The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

6266872Novel: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss | Goodreads
Release Date: March 27, 2007
Publisher: DAW (Penguin Group)
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.75 stars

MY NAME IS KVOTHE

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature–the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man’s search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.

The Name of the Wind is an adult fantasy novel that is 1) not convoluted, 2) easy to read, and 3) well worth the hype. The Name of the Wind is so good. SO. GOOD. I wanted to give it 5 stars. I resisted mainly due to a fair few typos and the author’s annoying use of commas instead of semicolons, a petty pet peeve of mine. There were also a couple parts of the novel (mainly the beginning, in which I was confused, and the few days of little action that Kvothe spent with Denna near the end) that I found a bit lagging, but that’s me really nitpicking. The book is good.

Now, be forewarned. I am absolutely dying to read the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear. It is taking everything in my power to sit down and write this review, rather than pick up the next installment and dive right back into Kvothe’s tale. So please forgive my all-over-the-place review. I feel like a Denner addict. (If you’ve read the book, you know.)

The predominant storyline in The Name of the Wind is the first portion of a three-part story, which will span across three books in a series titled The Kingkiller Chronicle. For the most part, the book is narrated in first-person by Kvothe as he recounts to a Chronicler his life from the ages of eleven to sixteen.

Kvothe is such an awesome character to read. He’s clever, witty, brilliant, talented, cultured, curious, and an excellent storyteller, just to name a few traits. I loved his storytelling, and his remarkable memory made it easier not to scoff at the details any normal person would likely forget. I tend not to like books in which a character is telling a story; I’d rather see the action unfold in real time. I found the beginning of the novel confusing because it’s not told in first-person and I didn’t know who anyone was. It was purposefully crypt, but just know that the novel doesn’t begin with Kvothe telling his tale. Patience, young grasshoppers.

That being said, I took the book for what it is, knowing I don’t particularly like this method of storytelling, and I ended up really enjoying it. The narration style is a nice balance in that the fact that Kvothe is telling his story is noticeable in all the right places; it doesn’t hinder the reading experience. The interludes were well-placed, as well. I am already concerned about the final book, though. I am hoping we will come back to the present and there will be some resolution there, as Kvothe is leading a sad life in a miserable world, still at quite a young age. I want to see him be awesome in the present!

All right, let’s talk love. It’s not really love yet in The Name of the Wind, but it most likely will be in the future. Kvothe cares deeply for Denna. I do not. I don’t dislike her, per say, but I don’t like her either. I think I might understand her more if I knew more about her past and why she’s always disappearing, but as it is, I find it supremely annoying, probably because I wouldn’t deal well with such an unreliable and secretive person in real life. And then Kvothe puts her on a pedestal and I’m just like sigh, okay. I do admire Kvothe’s respect for Denna and his acceptance of her nature and behavior. For me, Denna is whatever in The Name of the Wind, but little is revealed about her so I am expecting that to change in future installments.

The best part about The Name of the Wind, other than Kvothe himself, is its descriptiveness. There are some awesome magic scenes, detailed action sequences, and vivid images of life. I felt so much that Kvothe seemed to feel, so props to Mr. Rothfuss. When Kvothe was confident, even in a scary situation, I wasn’t afraid. When he was nervous for his admissions to the University, my stomach was rolling over. When he was living on the streets of Tarbean, I could see his hardships crystal clear. It was absolutely incredible.

In summary, I loved The Name of the Wind. It wasn’t quite perfect, but it was darn near close to 5 stars for me. I am looking forward to more character development, more imagery, more world-building, and, most of all, more of Kvothe’s story in its sequel. All of these elements were excellent in the first installment of The Kingkiller Chronicle and I cannot wait to read more. I highly recommend giving The Name of the Wind a go.

Thanks for reading.

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

20560137 Novel: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir | Goodreads
Release Date: April 28th, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Also Published On: Lit Up Review

I WILL TELL YOU THE SAME THING I TELL EVERY SLAVE.

THE RESISTANCE HAS TRIED TO PENETRATE THIS SCHOOL COUNTLESS TIMES. I HAVE DISCOVERED IT EVERY TIME.

IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH THE RESISTANCE, IF YOU CONTACT THEM, IF YOU THINK OF CONTACTING THEM, I WILL KNOW

AND I WILL DESTROY YOU.

Laia is a slave. 
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

This is a great beginning to what I anticipate will be a fantastic and thrilling series. An Ember in the Ashes provides readers with a “slow burn” reading experience (haha, get it?). The development of this Rome-like world was fantastic, and the novel reads a bit like a dystopian fantasy. But be forewarned: fantasy elements play a very minor role in this debut, though the stage is set for them to have the spotlight in future installments. Despite originally being marketed as a standalone, Penguin picked up the sequel recently so we will be getting more Laia and Elias! Speaking of which, we’ve got some pretty cool characters here. Laia goes through a TON of character development that is a joy to read, while Elias is strong from the start, but has a bunch of deep stuff to figure out as the book progresses. Connections can be drawn between this book and the Legend series by Marie Lu for sure, but An Ember in the Ashes is not nearly as fast-paced.

The writing style is raw in that Sabaa Tahir doesn’t try to hide anything from the reader. There are no euphemisms, no gawking at bloodshed, no reprieve from the cruel and calculating world she has built. And it is incredible. I give Tahir a lot of credit because she really exposes the darkness of the Empire and its subjects to the reader. Brothels, sexism, raping and abuse of slaves, and cold-blooded murder are not shied away from and, while gruesome to read at times, I have so much respect for Tahir for allowing us to see it all. In addition, there’s not much glamorization of either the Empire (run by Martials) or the Scholars (brutally subjected by the Martials). We get to see the good and bad of both, and the history behind why these peoples are what they are. The novel is very political, very militarily based, while showing us two sides of a convoluted story. That being said, this style lends itself to a darker, heavier reading experience. But it’s a brilliant one.

However, I have to give this debut a 4/5 stars because the first half and a bit (I estimate 5/8 of the book) was very slow and not much happened in terms of a climax. This book was a very slow build and it is well worth it in the end, but I could’ve set the book down for quite awhile and not felt a burning need to know what happened. The entire book, from start to finish, is good. I enjoyed the first half and it was well written, but I was confused about all the hype surrounding this novel until reaching the halfway point. The second half or so definitely lives up to the crazy hype this book is getting. (I also want to add that I picked this book up immediately after finishing Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses, so my judgement on “excitement” might have been a little skewed early on in An Ember in the Ashes.)

I couldn’t really get into the alternating POVs until close to the end. For me, they were a bit disruptive to the overall reading experience. Each chapter would end on a cliffhanger and because the two protagonists’ tales were not always intertwined, it was a juggling act keeping track of timing and events. That being said, overall, I preferred Elias to Laia, despite the latter’s exponential character growth throughout the novel. I was surprised that the two characters had such little interaction as I was expecting them to work together like Day and June from Legend pretty much the whole novel. But in hindsight, I like how Laia’s and Elias’s interactions ended up being limited because they both got to share their stories almost separately. I think that’s what this novel called for. And next novel, they’ll be together alllllll the time. 😉

The weird love square (actually, two love triangles really) seemed fake/artificial/forced. Keenan is irrelevant. There was no attempt to develop the relationship between him and Laia and so I couldn’t take them seriously. I understood the confusion and struggle in Elias’s and Helene’s relationship, and I liked the budding friendship/chemistry between Elias and Laia. Unfortunately, Keenan will probably emerge somewhere down the line to create some romantic drama and tension. I’m not looking forward to it.

Let’s talk Helene. This girl is Hermione Granger on steroids. She takes rule-following to the EXTREME. I actually really liked Helene overall. I respected her, she was an awesome female warrior, but sometimes her callousness and inability to care about Scholars, slaves – basically anything unrelated to being a Mask for the Empire – drove me mad. She had such little compassion for those beneath her while Elias had an overwhelming abundance of compassion for the very same people. But Helene’s saving grace is that she is a great friend; she’s loyal to Elias above everything but the Empire. I’m hoping we’ll get to see more character growth from her in the future, because I want to love this girl, I really do. JUST DO THE RIGHT THING, HELENE. HAVE SOME POST-CONVENTIONAL MORALITY (thanks, AP Psychology).

Now time for the Commandant. Oh, Lord. The Commandant is Elias’s mom and the head of Blackcliff military academy. And she’s absolutely crazy. Never in all of my life have I read a character as horrifyingly cruel as her. She terrifies me. I am TERRIFIED. At the end, we get a glimpse into her past and why she despises her son (and wants him dead, I might add), and I’m desperately hoping that we will uncover the layers of her character as the series goes on.

Other characters I really enjoyed were Gens Veturius (Elias’s grandfather and personal cheerleader), Spiro Teluman (blacksmith who’s full of kindness and mystery), Izzi (slave who befriends Laia), Cook (stern slave who turns out to be a butterball at heart), Sana (faction leader of the Resistance) and Cain (Augur who aids Elias). I’m curious to learn more about the mysterious female who appears at the end, Cook (who has a hidden past with the Resistance and with Laia’s parents), Lord Nightbringer (the dethroned Jinni king), and Teluman and Darin, Laia’s brother (who we see nothing of past the first few pages, but who unconsciously guides the plot of the book). Characters I hated: Marcus (probably my least favorite character, incredibly vile and cruel), Zak (not too bad except he’s a wimpy bystander to Marcus’s antics), Mazen (the leader of the Resistance) and the Commandant (she’s really interesting and a great antagonist, but absolutely unlikeable). Oh, and I despised the Mask that murders Laia’s innocent grandparents in the opening scene and then tries to rape Laia. (It’s an exciting first chapter.)

I found it fascinating that the masks the Masks wear bind to the skin on their necks and faces so that eventually they cannot be removed. Creepy much? I’m excited to find out more about the old Jinni world of magic and also to experience more of the Empire than just Blackcliff and the city it’s located in (which I’m not even sure we ever got a name for?). Also, the cover is gorgeous. It is hands down one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen and it fits perfectly with the story. Sorry for all the rambles! I am all over the place with thoughts and tidbits on An Ember in the Ashes.

I recommend reading this dystopian fantasy set in a technologically-advanced, Roman-Empire-like world. You’ll enjoy the entire ride, but get through the first half and you’re golden.