road, orphan child-thief, student mage) and breathe new life into them.

for me, there was one flaw: the portrayal of kvothe in the framing sequences and within the interludes. personally, i need to be shown how a character is an amazing icon, a fearful wizard, a terrifying power who moved history. i can't just be told that - or even have it implied - and then just accept that this is how i should view the character. so, although the framing sequences and interludes were definitely compelling - i really want to know what is going to happen next - i found myself rushing through them to get back to the boyhood adventures. all that said, this is truly a minor flaw in my opinion.

so back to the novel's virtues:

Kindness. how refreshing to have so much kindness displayed by various characters throughout all of kvothe's life situations. the kindness was never maudlin or forced, and was depicted side-by-side with cruelty and other forms of darkness. and so it was a pleasure to live in a world that felt real but was not all harsh edges, where some human beings didn't automatically want to fuck over other human beings.

Music. i loved this novel's focus on music as a key component of life, and how it was central to kvothe's self-image.

A Single Perspective. since george rr martin, i will always appreciate the multiple-perspective epic fantasy. but it was really enjoyable looking through kvothe's eyes throughout the novel. he never bored me, he never alienated me; his motivations were clear and yet he also managed to surprise me on a regular basis. in general, i don't need to like a protagonist for a novel to succeed for me. that said, kvothe is a prickly cuss at times but was also genuinely likeable - in a very unforced way.

Scary Demonic Beings. the Chandrian! gosh i am intrigued. i can't wait to read more about them. a woman with a broken sword? a man by a dead tree? a naked temptress? a white-haired man with all-black eyes? a man with a dog biting his leg? a thoughtful man, wrapped in shadow? who are these enigmatic villains who slaughter groups of people for digging up the wrong treasure or for singing the wrong song?

A Dragon. perhaps the most realistic dragon i've ever read about. sorta deadly. sorta cute. an interesting animal. and also drug-addled!

okay, if you haven't read this already, you should. reading it is like a beautiful day in the park, you just want it to go on and on.