January 15th, 2023
Collected on: January 15th 2023
The Name of the Wind tells the story of how a boy called Kvothe came to be one of the great legends of his time.
Welcome to this in-depth, spoiler-free discussion of The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, a heroic fantasy trilogy of which the third installment is yet to be released. Our curator Robin added The Kingkiller Chronicles to the Escape Velocity Collection, a series of items that we believe represent the absolute peak of what the speculative genre has to offer.
Jop challenged Robin to defend her addition to the Collection – why is The Kingkiller Chronicles one of the best stories in the fantasy genre?
For years, I had heard a lot of praise for The Name of the Wind (the first installment in The Kingkiller Chronicles) before I finally came down to reading it. In fact, I believe you were one of the book’s fiercest champions and one of the main reasons I finally put it on the top of my list! I’m curious – how did you first stumble upon The Kingkiller Chronicles and why did it make such an impact on you?
To be honest, I don’t really remember who recommended it to me. I may have simply come across it on the internet when I was just starting to get back into fantasy a couple of years ago. The series has been a favorite with fantasy-lovers for years, and I have no trouble understanding why: it has an interesting set-up, detailed worldbuilding and many great characters.
Characters and Plot
I would indeed say that one of The Kingkiller Chronicles best selling points, are its characters. Though I can’t say I like all of Rothfuss’ characters, I think most of them are compelling, even if I don’t necessarily like them. For example, I’m quite on the fence when it comes to how much I like both Kvothe and Denna, arguable the main characters of this story, but I’m very invested in their adventures.
Do you group Kvothe and Denna among your favorites? If not, can you name some of the great characters you had in mind and how their roles contribute to your enjoyment of the story?
I understand what you mean when you say you are on the fence about liking Kvothe, as his actions don’t always speak for him. He makes some very questionable decisions throughout the books and to call him arrogant would not be an exaggeration. However, if I look very deep within myself I find that I have a soft spot for him despite all of that. Deep down he is a good guy, and most of the time his arrogance stays just on the right side of cocky, so it doesn’t bother me too much. Denna is quite a different story I’m afraid: I mostly find her very annoying and have not really been able to find any reasons to look past that.
For me, the real strength of the books lies in some of the side characters, such as Elodin and Auri. They are interesting and unique characters who really spice up the book and make it a joy to read. You never know what you are going to get with them, and the scenes in which they appear are my favorite parts of the story.
There are indeed some good ‘spicy’ side-characters in this series. The story, however, revolves around Kvothe, and the reader is a fly on the wall of his life and his legend. While there is an overarching mystery, we mostly follow Kvothe’s day to day life. And – although he has many admirable traits – one could argue that most of his struggles come from his own character flaws. He creates most of his own challenges, thus driving the plot onwards, thus making The Kingkiller Chronicles a character-driven story. Do you agree with this perspective? Is this perhaps one of the reasons you enjoy these books? Or would you say there’s more to how the plot is structured than I paint in my picture?
I definitely agree that a lot of Kvothe’s problems are caused by his own stupid choices, which might make it a bit of a frustrating story to read for some. However, the way in which he manages to get himself out of these situations is never less than spectacular. Rothfuss has cleverly set up the story in such a manner as to ensure that these escapades do not become too unbelievable: we know from the start that we are getting the story of how one of the biggest legends of their world was created, and so as a reader you are more willing to accept whatever ridiculous adventures Kvothe gets up to. I personally really enjoyed this method of driving the plot.
The world in which the Kingkiller Chronicles is set probably won’t make it to the top of my all-time favorite fantasy worlds, mostly because in some ways it is quite a standard fantasy setting. However, it is clear that the worldbuilding is quite extensive, at least where the world’s mythology is concerned. As someone who enjoys worldbuilding yourself, what is your take on the world that Rothfuss has created?
I agree with you that the setting of The Kingkiller Chronicles in many ways isn’t very remarkable. Big medieval cities with taverns and castles are some of the staples, for example. However, I really liked what Rothfuss did with his multiple magic systems. Though most of them are derived from well-known depictions of magic, Rothfuss cleverly incorporates them into his own world and puts a new spin on them. Every scene involving Sygaldry or Naming was a delight to read. Another thing I like, is Rothfuss’s take on Fae, but this might just be because I like the concept of fey in general.
Also, like you said, the mythology of this world is very extensive, with a lot of myths, legends and folk stories, full of parallels and little hints to the future plot. Though some of this lore tends to be a little too long winding for my taste, I appreciate how Rothfuss uses this worldbuilding to tell his story. Which brings us to the next point.
Something that especially stood out to me while reading The Kingkiller Chronicles, is the unconventional way Patrick Rothfuss tells the stories of Kvothe and his world. He freely plays with different narrative techniques, such as framing stories, and at times even throws any traditional structuring rules completely out of the window.
Would you say this style of storytelling is one of this trilogy’s strengths, or perhaps something that makes it less accessible to readers?
Personally, I think this is one of the aspects that sets this trilogy apart from most other fantasy (in a good way). The love of storytelling is woven so masterfully through both the content and the form of the story, that these two come to strengthen each other. Perhaps the laborious structure might be a little too much for some readers, but in general I think that anyone who is willing to start a book of 600+ pages has to have a love of stories themselves.
The Doors of Stone
I’m somewhat hesitant to adress this point – Rothfuss receives more than enough disproportionate hate on this regard as it is – but The Kingkiller Chronicles is currently incomplete. A Wise Man’s Fear was released in 2011 and the final installment The Doors of Stone is yet to receive a release date.
Do you think the lack of its third installment does the trilogy a disservice? Or is it possible to enjoy the first two books regardless?
The story is definitely not finished, but I feel like we left it at a relatively good place. Even if the final part should never be published, I still think that the first two books are worth reading. They contain so much interesting material that I felt they were absolutely worth my time.
If I remember correctly, this is also what I told you when I encouraged you to read these first two books now, despite the open ending. Do you think I was right to tell you so, or would you have preferred to wait until the final part is released (if ever)?
I don’t feel you’ve misled me with that advice. Actually, I didn’t even read the ending of A Wise Man’s Fear as a (jarringly) open ending. Sure, you are left with quite a lot of questions, but it’s not a literal cliffhanger. Though I hope The Doors of Stone will one day be released, I could live with what we’ve already got. I think most people might feel the same way, if they start the series with the same disclaimer.
Alright, let’s summarize. The Kingkiller Chronicles is an – as of yet – unfinished trilogy that is still very much worth the read. It is a character-driven story about how a flawed character grew to be a legend. If you read this trilogy, expect to be charmed by unique side-characters and enthralling prose and narrative structures. Something to add?