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Apr 2012
The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss - Gollancz, 2011
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I must say that I am very disappointed with the experience of aging. I have long considered myself an overly impatient person, always wanting to move on to the next new thing. This I thought was due to excessive energy, a situation that would naturally right itself in time. Eventually as the fires of youth faded I would learn patience and serenity, and all would be well.

Ha! How naive. Yes, the energy levels have declined, but instead I find myself turning into a grumpy old man (my only comfort is that this seems to be happening to a number of my contemporaries as well). What I hadn't factored in was the increasing awareness of my own mortality and the concommitant rise in irritation with people who want to waste my time. I have become fairly good at giving very short shrift to doorstep salesmen, cold callers and religious proselytisers. I can tune out advertisements on TV or the web like a pro (middle-aged memory failure is mostly an annoyance, but it is really helpful in this case - the earworms and images that advertisers try to foist on us simply don't stick). But books are a problem. I almost never give up on a book that I have started, and this makes me particularly unforgiving when, looking back, I realise that the author has forced me to spend hours reading wodges of material that hasn't materially advanced the plot. Nowhere is this sin more common than in epic fantasy, hence my oft-repeated animadversions against fantasy author's bloat.

Well, in terms of plot development, Rothfuss has certainly been wasting my time. By the end of the thousand pages of The Wise Man's Fear, the main storyline has hardly advanced at all. But nonetheless, it's all thoroughly enjoyable - so much so that I still regard this as having the potential to be a classic. Which almost makes me more cross than if it hadn't.
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Sep 2011
The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss - Gollancz, 2007
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There is a formula for writing genre novel back-cover blurbs. Most mention the name of the main character in the first full sentence and go on to describe the original features of the world and the heroes and villains. The final sentence starts with “But” and often ends in an ellipsis... This has become such a cliché that various automated generators have sprung up on the web. The blurb for this book is a bit different. It is written in first person and describes some things that the narrator claims to have done, such as burning down a town, being expelled at a very young age from university, and talking to gods. It ends “My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.” My interest was piqued, despite the stupidly unpronounceable name.

Unusually, the blurb is a good reflection of a book that takes a similarly refreshing approach to the business of epic fantasy. This is not the first autobiography of a fantasy hero that has been written (Robin Hobb’s Assassin series comes to mind for a start), but, for this book at least, it is certainly the best.
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