Category: Author Review

Review: The Name of the Wind

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This is the first book in the planned trilogy named the ‘Kingkiller Chronicles’ by Patrick Rothfuss, and was pubished in 2007.

Despite it’s recent publication date, this book has become quite popular among fantasy readers, and won numerous awards, all with good reason.

This is a great book.

Rotfuss has created a beautiful world and tells a gripping story with it. The setting is a low tech world with a rich history and detailed map. But what Rothfuss excels in is the magic system of his world. It’s a combination of Voodoo and physics, with some true names thrown in. In fact, Rothfuss looks to be the only writer since Ursula K Le Guin who got a magic system that uses true names right.

This book tells the story of a man named Kvothe, who seems to be quite notorious in the land. It is also hinted that he is the titular king killer of the trilogy. We learn his story as he narrates it to a chronicler called the Chronicler. The story is thus told in third person narrative style, with the character themselves telling their story. Kvothe himself focuses on his own trials and tribulations during his narrative, and the other characters and the world itself takes second stage.

We see him start as a young boy of remarkable talent with a bright future ahead of him, and then suddenly it is all torn away from him and he falls to the lowest point possible. He must put his life together again, this time fighting tooth and nail for every little thing. He replaces intelligence with cunning, and easygoing with calculating, and above everything he does looms a newfound obsession. He is turning into someone who will do anything to reach his goals, and we can see that his road will most likely end in disaster. The little glimpses of love and compassion he shows gives hope that there is hope for him, but the state we find him at the start of the book seems to hint that his story does end with a fall.

That said, all of this makes his story that much more interesting. Kvothe is a smart young man who is supposed to have become a hero later in life, but we see his story from his point of view, and we can compare it to how other people see him. How does the hero feel inside, why did he do the heroic deed? Knowing this man, it cannot be pure altruism.

Read this book if you want a fantasy novel that has an incredibly engaging main character and an innovative magic system. Or if you like fantasy novels in general. You wont be disappointed.

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Author Review: George R R Martin

George R R Martin is a great writer. He is famous nowadays for writing ‘The Song of Ice and Fire’ series. A lot of authors have been dubbed the next Tolkien, but it looks like he is the one. His books are shaping up to be the defining fantasy novels of the genre. I love him as an author and eagerly await his future books.

Martin’s writing style focuses on the characters. He doesn’t use the third person view of a storyteller, each of his storylines are presented from the point of view of a character who experiences it. And sometimes in later books we even find that said character has misinterpreted or completely missed important plot points. Martin also does a great job of getting into his characters mindset and defining their motives. Each of the character in his books are driven by their motives, and even though most of them might seem selfish to us, we can see how they are justifiable from their point of view. He doesn’t just plop the characters down on the story either, each of them have their family, their relations with other characters, and a backstory that shows how they ended up as they are, even for the most despicable of characters.

Martin uses his superb writing and makes us love his characters, and get invested with them, and it hurts that much more when he kills them off. Possibly because he’s a sadistic bastard? Who knows.

Another thing Martin excels in is the plot.

He is writing an incredibly complex plot in ‘The Song of Ice and Fire’ and he is presenting it through the eyes of a dozen characters. Yet he manages to keep all these storylines consistent and interesting, they all come together and mesh into a single one in the readers mind.

Worldbuilding is another area Martin excels in.

The world he created for ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ is incredibly detailed. The only thing Tolkien’s Middle-Earth has on it is the constructed languages. It has a great map, a well defined history, and is populated by a set of noble families that are shown in superb detail. Each family has it’s own little history that seamlessly meshes with the others. Sometimes these histories go back for hundreds of years. I believe that the success of a fantasy book depends largely on it’s worldbuilding, and Martin doesn’t disappoint.

The only complaint I have against him is that his book series is seven books long, and is spread out over two decades. Every time a new book comes out the reader must go and reread some books to refresh the plot, this is fine for two or three books, but for seven? Even the best of authors might have unhappy readers with a series this long.

Author Review: Christopher Paolini

Christopher Paolini has so far written a single book series, ‘The Inheritance Cycle’. It should be noted that he was only fifteen when he wrote the first book, and while it wasn’t a great book, it was a good book. This was a superb achievement for a fifteen year old. As a huge fan of fantasy and an avid reader, I personally give Paolini two thumbs way up.

His first book was great for his age. But while his writing improved dramatically during the latter books. His storytelling and character development did not.

Pacing seems to be something Paolini never quite masters.

Eragon started out as a farm boy with some hunting experience on the side. And after evening lessons received while traveling, in less than a year, he turns into a master swordsman who can outfight warriors with centuries of combat experience. This is not very realistic, even in a fantasy world. Then we have Arya, the main heroine who spent three books ‘not interested’ in the main character and suddenly did a 180 in the last book and went to ‘interested’. These are just two examples, there are plenty more.

And not just the characters, the plot itself is paced in this manner. Especially from the second book onwards. For example in the second book, the move of the Varden, the training of Eragon, and the exodus of the villagers all seem to happen at the same time, but if someone made a calender for Alagaësia we might see that the dates don’t quite match up, or Eragon and the Varden have moved with superhuman speed. And in the final book, the way the buildup for the last battle happened was similar. Though you could get away by calling it a plot twist. Again these are just two examples of many.

Another thing Paolini does frequently is using magic to solve every little problem.

When Eragon found that his incredible swordsmanship (impossibility acquired) couldn’t match up against the superhuman prowess of the elves he got a magical power boost. When he was faced with a crippling injury and looked to be useless for frontline fighting, he was magically healed. When there was no way for Eragon to acquire a riders sword, a magical solution presented itself that let him make his own. And when Eragon faced Galbathorix in the final battle, he found a magical solution that let him defeat the enemy who remained undefeated for a century. And these instances weren’t even normal magic as practiced in the land of Alagaësia, they were practically ass-pulls.

If I were unkind I would wonder if these incidents happen when the author writes himself into a corner and needs to recuse the plot.

One thing Paolini can be praised for is his worldbuilding.

The world of Alagaësia is beautifully detailed. Even though it is populated by the usual suspects of high fantasy (elves,dwarfs, dragons) each race has their history, nation and culture. He even created a language (Of sorts) for the story. And the map is great.

I believe that the success of a fantasy story depends in large part on the world building that went on beforehand. And while Paolini is no Tolkien, he did a great job with Alagaësia. It is a world you can immerse yourself in.

I think that if Paolini writes another book, or series of books, they will be much better than ‘The Inheritance Cycle’. The way his writing improves through the books shows that he is devloping as a writer. Now if only he pays closer attention to organizing the plot and developing his characters, he would write great fantasy.