And so I begin another epic fantasy series that came to me highly recommended by my wife. To her mild frustration I’ve put off reading this one for almost a year now, but after several reminders that the last series she recommended to me was Mistborn I figured I’d better start reading!
Published in 2007, this book begins the tale of a man named Kvothe. Though we first meet him working as an innkeeper in a sleepy rural town, it soon becomes apparent that there is much more to him than meets the eyes of the locals. Through his interactions with his companion Bast and reactions to a seemingly demonic attack on one of the townsfolk, it is suggested to the reader that this unassuming man has lived a rather extraordinary and heroic life. Kvothe, however, seems determined to keep his past closely guarded from those around him, at least until a man known as the Chronicler, a famous scribe with a connection to someone from his past, arrives in town and persuades him to share his life story. Kvothe relents and begins to recount the extraordinary and often grim events of his youth. From seeing his a nomadic childhood in an acting troupe cut short by a group of demons to his years spent living in poverty as an orphan on the streets of a dangerous city, Kvothe likely would have met an early death if not for his exceptional skills and strength of character. Through sheer determination, Kvothe eventually fulfills his childhood dream of entering the University where he officially begins his study of this world’s magic system, in the process creating something of a reputation for himself while making a fair number of friends and enemies along the way.
On the whole I really liked this story, but the book itself was a bit of a slow burn for me. I found the first few chapters at the inn to be a bit slow and frustratingly cryptic while later on I thought the pacing was a bit uneven as some scenes felt like they went on just a bit longer than they needed to. That said, there were plenty other places where I would get so caught up in the story that I couldn’t put it down. The payoff from these parts was so great that the promise of these moments eventually convinced me to stop worrying about sporadic slowdowns. Indeed, the ending sequence in which Kvothe recalls an adventure with Denna, followed by the present day events back at the inn, had me ready to race right into the next book. Other highlights of the book for me were getting caught up in the rather intense relationships Kvothe develops with friend and foe alike and the author’s methodical and scientific approach to magic in this world. On all of these topics, there are plenty of mysteries and intrigues set up for the next installment of the story that I can’t wait to see pan out. I just can’t help but wonder how reliable a narrator Kvothe has been while taking us on this journey, though I suppose only time will tell.