publication date: 2007
After looking over my notes for The Name of the Wind, I have a feeling this is going to be a critical review. But I want to make clear from the outset that the book was fine. It really was just fine. The plot was interesting and captivating and I finished the book quickly. So notwithstanding all the faults I discuss in this review, the book is perfectly likable and acceptable.
That said, this book had a lot of problems. One issue was the book’s strict adherence to fantasy tropes. If you have read fantasy, you can imagine what the book was about: a young man becomes a warrior through hard luck, travel, smarts, wit, and magic. As the young man develops, the world around him becomes ever more dangerous. I won’t reveal much more, although I will tell you The Name of the Wind is the first in a three-part series, so there wasn’t a definite ending.
Not only was the story predictable, but the writing often was cliche. Examples of just a few of the cliches: the main character had “true-red hair, red as flame.” (Ever notice in books that no one has merely “red” hair. It’s always “shocking” or “fiery” or the like). The book’s evildoers were described in a children’s song. (It’s always the children’s songs, isn’t it?). Shocked characters could never just “stand.” They must always “simply stand.” (As in, “Josn simply stood. His face was stricken and bloodless as if he had been stabbed.”)
Also, sometimes the writing did not make sense. I would be reading a sentence, not thinking too much about it, and move on. But if I thought on the sentence at all, I would realize it made no sense. Here’s an example: “Sleep met him like a lover in an empty bed.” What does that mean? Wouldn’t a lover in an empty bed want to keep you awake? Here’s another, longer, one: “As with all truly wild things, care is necessary in approaching them. Stealth is useless. Wild things recognize stealth for what it is, a lie and a trap. While wild things might play games of stealth, and in doing so may even occasionally fall prey to stealth, they are never truly caught by it.” What?
Another significant flaw of the book was its gender imbalance. Now, by no means do I think every book must further the feminist cause. That’s not the purpose of books, at least not all the time. And I can enjoy a book that is neutral or even negative in its treatment of women. But the treatment of women in this book loomed so large at times as to be distracting. First, the book does not even come close to passing the Bechdel Test. Additionally, there were several mentions of a “good” woman versus a “bad” one. For example, the main character shouted to his assistant, who was carrying a sword, “Careful, Bast! You’re carrying a lady there, not swinging some wench at a barn dance.” Later, the assistant stated, “A note? You sneak out and leave me a note? What am I, some dockside whore?” There were also comments about a woman’s loveliness, and how it was connected to her worth.
Basically, as perhaps you have gathered from the above discussion, the book had an imaginative and fantastical plot line that satisfied my desire for escape and entertainment. However, the many flaws in the book, such as its cliched or nonsensical writing, or its treatment of women, would take me out of the story and remind me that I was reading someone’s words. But readers of fantasy will probably enjoy this book, and even someone who has never read fantasy might enjoy it, because they would not get bogged down in the cliches or tropes. However, there are many other fantasy books that I would recommend before this one.
(This is the first book I’ve reviewed through my Request-a-Review system! Thanks very much to the person who sent in their request.)
3/6: more good than bad