I cannot say enough good things about this book. It reminds me of Harry Potter, and I do not say this lightly. Just more grown up. Basically, what The Magicians was billed as except actually the case. The Name of the Wind is sometimes billed as Game of Thrones with more family-friendly material, but that doesn’t fit as well for me as the HP connection.
How is it like HP? It’s a magical education. Immersive magical education without the school for the first third of the book.
You learn the rules of the game as a part of the plot. This 600-page book is about our hero, Kvothe, learning. You know he’s got a legendary reputation and in a series called The Kingkiller Chronicle, you know some bad stuff is going to happen. And that’s ok. In the meantime, you get to track our plucky hero from his time with a traveling troupe to his time in The University.
Part of why the book was enjoyable was that it didn’t take the normal fantasy track of “Here’s our quest and here’s us going on that quest.” Instead, you know that there’s a larger plot going on, but you’re living through the minutiae as he lives his (extraordinary) life. You’re not on a quest. You’re growing up. You’re dealing with the highs and lows instead of the rises and falls of the plot.
That’s ultimately why I liked Harry Potter. It was a character-development series. There just happened to be magic going on.
The same is true of this book. You’ve got what counts for magic basically, but you’re really just following the lead character around as he learns about the world. You see how the legend starts, but you also see the real (in the fictional world) way events unfolded. This “truth” (quotes because truth in a book of fiction is still fiction) makes the book feel like it has more of a heart.
There was also some good humor to the book. This is not Douglas Adams or Christopher Moore trying to make you laugh, but there are some laugh-out-loud moments.
To give a spoiler-free summary: This a fantasy epic tracking the youth protagonist as he learns magic and travels around in a slightly magical world (that has more magic hiding underneath the surface that even the world’s denizens don’t know is there). I couldn’t tell you the main overarching plot if I wanted to, except maybe as vengeance.
There are two more books to complete the series, unless the author changes his mind. One is completed, and the other is somewhere in the ether waiting to be written. There is no release date set yet. Evidently being a fantasy writer with a beard means you’re not going to complete your series in a timely fashion. Oh well. There was an almost 20-year gap between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so hopefully it’s worth it. And hopefully I remember enough details (so many details).