The Monday book is brought to you by guest reviewer Beth O’Connor, a friend of mine.
Fantasy books are brain candy. I love them – read them almost exclusively – but they rarely offer much in the way of intellectual nutrition. And occasionally they leave you with the feeling that you need to brush your teeth.
And then I read Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind and its sequel The Wise Man’s Fear. On the surface, these are well-written fantasy books. But dig deeper and you’ll see that Rothfuss uses a make-believe world to challenge social norms and address injustice. Institutional poverty, caste systems, gender roles, bigotry, etc. all are reviewed and dismissed as not only unfair, but harmful to society as a whole.
The fantasy world allows the reader to consider the situations without bias. Where a non-fiction writer might have a hard time to get a reader to be objective about real-life racial stereotypes, Rothfuss can address those same issues about the Edema Ruh and other groups he has created because no one has ever heard of them before.
Additionally, Rothfuss’ characters spout some wonderful philosophy. I’ve never wanted to quote a fantasy writer before, but I may have to start using some of these gems:
- “The day we fret about our future is the day we leave our childhood behind.”
- “Books are a poor substitute for female companionship, but they are easier to find.”
- “Clothes do not make the man, but you need the proper costume if you want to play the part.”
- “That is how heavy a secret can become. It can make blood flow easier than ink.”
- “Nothing in the world is harder than convincing someone of an unfamiliar truth.”
- “Half of seeming clever is keeping your mouth shut at the right times.”
- “If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher.”
My biggest surprise was how I found Rothfuss – a relative new comer in the fantasy world. An interview on his efforts appeared in my copy of World Ark, the magazine Heifer International produces for their donors. Heifer strives to end world hunger through teaching people how to care for livestock rather than just giving them food. Heifer included an article about Rothfuss because of the work he has done to raise funds for Heifer, including donating most of the income he receives from the sale of his books.
In his own words; “I’ve been poor before, but this time it’s for a good cause.” Rothfuss pulls together other fantasy authors, publishing companies and readers for an annual event called “Worldbuilders” (worldbuilders.org). The 2013 event raised over $678,000 for Heifer International.
The first book starts a bit slow as Rothfuss takes a full six chapters to develop the scene, but once the stage is set, the plot moves like a freight train. I highly recommend reading Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. But prepare for disappointment, the third book of the series has yet to be published.