The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Let me start off by saying how much I love having friends who also love reading. I love looking at my friends’ bookshelves whenever I visit their places, and I’ve found that some of my favorite books have been recommendations from friends. Such was the case for The Name of the Wind: I heard about the book from a few of my friends, so I’d been curious about the book for a while. However, I’d never purchased a copy of the book because I had too many unread new books on my shelf, and I couldn’t in good conscience buy another book to add to that pile.

Thankfully, a friend gave me his copy of The Name of the Wind a few weeks ago—good timing, too, because I was in the mood for fantasy. Since I’d only ever heard great things about The Name of the Wind, I was a little scared I wouldn’t love the book. It didn’t help that the book had ~660 pages; its length was a little intimidating. But I need not have worried. I enjoyed the book.

It started off a little slowly for me. I was less than a fifth through the book, and I was already getting anxious that it was just hyped up to me. I was a little confused with the storytelling and wasn’t sure what the story was supposed to be about. (Does this happen to anyone else?) In any case, I read on and finally connected the dots. And then I became a fan.

Essentially, the first few chapters laid the foundation for the rest of the book. Unassuming little details were dropped here and there, ready to pounce and slap the reader in the face with their importance to the story. When those realizations hit, I was hooked. I kept my copy on my bed and read a few chapters before sleeping each night. By the end of the book, 660-ish pages didn’t feel long enough, and I wanted to know more.

Truth be told, the end felt rushed. It’s funny to think that a book of that length could possibly be rushed, but the end was so abrupt that I felt a little cheated when I reached the last page. Clearly the book was meant to be part of a series, and I was a little disappointed by that. To me, books should be able to stand alone whether or not they are part of a series, and I did not feel this was the case for The Name of the Wind.

Regardless, I still want to know what happens next. I already have a copy of The Wise Man’s Fear (my friend was feeling generous with his old copies), and it’s another long one. I have a feeling it will also feel incomplete to me, but I bet I will enjoy it as much as I did the first. I am itching to know how things turn out, and I’m incredibly disappointed that the final book has not yet even been published. I do hope Rothfuss publishes soon—preferably by the time I finish the second book, but that doesn’t seem likely at this time.

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman

Here’s another book that made me question my life decisions. Why on earth did I wait this long to read La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1), when I’d had it with me for two years? (My childhood best friend gifted this to me last Christmas 2017.) Here, a confession: I was scared I wouldn’t fall in love with The Book of Dust as much as I did with His Dark Materials, which I’d read more than ten years ago (and also which the same friend introduced to me in high school).

I finally took the leap of faith (dramatic, I know) after seeing The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2) at a bookstore. What? There were already paperback copies of book two, and I hadn’t even read book one?! I actually had different books to read lined up at that time, but it just so happened that (1) I’d misplaced the nonfiction book I was currently reading, and (2) I’d left the fantasy book I was planning to read behind when I left for home-home for the holidays. Well, that worked out; I was already itching to read La Belle Sauvage anyway.

The verdict: there were not many books I’d read this past year that enchanted me as much as La Belle Sauvage did.

Perhaps it’s because reading La Belle Sauvage felt familiar. As I’d mentioned earlier, I read His Dark Materials in high school, and I still remember feeling taken by Lyra and her world (and Will Parry). Part of me feels like The Book of Dust was written for readers who grew up with His Dark Materials, for readers who hold Lyra near and dear their hearts.

Now that I’m older, I felt tension in their world more than I did back in high school. Knowing more about the world, I felt anxious for Malcolm, whose growing up was expedited by the circumstances he found himself in. I empathized with Malcolm as he discovered what it meant to love, and I felt proud of him as he used both heart and mind to make his decisions. And because the entire series is a prequel, I knew from the start that everything was going to turn out alright in the end. Still I couldn’t help but ride the same roller coaster of emotions as Malcolm did throughout the book. Growing up is never easy for anyone—I will leave it at that.

Someone please give Philip Pullman ten million gold stars and me a (hardbound) copy of The Secret Commonwealth because I am entranced. I know it will be a while before I read the second book (to be fair, I am making good progress with my stack of unread books), but I have been telling my friends to read La Belle Sauvage because I want to gush about the book and more to them already. Please appreciate with me.

The Vorrh

This one took a little longer to read than my usual. Whenever I leave the world of fantasy, it does take me a while to get back into it. Basically: I took longer to get into the book because I needed more time to process what was going on and how the story was being told. Once I figured it all out, the reading went a lot faster until I finished the book and thought, “what? It’s over already?!”

Brian Catling spent a fair amount of time setting up The Vorrh. I liked the way he introduced each character (and there are many) and how I knew which character was which based on the tone of the chapter. Since there were so many things going on (and characters to follow!), I felt a bit overwhelmed at first. Once I familiarized myself with everything though, the story ended too quickly, and I had to decide whether or not to read the sequel already. (I put it off, as I had to read the month’s book club pick.)

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As I mentioned, this is a bit of a slow read. The Vorrh is a place, so there’s a lot of set up involved. It’s a fantasy novel that doesn’t need to include magical wands and spells (swish and flick) to captivate its readers. I brought and read this book while commuting to the office, and I almost missed my stop a few times because the book was so entertaining and because I had to focus so much to not be confused, oops. Pretty excited to read the next installment.

Random bit: I bought the book second-hand, and the previous owner’s (real???) name is Shadow Edwards. Isn’t that a cool sounding name? Maybe I should label my books with “from the library of …” Would that make me legit, too?