There is a commonly agreed upon structure to modern storytelling. We learn about it in class and see it in books and movies, even if we do not understand how it works. First, we meet the characters. Stakes are established. There is a plot, driven by the wants of the various characters coming into conflict. The characters meet, exchange dialogue, and oppose one another. Most of the time, someone comes out on top, their wants overpowering the wants of their antagonist. Very rarely do stories stray from this template. In film we call in the three-act structure. Occasionally there are creators who do everything in their power to break tradition and give us something truly unique. Usually, those creators do not find an audience. Usually.
There is a simple truth in writing that all great novelists are unintentional poets. There is a flow to their writing, a subtle rhythm that permeates every word choice and grants the book its own melody. The rhythm is not as obvious as it is in poetry, where the music is brought to the forefront. Rather, novels must usually be read aloud to hear the cadence across sentences. The main difference between the poet and the novelist lies in the purpose of those words. Poetry relishes in the power of the words themselves, turning the very act of writing into a symphony. Novelists use their language to bring readers deeper into the plot, submerging us into worlds that would no exist if not for words.
As it turns out, The Wise Man’s Fear, sequel to Patrick Rothfuss’ excellent debut novel The Name of the Wind, is roughly 1,000 pages long. Unfortunately, that means there will likely be no review this week. I try to post a review every two weeks as I finish each book, but The Wise Man’s Fear requires more of my time. Expect my post closer to memorial day, and enjoy the long weekend!
As a bonus to make up for the delay, I will also read and post a mini-review of Rothfuss’ The Slow Regard of Silent Things, a novella following the daily life of one of Kvothe’s friends when she’s not around him, before the end of May.
In the meantime, go ahead and catch up with my review of The Name of the Wind. I cannot recommend it enough.
The best fantasy novels do not tell stories, they build worlds. Worlds that draw you in, make you believe that the empires and elves inhabiting the pages before you are real. Dragons dwell on top of the highest peaks, avoiding the peoples living in the valleys below. There is real drama, intrigue, racial and religious tension, defined magic. Behind everything, the classic battle between good and evil. There will be twists, and the most interesting heroes possess major flaws which inform their character, but all great fantasy stories share one thing. They force you to stop seeing words on a page and start seeing the worlds in your head.
For anyone who read my last review, “Solve for Fate,” I originally announced the next review will be about The Body Library, by Jeff Noon. That was before I randomly came across The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. A 700-page fantasy tome, this novel drew me in immediately and has not let me go since. I am setting aside The Body Library for now, but I will come back to it after tomorrow’s review!