Exploring The Kingkiller Chronicle I: The Name of the Wind


By: Angela Russo (@NerdGirlForever)

The first book in the extremely popular Kingkiller Chronicle fantasy series by Patrick Rothfuss follows the early years of Kvothe, son of Arliden of the Edema Ruh – a troupe of traveling performers. Though he would later go on to be known as Kvothe the Arcane, the Bloodless, and most infamously the Kingkiller, he is now living in the obscure town of Newarre as Kote the inn-keeper. A traveling chronicler sees through his disguise and strikes a deal to be the first to record his true history.

Kvothe’s journey began with his early training under Abenthy and the brutal slaughter of his entire family by the Chandrian – a formidable force of seven evil figures of legend. For reasons as yet unknown, our young hero was left alive but in a damaged state of mind. After this traumatic event, Kvothe spends a few years living in poverty as a beggar and thief in Tarbean until he encounters an old storyteller who jolts his mind out of a sleep-state.

Once awake, Kvothe makes his way to the University in the Commonwealth and wins entry on scholarship based on his early training. His tenure is fraught with mishaps as he frequently harasses the masters and noble students with his superior skills and tactless ego. In spite of many near expulsions, Kvothe does well, and is promoted up the ranks of the university with unprecedented speed. Our hero’s prodigious talents are not limited to the study of magical practice. Kvothe uses his musical skills to win his pipes (the mark of an impeccably skilled musician), and reunites with Denna, the ever-elusive damsel of his desire. Thus begins a seemingly futile romance that haunts him to this day. Kvothe’s quest to avenge his parents is renewed when word of a slaughter with telltale signs of the Chandrian’s presence reaches his ears. He throws caution to the wind and dashes off to investigate. In the course of the adventures that follow, he faces down a draccus terrorizing a rural town. Upon returning to The University, he encounters further obstacles with his nemesis Ambrose, but is promoted once again to Re’lar when he inadvertently calls on the name of the wind.

The Science of Magic

Rothfuss weaves an intricate realistic methodology of magical practice throughout the entirety of the series. The Name of the Wind takes explaining the foundations of the magic of Temerant very seriously, and truly brings it to life in a way that’s so believable you may begin questioning if you couldn’t perform a little sympathy yourself! Amusingly enough, young Kvothe is disappointed that the majority of magical disciplines are scientific and practical in application. He prefers something more mystical and mysterious in nature. This heightens his desire and interest to master the elusive skill of naming.

Alar: The mental ability to hold a belief contrary to fact firmly enough that it affects reality, and more than that, believing in multiple such potentialities at the same time. It is a trick of the mind that requires incredible mental strength. This is the cornerstone of sympathy.

The Heart of Stone: State of consciousness where the “user” abdicates from all his beliefs and opinions, forgetting all emotions and prejudices. It is a pure state of reason that would likely gain the Vulcan stamp of approval.

Sympathy: System of energy manipulation that requires extreme skill and concentration. Sympathy requires a user to create a sympathetic link between two objects, so that whatever is done to one object will affect the other. The more similar the two objects are, the stronger the link will be between them. This practice requires drawing from an energy source such as your own body heat or a fire. If improperly exercised, the caster can suffer from binder’s chills.

Sygaldry: Involves the use and application of runes, which create effects similar to a permanent form of sympathy. There are 197 runes, and they can be used in a variety of combinations to perform a wide assortment of effects on various materials. Utilized in the craft of artificing.

Alchemy: Form of magic that bears similarities to chemistry, but is explicitly stated as being an unrelated practice.

Naming: Discipline where one perceives the true name of a person, place or thing, and through that understanding gains absolute control over the subject. A true name can only be perceived by the subconscious “sleeping mind.” Naming is an exceptionally rare talent.

The Vibrant World of Temerant

Magic is exciting, but the best part of the book is how deeply immersive the world of Temerant is, full of rich cultures, and an entrancing mythological history. The characters come to witty quirky life, each with their own regional dialects, customs, and superstitions. Tales of legend are clearly important pieces of the puzzle that Kvothe attempts to decipher regarding the truth of the Chandrian. There is much dissent among the inhabitants of the realm as to which version of history is true — especially in relation to Lanre, the Tehlin church, and the origin and existence of both the Holy Order of the Amyr and the Chandrian themselves. Readers are pulled deeper into the twists and turns of the narrative through creative means such as poetic riddles, ancient tales, and bardic songs.

Rothfuss has created a wildly exciting world that holds as much wealth of potential for extensive fantasy storytelling as that of the Forgotten Realms universe. The Name of the Wind is an impeccable foundation story bursting at the seams with a veritable treasure trove of adventure, intrigue, magic, and mystery. As we follow the story of Kvothe and his quest for revenge on the Chandrian, it is impossible not to become powerfully invested.

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