The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles Book 1) by Patrick Rothfuss (2007; read in 2017)
Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an interest in this book, then I’m happy for you.
This is book one of the Kingkiller Chronicles. It details the life of Kvothe, a preternaturally gifted young man. He is of the Edema Ruh, a family that is a traveling troupe of unparalleled talent. His parents are the leaders of this particular clan and teach him much of what they know. Along the way, they pick up an arcanist, Abernathy, who begins to teach the precocious young Kvothe much of what he would need to know to attend the University.
Tragedy strikes when the boy is just 12 years old. His father has written a song about ancient tales of ancient powers whose feats and powers—and evil—have largely been lost in the mists of time: the Chandrian. These creatures were wakened by the constant repetition of their names—names are powerful things—and they sought out and savagely killed the entire troupe. All, save Kvothe, who survives with only the clothes on his back.
He makes his way to a local city named Tarbean where he lives on the streets as a pitiful wretch, a beggar on the edge of existence. After several years, he finally manages to escape and makes his way to the University. There are adventures galore and Rothfuss tells the tale well. Kvothe gains entrance with his precocity, gains favor among some of the masters and makes lifelong enemies of others. His time spent studying with Abernathy serves him well. He ekes out a living playing the lute. Even at his young age, he’s extremely talented from his genetics and his upbringing.
Near the end of his first year of school—after having more interesting and believable adventures, usually with his three bosom companions, Manet, Simmon and Wilem—he finally gets wind of a possible Chandrian sighting and heads off on a grand adventure. He ends up battling a dragon (of sorts), learns more of Denna, a fair maiden who he will continue to pursue (kind of) and returns with enough wealth to finance his next semester of school.
The story is told as a retrospective from Kvothe’s (Kote’s) inn, in a world grown gray and evil, long after the tales he tells.
“But I wouldn’t trust half these people to piss leeward without help.””
“Skarpi spoke to the man’s back. “It’s not as if I expect you to bound off looking for Haliax and the Seven yourself. ‘Small deeds for small men,’ I always say. I imagine the trouble is in finding the job small enough for men such as yourselves. But you are resourceful. You could pick trash, or check brothel beds for lice when you are visiting.””
“Then I felt something inside me break and music began to pour out into the quiet. My fingers danced; intricate and quick they spun something gossamer and tremulous into the circle of light our fire had made. The music moved like a spiderweb stirred by a gentle breath, it changed like a leaf twisting as it falls to the ground, and it felt like three years Waterside in Tarbean, with a hollowness inside you and hands that ached from the bitter cold.”
“With another nod toward the seated students, I left the lecture hall without a backward glance.”
This is a bit too much, too much like the fantasies every young person has.
““What do you know of poetry?” Ambrose said without bothering to turn around. “I know a limping verse when I hear it,” I said. “But this isn’t even limping. A limp has rhythm. This is more like someone falling down a set of stairs. Uneven stairs. With a midden at the bottom.””
““No offense, but would you mind checking again? I’m not sure I can trust the literacy of someone who tries to rhyme ‘north’ with ‘worth.’ No wonder you have to hold women down to get them to listen to it.” Ambrose stiffened and his arm slid off the back of the chair to fall at his side. His expression was pure venom. “When you’re older, E’lir, you’ll understand that what a man and a woman do together—” “What? In the privacy of the entrance hall of the Archives?” I gestured around us. “God’s body, this isn’t some brothel. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, she’s a student, not some brass nail you’ve paid to bang away at. If you’re going to force yourself on a woman, have the decency to do it in an alleyway. At least that way she’ll feel justified screaming about it.””
“And there was Ambrose. To deem us simply enemies is to lose the true flavor of our relationship. It was more like the two of us entered into a business partnership in order to more efficiently pursue our mutual interest of hating each other.”
“[…] sing opposite you? Is one of the boys you came in with a castrati?””
“The man stepped into the light and the farmers’ excitement was smothered by the sight of the piecemeal leather armor and heavy sword that marked a mercenary. A lone mercenary was never reassuring, even in the best of times. Everyone knew that the difference between an unemployed mercenary and a highwayman was mostly one of timing.”
““The truth is deeper than that. It’s…” Bast floundered for a moment. “It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.””
“Bast leaned closer until their faces were mere inches apart, his eyes gone white as opal, white as a full-bellied moon. “You are an educated man. You know there are no such things as demons.” Bast smiled a terrible smile. “There is only my kind.” Bast leaned closer still, Chronicler smelled flowers on his breath. “You are not wise enough to fear me as I should be feared. You do not know the first note of the music that moves me.””