This is the first book of Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle. As I write this review I am in the middle of The Wise Man's Fear, the second book of this series. I just happened to look back at my review for the first book and realized that I never wrote one. The Name of the Wind is Rothfuss' first published novel, since publication it has won legions of fans and became a New York Times Best Seller. Most ardent fantasy readers have probably read it by now. Still, my reviews are for my own reference and if anybody else find them interesting that is always a bonus.
The Name of the Wind has the advantage of simplicity in structure, this is basically a bildungsroman, a sort of David Copperfield - or perhaps Oliver Twist - with magic ( "David Copperfield with magic" is misleading
- see what I did there? ;).
The book (and probably the entire series) is the story of Kvoth a young lad whose entire family of travelling performers was killed by mysterious beings, after being orphanized he scrapes a living as a street urchin until he was inspired to join The University to learn magic and perhaps means of avenging his family. He is extraordinarily talented with magic, music, words, and probably basket weaving if he were to dabble in it. The book is nicely structured with a "frame story" featuring the "present day" Kvoth running an inn and telling his story to a chronicler (biographer). Most of the book is written in first-person narrative, except for the "frame story" told in third-person. The major part of the book is the aforementioned bildungsroman about young Kvoth and his experiences.
I believe the huge popularity of this book is due to the author's sheer writing skills. Rothfuss' prose is clear, warm and evocative, it touches on the lyrical from time to time. He takes care in creating and developing his characters, most of them are thoughtfully fleshed out, believable and interesting. He is particularly good with metaphors (I can't quote you any sample, didn't make any notes!). His magic system is very logical with causes and effects taken into consideration, entirely believable within the context of a fantasy novel. The accusation that the protagonist suffers from a severe case Mary Sueism is understandable as he does seem to be good at everything he turns his hand to. In all fairness though he is presented as far from perfect and prone to the usual human foibles like the rest of us, he is often foolish, rash, arrogant and ill mannered. Not all the girls love him and none of the boys want to be him as far as I can tell.
I am not sure whether this is an "epic fantasy" as the scale so far does not seem very epic, I am however sure that this is a vastly entertaining and well written book, well worth your time and expense. I shall now get back to finishing the next volume The Wise Man's Fear.