In this series, Rothfuss sets out deconstruct the standard epic fantasy hero. To do this he must embrace a number of the classic tropes involved – Kvothe is orphaned, driven to avenge his parents’ death, attractive, arrogant, gifted (at music and in some academic pursuits), an adolescent coming of age, a legendary fighter, a talented wizard, etc. The joy for me is in watching Rothfuss slowly dissect this ideal fantasy hero – a classic Gary Stu if you will. Rothfuss chooses to do so by having an older and (possibly) wiser hero relay his story to a chronicler and the reader sees this all through the first person perspective of Kvothe telling his coming of age story. Kvothe chooses what to share and how to share it while periodic interludes provide hints of the popular versions of these events as told by people at large and offer other fun and interesting perspectives. Kvothe often leaves out what would otherwise seem rather important – like the time he is on a ship attacked and sunk by pirates which he barely survives after which he spends time as a penniless beggar is glossed over in only a couple of lines, yet he spends pages mooning over the girl of his dreams. Apparently one of the more infamous events in Kvothe’s popular lore is a trial that he eventually wins – yet he barely mentions it in his retelling, much to the chronicler’s chagrin. The reader is left wondering which is more at work – the exaggeration of rumor or Kvothe’s own version of things?
The truth is that all of this would be a complete failure if not for Rothfuss’ incredible story-telling ability. The style that he writes with is intoxicating and addictive – there is energy to his story-telling that cannot be denied. Calling the book a page-turner doesn’t quite do it – this is a 1000+ page book that reads like a book less than half its size. In a time when I have very limited time for reading, I still managed to finish it in less than a week. The way Rothfuss writes makes me think he’s one of those people that you could spend all night listening to as they tell one ridiculous story after another. At the time of your listening you are having the time of your life, later in retrospect you kind of wonder what the big deal was.