I am not sure anything I write about this book would do it justice. I wish I could just say GO READ THIS BOOK RIGHT THIS MINUTE and be done with it and let it stand on its own two feet. But that’s not how book reviews work and it’s definitely not what you come here to get, so I’ll cover just a few things with the central idea being that this is one of the best books I have ever read. Period.
The story is set up as a story within a story: we meet an innkeeper named Kote who begins to tell his life story to the regional Chronicler – a keeper of records and stories. We find out that his real name is Kvothe and he is a man of legend hiding out in this small town. He agrees to tell his life story across three days (which seems to line up with a trilogy of books, the third of which fans have been waiting on since 2014 and don’t seem likely to get anytime soon).
The story is written as though some great storyteller was performing it for you live. That’s the only way I can describe how it felt to read. My mind creates a movie to accompany any book I read, but for this particular book is was so easy and so beautiful that I didn’t want to push pause. I was 100% entertained and delighted every time I picked up the book. Imagine riding in a well-oiled sports car driven by an expert driver along winding roads – the journey through this book is exciting, yet smooth. Exhilarating yet dangerous.
I appreciated that there was very real danger in this book. The rules behind the magical practice are unique and it was fun to learn them. The enemies are considered mythical, and those that encounter them rarely survive, so the fact that our hero walks away as a child and seeks them in his studies at the University makes him something of a laughingstock among the professors at first; they think he’s obsessed with children’s boogeymen.
His constant poverty adds a lot to the suspense of the book. For most of his life he is one step away from being murdered, going hungry, or dying in a gutter. He survives on a healthy diet of smarts, perseverance, and luck. I appreciate when an author deals with this issue realistically – at no time does Kvothe come into a windfall. He scrimps and saves, steals and deals, works and performs, and you’ll feel exhausted as his need for funding dogs his every step along the path to learning and independence.
I related to Kvothe so hard throughout this story that when a lady came slamming into the picture it was disorienting. Denna (Dianne, Dennae, etc. – she goes by many names) is a constantly disappearing, coy, smart, beautiful woman that Kvothe gets obsessed with and chases all over. She comes and goes as she pleases and disappears on Kvothe many times. I think he thinks he loves her, but they don’t ever do anything (I don’t think they ever even kiss) and she’s seen in the company of many other men while she’s friendzoning Kvothe. My reading pace slowed down significantly when she came on the scene, and while I still enjoyed the book, it wasn’t as compelling when it became 65% about this girl.
It ends with a shady creature coming into his tavern, speaking a weird language and picking a fight with the locals, so his first day of giving his story comes to an end. It doesn’t feel like much of a cliffhanger, but you’ll definitely want to stop by the Waystone Inn in book 2 to hear more of Kote’s story.
Some asshole put the book on hold at the library and it looked like I wasn’t going to finish it, but I liked it so much I bought it, fools. This book is 98% fresh on Angry Angel Tomatoes and you should go find it immediately. WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE, HURRY!