So I’m still having a hard time deciding whether I liked this book or want to say it was just okay. The rating on Goodreads will probably come down on the latter, even though there were things to love about the story. There just weren’t enough of them in a book this size. Pair that with it not delivering on the story it initially promised, and I’m not sure I can round up.
The story I was looking for, the story that seemed to be promised in the beginning of the book, was the world’s greatest wizard who’s had a rough time of it coming out of retirement to face a foe who’s far too much for him. What the heck are the scrael, where are they coming from, who sent them, and when are we going to start on the journey to face them? This is not that story, though that story is hinted at in odd, short chapters breaking up the main narrative and adding tension that you can immediately forget about until the next interlude chapter.
The story we’re actually getting is a tremendous amount of background on the decades of events of that wizard’s life that lead up to the story I thought we were getting. In short, it’s a first person story told from a comfortable distance, an autobiography of the world’s greatest wizard.
Or the first volume of it, anyway.
The main story is in three distinct parts: Kvothe the happy kid, Kvothe the kid living on the street, Kvothe the university student. These parts are all interesting and very good stories in their own way, but they all still suffer from a lack of immediacy. Before going into each section, or the any given adventure in each section, we more or less know how it’s going to turn out because it’s being told from decades in the future, when Kvothe is that retired world’s greatest wizard. Yes, there’s a tremendous amount we don’t know about events in between. But we know he survives it all, intact, and we know he becomes the world’s greatest wizard and that at some point he’s going to survive facing some pretty bad people and killing a king.
That’s a major problem using something in the present as a framing story for the main tale being in the past, the classic story within a story that never really quite works for me.
You’ll also read some reviews calling the main character a Gary Stu, a wish fulfillment character for the author or reader to live vicarious fantasies through. There’s some strength to this. Kvothe is too good, too smart, has too excellent a memory. He’s also socially awkward, at least when it comes to interactions with folks of the female persuasion, and he tends to make decisions that he thinks will get him closer to what he wants without thinking too closely about the consequences. Sometimes that gets his ass kicked. Sometimes external events also kick his ass pretty well. Is he too powerful? I don’t know yet, but I do know he really isn’t in any danger until the main story finally catches up to the framing story.
Overall rating: 3 stars. I’ve changed my mind. I am going to round up. Why? Because while I didn’t get the story I actually wanted when the book began, I did enjoy reading each section of the book and the adventures Kvothe had along this first part of the path to become who he is now. Whether I enjoyed it enough to go on to the second volume and wait for the third remains to be seen.by