I finished The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss several months ago and have been struggling to write this review. It’s not that it wasn’t engaging; it had a lot of potential. The world-building was strong, and using first-person narration in an epic fantasy was interesting. It was an exciting story that did a great job of marrying epic fantasy with the poeticism you find in myths and legends.
Yes, our protagonist Kvothe is a huge Mary Sue, but I think I could have gotten over it—if the profound absence of women wasn’t always throwing me off.
This is a thick book with a lot of characters, and it is unbelievable how few of them are women. Like, it was weird. Really weird. When women do show up, most do not have speaking roles; when they do, they might only have one or two lines. In a book whose paperback edition is over 700 pages long.
With The Name of the Wind, Rothfuss has created a world where women are treated poorly and there are no strong female characters to fight this unfair system. It’s in no way implied that a male-dominated society is a good thing, and in fact some characters might acknowledge how shitty women have it in their world, but things kind of just get left at that. And that just… isn’t good enough. For the few female characters in this book, there is a lot of sadness. But mostly there is just namelessness and wordlessness. At most, they are waifish or in need of saving.
I was so put off by the absence of female characters that I went looking online for others who had felt similarly. The Name of the Wind is often included in “Best Fantasy Books of All Time” lists and I’ve heard many good things about it, yet I hadn’t come across any criticisms of the book despite feeling so strongly about the weird lack of women. Didn’t other people feel the same? It started to get depressing but I did actually end up finding people who shared my thoughts. Author Marie Brennan actually wrote a blog post that articulates basically everything I feel about the book in relation to women. You can read the first few paragraphs before it gets spoilery (she’ll give you a warning), and I do encourage you to—she does a much better job at explaining her thoughts than I could. (She’s also done a lot more leg work, which I am thankful for.)
“I enjoyed The Name of the Wind; I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t constantly been noting the lack of women.”
- Marie Brennan
The lack of women is honestly just weird. And frustrating. And awful feeling.
I know a lot of people love The Name of the Wind and the Kingkiller Chronicles in general, and I hear Patrick Rothfuss is a nice guy. It’s too bad I can’t call myself a fan, but this book was just too disappointing.
Anyway. I’ll write a real review for one of Patrick Rothfuss’ books when he learns to write real female characters.