What do you do when you’re tired of being a legendary hero and want to put all of the stuff you screwed up behind you? Fake your death and become a sad, pathetic innkeeper, of course!
This is the framework of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle. It follows Kvothe, the legendary hero referenced above, as he retells the story of his life to a chronicler (called the Chronicler, in this non-chronological collection of karmic comeuppance) in his sad backwater inn. With the threat of many dark and spooky things on the horizon, we get to hear how Kvothe grew from a brilliant trouper’s son into the stuff of legends.
In my opinion, this series is a must-read for any self-respecting fantasy fan. It draws from many fantasy wells, but manages not to feel tired or overdone. Everything magical feels surprisingly believable—it’s not at all like the flailing about of powerful magicks that passes for wizardry in D&D. Thanks to Rothfuss’s brilliant web of in-world jokes and allusions, the world feels incredibly real and vibrant.
Besides being a marvel of worldbuilding, the Kingkiller Chronicle tells an incredible story. The tale never skips a beat, pulling you along until you realize that you’ve accidentally skipped a few meals. I’ve rarely seen a more compelling cast of characters or a more natural narrative. It was a refreshing break from the sometimes dry (don’t tell my professors) books I have to read for my English degree.
One thing to be warned about, however, is the length. Two of the three books are out as of right now (Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear), but they’re not the kind of story you can fly through in a day or two. Despite the fact that they’re easy to read and fast-paced, this series is a serious time investment. If you’re struggling to stay on top of everything, you might want to put this one on your waitlist. If, however, you have one or two solid weekends you can set aside, you should most definitely give this tale a go. I can promise you won’t regret it.