The true story of a legend is told for the first time by the legend himself. It’s a familiar fantasy set-up with a rarely used first person narrative that let’s you inside the head of the boy, Kvothe, that grows up to be “the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.” I’ve seen several comparisons to Harry Potter, but besides an orphan protagonist who attends a school for magic, the similarities end there.
Kvothe’s parents and their traveling troupe of musicians are brutally murdered by the mysterious Chandrian (themselves creatures of folklore), which sets up an underlying story of revenge that I hope will follow through all three books. With no one to look after him, and no money, Kvothe lives on the street for several years, before he attempts an application to school.
This is a simple, well executed story that captures the reader’s sympathy for a little boy who loses everything, but through cleverness, bluff, and sheer moxie, he succeeds in attaining what other children get handed to them. His penchant for making enemies of the powerful and rich, friends with the weak and interesting, and falling for the beautiful illusory girl who changes her name in every town, Kvothe is always falling into and reaching for the next adventure.
Simply put, this book captures something simple, something true, that made me fall in love with fantasy. Rothfuss’ world building is so detailed he lulls you into a sense of familiarity. Magic is not so much built of wonder but of logic. It’s starts to makes sense; it starts to feel normal. But sometimes stories are powerful because the magic doesn’t happen all at once, but day by day. Magic can be born from a song played on a lute missing a string, or from a gift of a ring that keeps secrets, or from a desperate life whose events, when strung together, form a legend.
“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”