5 stars is NOT enough. Here’s 10.
Stop everything you are doing. Call off work, order pizza, hire a babysitter– whatever it takes. You need to read this book NOW. Top priority. Yes, it is that great.
If you liked Harry Potter, and have since reached adulthood, it’s time to graduate to The Kingkiller Chronicle.
Poor boy is orphaned by GREAT EVIL. He goes to magic school where he has a classmate adversary, a professor that seems not to like him, smart friends of both genders, ends up doing some shady deeds for good reasons, likes a girl, has a renowned reputation, has an interesting past time that he excels at, and ends up trekking off on a huge adventure.
Patrick Rothfuss isn’t “the next (whoever),” everyone ELSE needs to aim to be the next him. I just finished reading this book, and I already want to go back and read it again! (As well as rereading the first one. Plus, I still have the in-between one to read.) But this is so good that I want to memorize it. I created a Pinterest board for my utter devotion. Seriously, it is that good. Even people who don’t normally read fantasy will be sucked in by this story. And this amazing author, in the dedication, thanks his clever beta readers for their “invaluable help and toleration of my paranoid secrecy,” which made me love him all the more.
This book is less conservative than the first one, as Kvothe grows to adulthood. But he knows who he is, and he doesn’t forget that. He’s the most realistic hero I’ve encountered in a long time. Everything about him, about his world, about all of this– it’s written so well that it doesn’t feel like fiction, much less like fantasy. And yet, there’s enough actual fantasy (including a whole fae realm) to keep fantasy lovers salivating for more. Pure genius.
It’s more than that though. This whole story line is ridiculously easy to draw parallels to real world issues. You probably know someone who’s lived a life like Kvothe, and now you’ll realize why you never noticed it before.
Let me give drop some quotes that should change your life:
“If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. … A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet introspection.” (This will change your life if you do it. Actual walking isn’t required, but leaving is.)
“Maps don’t just have outside edges. They have inside edges. Holes. Folks like to pretend they know everything about the world.” (This should change your life because it shows you how much you don’t know about even what you think you know. You can be shown where a cafeteria is, but it’s harder to know where to sit, what to eat, and if there are customs to observe. It’s also much of what I said about settings.)
“It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers. That way, when he finds the answers, they’ll be precious to him.” (This should change your life because it explains how education is supposed to work.)
“The vast majority of students were nobility or members of wealthy merchant families. For them, a high tuition was an inconvenience, leaving them less pocket money to spend on horses and whores.
The stakes were higher for me. Once the masters set a tuition, it couldn’t be changed. So if my tuition was set too high, I’d be barred from the University until I could pay.” (This should impact your life in two ways. One, it speaks to how higher education is restricted in America– even though this book does not take place in America or even on Earth, near as I can tell– and how that feels. Two, it’s the opening hint to the idea of charging for tuition based on how much educating the student is going to need. With exception to those with special needs and disabilities, it’s an idea worth exploring. Students who are eager to learn, who will put effort into classes and studies, perhaps shouldn’t be charged the same high price as students who are attending out of obligation or other non-educational desires. It’s also the basis for academic scholarships, though there are only so many of those to go around. If you’ve ever been stuck in a class with someone who didn’t want to be there, and you worked your tail off and sacrificed TO be there, you’ll understand why this hits home for me.)
With the exception of his conversation with Penthe on where babies come from (my brain is still questioning that one), the Adem remind me of my Lenni-Lenape people. Perhaps better warriors though. But it’s the culture, the way of being, the sword history knowledge and the test below the tree– these things remind me of my tribe. “If you managed to catch hold of even just a piece of my name, you’d have all manner of power over me.” THAT. Right there. This is what I keep trying to explain to you outsiders about why my “name” is J. This… just go read Chapter 88 and 124. Please.
One more quote:
“Tak reflects the subtle turning of the world. It is a mirror we hold to life. No one wins a dance, boy. The point of dancing is motion that a body makes. A well-played game of tak reveals the moving of a mind. There is a beauty to these things for those with eyes to see it.”
I mention that quote because the game is actually available for purchase.