Dagdha's Blog

A Return to Fantasy

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on January 25, 2013

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” – Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

I’ve always been a fantasy geek: dragons, knights, orcs and elves, dungeons and magic.  The genre is enough to excite any child’s imagination and keep him enthralled until he wakes up at thirty, living in his mother’s basement with more friends in Azeroth than on Facebook.

That’s not me alluding to D&D stereotypes common in popular culture either. I would fit that description quite well if my parents hadn’t kicked me out of their house, twice, and if houses in Southern California had basements.

Alas I managed through college, despite a seesawing addiction to World of Warcraft, and live in my own superterranean abode. (Yes, I could have said I could have said “above ground apartment,” but this way I feel justified paying my exorbitant rent.) I still love fantasy, but age and responsibility have taken their toll on my imagination and made it increasingly difficult to lose myself in a fictional realm.

Three years ago I was half-way through the third book in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series when I completely lost interest. The first book was phenomenal and I’d recommend it to most. The second was a decent sequel. Then I started the third.

It felt slow, forced, and improvised, with too much reflective or self-important detail. I was struggling through the twenty-something confusion of post-college life and became frustrated with characters with whom I could no longer relate. I put the book away and decided to leave literary Fantasy behind me.

Fast forward through three years of non-fiction and self-discovery, however, and I find myself once again lost in a world of magic and demons, happier than ever.

TNOTW

My brother, who is a Wikipedia cyborg of Fantasy, recommended I read Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind when I pitched him my idea for a novel involving demons and a distinctly non-Hogwartsian brand of magic. He didn’t let me down.

Rothfuss is an artist, able to convey genius with simplicity. Weaving through an ornate tapestry of memorable characters and immersive settings, he injects poignant lines of experience that strum the reader’s heartstrings like his protagonist playing the lute. His writing is as insightful as it is pleasurable to read, which brings me to the core of my praise-

Too many fiction writers, especially in the fantasy I’ve read, tend to focus on world building. And who can blame them? Playing god with one’s characters and the world in which they live is one of the best reasons to write, providing a sense of control in the senseless chaos of our own world. But sometimes characters rebel, and the discord is usually at the expense of either story or writing.

Rothfuss commands both, with the strength of Zeus and subtlety of Aphrodite. He understands the difference between words and meaning. He recognizes the imperfection of language, and the perfection of music, as mediums of communication.

Words seek to command ideas. Music guides them.

This understanding is what gives The Name of the Wind its lyrical quality. Rothfuss does not beat you over the head with his themes. He uses the subtler nuances of language to tickle your synapses and summon the emotions of past experience. His work is not an escape pod from the doldrums or our world, but a filter through which we see the magic of our own lives reflected in his characters.

If you have not read The Name of the Wind, you should. It’s a refreshing breeze in the stagnant atmosphere of a genre dominated by Young-Adult fiction.

(And check out his website, so you can see all the badass charity work he’s involved with as well.)

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