“You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.”
Reading the first page of this absolutely stunning novel by Patrick Rothfuss suggests we’re in for a book of subdued beginnings. With the silence of the Waystone Inn and it’s three parts we’re treated to some of the most honed and perfected writing ever seen in the English language (Do I hear gasps?). It doesn’t really matter what you think of the rest of this book, the passage which we see at the start of the novel, and return to time and time again, is writing at it’s simplest and most lyrical. It’s not until the end of that first page that we get the sense that maybe the silence we’re reading about isn’t as subdued as might be first thought. Instead, that silence continually comes back to haunt the reader like a brick in the face, or a bang in the night.
Rothfuss is a master of lyrical writing. His prose is deft and skilful, leaving the reader hanging on every word. For a story about a story, perhaps the most accomplished part of the writing in this book is that we don’t actually hang on every word of Patrick Rothfuss. We hang on every word of Kvothe. The flame haired narrator. With each interlude in Kvothe’s tale we are reminded of the fact that Kvothe does not actually exist. We are reading a book. This is testament to Rothfuss’ ability to truly pull us into the tale that his character is telling.
That is not to say that the interludes are any less gripping. On the contrary, Rothfuss tends to unleash his true skills during these brief sections, creating characters we care about easily as much as those in Kvothe’s tale in much less time than Kvothe has to create a dramatic story.
Rothfuss teases us with background information in each interlude, suggesting both a bigger tale yet to come in Kvothe’s life, and slowly filling in pieces of the past before Kvothe has the chance to speculate any further.
The unreliable narrator is one of the most useful techniques in a writer’s arsenal. Doing it poorly is easy. Doing it this well is masterful.
For anyone who hasn’t read this novel yet, or who has started and not stayed with it – do yourselves the biggest favour you can all year, and read it now. Fantasy fans have been starved of fresh, literary gems in the genre.
Yes it may be gushing, but the first review on the blog deserves to be something truly memorable, with a standard which all others can be held to.
And the rest is silence…