Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Name of the Wind

Image result for name of the wind
I recently read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss in about three evenings, so I guess I was enjoying it. Although the book is intimidating, at over 700 pages, it's actually a very easy and enjoyable read, broken up into many smaller chapters. The book is a fantasy novel written as an oral autobiography with a framing story. The main character, Kvothe (pronounced Quothe) tells the story of his life over a period of three days. This volume covers the first day.
Rothfuss' writing is descriptive and lyrical, beautiful to read. A few sections are excessively grandiose in tone: "I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings[...]tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me." Similarly, Kvothe's constant reiteration of his inability to even properly describe the woman he loves is exhausting. However, these sections are embedded within Kvothe's narrative, and serve to underscore the fact that he is not a reliable narrator; as he points out: "You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way."

I particularly enjoyed the careful repetition of certain themes and motifs. Silence is omnipresent during the interludes, in stark contrast to the strong musicality of the autobiographical portions. The Mating Habits of the Common Draccus is mentioned throughout the novel. It solidifies the setting, but the book also connects to multiple characters and events in entertaining and satisfying ways.
I do find it odd that the majority of the events take place somewhere between the ages of 12 and 17, and although Kvothe will frequently mention only having two shirts, he never mentions outgrowing his clothes or noticing that his pants are ridiculously short. I suppose growth spurts just don't happen in this fantasy world.
My edition was a tenth-anniversary edition, and it included a map and several illustrations. The map was a nice touch, although the story is not so dense or confusing that I ever felt it necessary to refer to it. However, I personally did not love reading with the illustrations. These illustrations, in particular, seem to focus on portraits of the characters rather than actions or settings, and I would rather imagine characters in my head or forbear to imagine them visually at all rather than give them a face. I really hate the standard fantasy novel cover that's just some people posing with swords and maybe a dragon or some magic. I also thought the character designs and clothing were disappointingly standard fantasy fare, and that the female characters seemed less sensibly dressed than their male counterparts.
I was also not particularly impressed with the book's treatment of female characters. It seems like there's a pattern throughout the novel of every single time Kvothe has to dash in and save somebody, somebody is female. One of the characters he saves points out that she never wanted to be somebody who needed saving, and there's a conversation about it, but her whole role in the book still seems to be "attractive female the main character can save and also ignore romantically to show how in love he is with the female romantic lead".
I do like the female romantic lead character though, and she is quite well-developed. I am perhaps more curious about her because the story is not told from her perspective, and there are more unanswered questions. I also enjoy when she points out something clever that Kvothe didn't notice; she is shown to be able to interact with him intellectually, and I liked seeing that aspect of their relationship represented.
Despite its flaws, The Name of the Wind was an enjoyable read that left me with a lot of questions, and a strong desire to read the sequel. The frame story is full of mysteries, and the question of how Kvothe ended up where he is now always looms.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Eisner Awards

The Eisner Awards were announced over the weekend, and it's exciting to hear that Marjorie Liu is the first woman to win an Eisner for Best Writer. It's also just a little bit sad because these awards have been around for thirty years now, but mostly it's exciting.
What's also exciting is that I was reading Monstress BEFORE it won 5 Eisners, so I get to feel smug and self-righteous about my reading habits. It's one of the few comics that I acquire in an issue-by-issue format, rather than waiting for a trade paperback. It's one of my favorites because the art is always gorgeous, cats are heavily featured, the plot is complex and compelling, and it's really refreshing to have so many female characters so strongly foregrounded in the story.
Other cool comics news in my life: Fun Home is on my colloquium reading list for this winter. Therefore, there is no need for me to mount a crusade to add a graphic novel to the list. Hamilton is also on there; the list actually manages to be pretty multimedia. The theme this year is transgression, and I'm actually looking forward to it.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Skyward Issue 1

Skyward #1I recently enjoyed the first issue of a new series from Image Comics by writer Joe Henderson and artist Lee Garbett. So far, it's an intriguing and brightly-colored post-apocalyptic introduction, and I'm curious to see where it will go from here.
Protagonist Willa was only a baby when the world changed, gravity suddenly lowered so that everything and everyone not tied down floats endlessly upwards. Now, she's an energetic and confident 20-year-old, and this is the only world she's ever known. Her father is a marked contrast, tied down by his fears and loss.
So far, this issue is mostly introductions to a palette of secondary characters and a chance to acclimatize to this new world and its unique challenges, with only the hints of any stronger plot to come.
The color scheme is joyful and vibrant with wide open spaces, large and dynamic panel arrangements, and, of course, lots of vivid blue sky. It's particularly fun to see Willa's hair floating wildly in various directions; it feels like a consistent detail that helps to make her a part of her world and to make that world real. It remains to be seen how compelling future issues will be, and whether they will be able to entertain as well once the bright luster of a brand-new world has worn thin, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

Monday, April 23, 2018


I just finished reading Madeline Miller's Circe, another Parnassus Book Club pick, and I really loved this book. I read it in just a few days, despite all the schoolwork I should've been doing during that time. The ending moved me to tears, not because of a tragic end, but rather because the book was over, and I had to move on with my life.
Miller traces her way through a significant portion of Greek mythological history and epic poetry through the eyes of Circe. Circe is mainly known for her role in delaying Odysseus on his epic journey home, but Miller creates a powerful feminist figure in a world populated by gods, monsters, magic, and men. Told in the first person entirely from Circe's viewpoint, Miller's characters breathe personality and life, and her world bleeds violence and fear and power. Her prose was descriptive and utterly enthralling; I was desperate to keep reading the entire time. From the tensions (and politics) between the Titans and the Olympians, the tales of Daedalus, the Minotaur, and Medea, to the events of the Odyssey, years of Greek story flow by Circe's secluded island of Aiaia. This book tickles all those half-remembered memories of Greek and Classical mythology and Homerian epics that you forgot about and brings them back in a way that brings new narratives forward.