There is a book, a series actually, that I find so good I cannot find words enough to persuade people just how good it is. The series is The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. The names of the books in the series are:
- Day One: The Name of the Wind
- Day Two: The Wise Man’s Fear
- How Old Holly Came to Be in Unfettered (experimental short story)
- The Lightning Tree in Rogues (Novella)
- The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Novella)
- Day Three: The Doors of Stone (Unreleased)
Browsing through a bookstore in 2007, I found the newly released hardcover The Name of the Wind. I was intrigued enough to want to read it, but money was tight, so I decided to wait for it to come out in paperback. Eventually, it came out in trade paperback, but money was tight. I talked myself into waiting for Mass Market Paperback. I read that book so fast that finishing and emerging from that world was something akin to culture shock. I couldn’t handle it so I flipped back to page one and read it again. When the second book was released, there was no way I was going to be able to wait. I bought it in hardcover the week it was released. Of course, I first reread the first book once more so I could be sure I hadn’t forgotten anything important.) I have since bought a signed copy of the first book and recommended it to at least 50 people. I will buy the third book the day of its release.
Why? There are so many reasons, and I don’t really think I ever do the book justice in all the times I’ve described it to people. I’m going to give it a go here, but you need to bear with me. This is a circuitous route.
The Name of the Wind is literally the first book I’ve ever read that had one of those first sentences. You know the ones I mean.
Every teacher who has ever taught creative writing on any level, any writer who has ever read or written an article about creative writing, any writer who has ever attended a Writing Group, a Writer’s Conference, etc, has spoken about or heard about or read about The Opening Sentence. Yes, it’s capitalized. It’s the Holy Grail of sentences. People debate about these things. They throw out examples of them at panel discussions. It’s the sentence that’s supposed to grab the readers and make them want to keep reading.
Until I read The Name of the Wind I had never read a first sentence that quite fit the bill. I’ve read a lot of first sentences that seemed, to be honest, rather pedestrian. They were good sentences, but I would read them over and over and wonder why the author thought they were The Opening Sentence. When I read The Name of the Wind, I got it. I understood. I finally understood just what that sentence should be and what potential it could claim.
What makes this book The Best Book I’ve Ever Read (Yes, it’s capitalized.) is that every sentence is like that. Patrick Rothfuss knows his way around a sentence.
I fail in explaining to anyone what this book is about. Whenever I try, it comes across like a combination of Harry Potter and Oliver Twist. This book is nothing like either of those books! It does, however, have elements of both. Those elements aside, it’s the language that I found stunning from the very beginning.
Until I read The Name of the Wind, though I’d been reading and writing for decades, I had never read anything so powerful in themes and characters, and so gorgeous in language.
I’m not going to tell you what that opening line is. It’s too good for me to give it away, and telling you would diminish it because you won’t have the next line or the next or the one after that. If you haven’t read this book yet, run out and buy it and its sequel, and even the related novella. You won’t be disappointed.
The Kingkiller Chronicle series follows the life of a boy named Kvothe from his happiest early days through several reversals of fortune. He goes to a school for magic (that isn’t even remotely like Hogwarts) and though the places he sees and the people he meets are astonishing, the world Rothfuss creates is believable, detailed, and complex in a way that few authors can convey so completely.
I am in awe of the series and the novella, but I am even more in awe of Patrick Rothfuss. There are a lot of fans of the series who complain that he’s taking too long to write the final volume in the trilogy. To all of those people I have to say leave him alone. He obviously knows what he’s doing. His talent more than buys him the privilege of tinkering with the book until he’s as satisfied with it as I know I will be.