It’s hard to come up with a scoring for this book, or worse, a review. But I’ll try anyway.
Let’s start by saying that this book did not live up to my expectations, at all. Luckily, for once, this is not a bad thing.
I went in there thinking I would get a Harry Potter clone, even more so once I learned about ‘The University‘ where they teach ‘magic’, about some unfailing adolescent that does some epic, world-changing/saving stuff that no one else seems to be able to handle. I deducted about that much from the (mostly) spoiler-free reviews I had read, but since this got the highest overall rating of my to-read list, I decided to give it a go anyway.
Sooo, Harry Potter clone? Nothing could be farther from the truth. Not in a million years would J.K Rowling allow her precious main character to be publicly whipped (twice – while on drugs) for standing up for himself. Kvothe is as real and gritty as they come. He becomes an orphan when he’s about 9 years old and in stead of shrugging it off like a classic hero and setting of on a quest for revenge, the death of his parents causes him to retreat into an almost catatonic state for 3 years while living on the streets of one of the biggest cities in the world. The constant focus on his poverty runs like a red line throughout the story. He doesn’t get things handed to him, he has to work to get things. Money is really precious to him, and at times we see him act crazy despite of his poverty. Throughout the entire story, his actions are a constant reminder that he is in fact still a child/teen who makes the same mistakes you can expect from any kid that age in this world as well. That for, among other things, is what really sets this book apart for me. It’s not grand (well, it is in places, but not how you would expect it), but it’s real, and it’s interesting.
Epic fantasy, well that one is a bit more tricky. It’s not an epic battle of good vs. evil in the traditional sense (or at least, it doesn’t look like it at this time). In stead it’s the story of a hero, from his point of view, and from the worlds. It’s the struggle of a child, to live, to grow and to find peace. It’s epic, not in it’s scale of events, or the number of lives it encompasses, but it’s epic in the way it draws you in, in the intricate and deep world that is the Hero’s life.
Pacing & writing
As with most fantasy novels, it takes you a while to get involved in the story, and this was no exception. However, seeing as how I read this immediately after A Memory of Light, I was amazed at how fast the story actually drew me in. The first 100 pages were a bit of a slur while I waited for something to actually happen, but in honesty, basics must be set before any good story can take off.
After that initial set-up, the story gallops on at a steady, pleasant page, and it’s hard to turn it down. The writing style is very likeable, lighthearted and full of wit. This creates some great moments that made me chuckle out loud.
It felt exactly like someone had hit me in the head with a church
“Took an arrow in the knee on my way through the Eld three summers ago. It gives out now and then.”
Intended or not, this Skyrim reference made me laugh.
I refuse to tell the rest of this story with you making blubbery cow eyes at me
Apart from the wit, there are some descriptionary gems laying around that I just had to read a couple of times to truly appreciate their greatness.
Outside the Waystone Inn the air lay still and heavy on the empty dirt road that ran through the center of town.The sky was a featureless grey sheet of cloud that looked as if it wanted to rain but couldn’t quite work up the energy
His sword was pale and elegant. When it moved, it cut the air with a brittle sound. It reminded me of the quiet that settles on the coldest days in winter when it hurts to breathe and everything is still.
The one called Cinder sheathed his sword with the sound of a tree cracking under the weight of winter ice.
The world building is solid and worthwile and a few things were truly refreshing for a fantasy novel (e.g ‘magic’ system and dragons!). Character development is where this book truly shines and I found myself really feeling for Kvothe. Exclaiming when he did something stupid, grinning when he gave a witty retort and smiling at his obviously unexperianced approach of women and ‘those touchy feeling stuff’. His constant struggle to chase his dreams is truly inspiring without making him into some holy unfailing stereotype hero.
I gladly give this a 5/5 score. It’s refreshing, grittingly real, but all in all, very immersive. Kvothe feels alive and, despite his young age, is a very relatable character.