The Kingkiller Chronicle takes an interesting approach that I haven't seen in other fantasy novels. Instead of telling the story as it unfolds for the hero or heroes, it is actually recounted by the main character, Kvothe, when he is tracked down by a renowned story-collector known as Chronicler. At the start, end, and during various interludes of the novel, Kvothe is an innkeeper at a small town, and it's obvious that he is keeping a low profile and hopes never to be found, if at all possible. When Chronicler follows various rumors to Kvothe's inn and insists that the hero tell his story, Kvothe reluctantly agrees and explains to Chronicler that the tale will take three days. The Name of the Wind is the first day's telling.
Kvothe's story starts off with him as a young boy born to a traveling troupe of entertainers. Because of this, he becomes well versed in music, acting and languages, and while his family knows he is smart, no one quite realizes how quickly he can learn new and complex concepts until the troupe picks up an arcanist to travel with them.
Arcanists are people trained at The University and have a wide breadth of knowledge ranging from science and maths to medicine, magics and alchemy. It is when this arcanist starts teaching Kvothe that the boy's thirst for knowledge starts to grow. While his path seems to be with his family, the idea of going off to The University starts to interest him. Eventually Kvothe does get his chance to learn at the prestigious school, and a good portion of this book is about his time there, but it comes when tragedy strikes his caravan and he is left alone with nothing but a book and a lute to his name.
Kvothe's journey to The University isn't straightforward, but when he does get there, he finds that the tuition can get steep, at least for a young boy who has no income or family name to lend against. As he works to impress his various teachers, he also soaks up any knowledge thrown at him as he constantly feels that each term he makes it through could be his last since every time he comes into any kind of money, circumstances leaves him all but penniless soon afterwards. Unfortunately, he also makes some enemies as his quick wit and sharp tongue finds a target that is both wealthy and well known at The University, a fact that will come up often in this book.
By the time The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One ends, Kvothe explains to Chronicler that he has laid down the necessary groundwork to tell his favorite stories. Given the exciting and troubling tales he told in the first book, I can hardly wait to start A Wise Man's Fear to see how the second third of Kvothe's story plays out. If you are a fan of high fantasy and haven't had a chance to read The Name of the Wind, then add this book to your list. It's lengthy, but it is a page turner that will keep you hooked until the end.