The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Book Cover for The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One

The synopsis for The Name of the Wind on Amazon reads: “The riveting first-person narrative of a young man who grows to be the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard. It is a high-action novel written with a poet’s hand, a powerful coming-of-age story of a magically gifted young man, told through his eyes: to read this book is to be the hero.”

Book Review
Title: The Name of the Wind
Author:  Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher: Daw Books, Inc.
Released: April 1, 2008
Pages: 736
ISBN-10: 0756404746
ISBN-13: 978-0756404741
Stars:  4.0

The journey begins on an evening in a small village at the Waystone Inn on Felling Night where locals gather to listen to Old Cob’s stories about the most famous wizard ever known, Taborlin the Great, who had been locked in a tower and stripped of his tools by a mysterious group of seven supernatural beings known as The Chandrian. The young innkeeper is a quiet man with flame-red hair and dark green eyes who listens without comment to the tale. We learn that the locals not only believe in demons but that they appear to be lurking in their midst when a man named Carter walks in, smeared with blood, and tells them that his horse has been killed by a monstrous spider-like creature known as a Scrael, that is only one of many that threaten the townspeople. Thus begins our initiation into the fully realized medieval world of Rothfuss’ creation, known as the Four Corners of Civilization, in which something wicked this way comes, magic is not only possible but practiced, and iron kills demons.

The Name of the Wind is narrated by the protagonist, Kote, (a man who is known by many different names) as he tells the story of his life to a scribe called Chronicler, while his servant, apprentice, and friend, Bast, a dark, charming ladies man who calls Kote by the name Reshi, listens. Kote revisits his adventurous and often tragic past when he was known by his real name, Kvothe, and how as a teenager of 15, the poor but brilliant orphan that he was managed to get accepted into the University (the aforementioned legendary school of magic), to study to become a Master Arcanist.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully written epic fantasy story by Patrick Rothfuss – which won a Quill Award and became a New York Times Bestseller – I thought it would be more “high-action” than it actually is. One must be patient with this slow burn of a tale, as this book is the first in a trilogy that has not yet been completed, even though The Name of the Wind was published in 2007. I will definitely read volume two of The Kingkiller Chronicles, The Wise Man’s Fear, this year.

For me, this book is about the art of storytelling, the love of knowledge and music, as well as one man’s quest to find his way back to who he once was. The fact that the main character, Kvothe, does not initiate the quest, but rather his Fae friend Bast does, is something the reader doesn’t know until the end. Bast is my favourite character and I look forward to anything else that Rothfuss has to share with readers about him. He should have his own book if you ask me, but as fans of these books have already been waiting for 14 years for the last book in the trilogy, I won’t hold my breath.

I am truly intrigued and invested in the story of Kvothe, who I adore, although I was hoping for more magic, and at least some sex in this book. However, one of the things I love most about The Name of the Wind is the fact that Kvothe respects women and that there are no less than four significant women in his life, so far: Denna, Devi, Fela, and Auri, who are all interesting and complex characters. Auri even earned her own story in The Slow Regard of Silent Things. His story begins when he is a young boy, but the romance of this tale is both palpable and restrained and Kvothe’s restraint was as excruciating for me as it was for him.

That being said, it is Bast’s words that deeply moved me, in this part on page 716:

“No, listen. I’ve got it now. You meet a girl: shy, unassuming. If you tell her she’s beautiful, she’ll think you’re sweet, but she won’t believe you. She knows that beauty lies in your beholding.” Bast gave a grudging shrug. “And sometimes that’s enough.”

His eyes brightened. “But there’s a better way. You show her she is beautiful. You make mirrors of your eyes, prayers of your hands against her body. It is hard, very hard, but when she truly believes you…” Bast gestured excitedly. “Suddenly the story she tells herself in her own head changes. She transforms. She isn’t seen as beautiful. She is beautiful, seen.”

I think the reason that I love this passage so much is that I experienced that very thing only once in my life, and it has remained one of the most profound experiences of it. Kvothe states that there are seven words that will make a woman fall in love, and there are many possibilities within these pages but no definitive declaration. For me, they are, “I love you for who you are.”

Like it is written on the back cover jacket of this book, this “is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man’s search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.” It’s a story that contains adventure, magic, monsters, friendship, a nemesis, romance, heroism, and heartbreak, and for me, all the best stories do.

I can’t wait to find out what happens next. 

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom the magic strings of frankie prestoBook Review

Title: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
Author:  Mitch Albom
Imprint: Harper Paperbacks
Released: October 25, 2016
Pages: 368
ISBN-10: 0062294431
ISBN-13: 9780062294432
Stars:  5.0

Once in a very blue moon a book comes along that is so unique and wonderful, no – downright magical – that it immediately becomes one of the best books you’ve ever read. Those books are what I call five-star desert island classics; books I want to have with me for the rest of my life because I know I will read them again and again.

Recently, my client and dear friend Deborah Ledon recommended a book for me that she said she loved and was certain that I would love too. I bought the book, called The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom, whose work I had read previously and especially adored in The Five People You Meet In Heaven (which I’ve so far read twice). Albom is a maestro of the rhythm of storytelling and I believe he has created his magnum opus with The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, a book narrated by Music itself.

Francisco de Asís Pascual Presto was born in Villareal, Spain in August 1936 in a church where his mother had sought refuge from El Terror Rojo – the Red Terror – revolutionaries and militiamen who were angry with the new government. Francisco’s mother Carmencita was aided by a young nun as she gave birth to her son, and we later learn that she died after childbirth and the nun took care of the newborn, who would not cry, in his early days as an infant. Before Carmencita dies, she sings a melody to her baby, a song called “Lágrima” (teardrops) by the renowned Spanish guitarist Francisco Tárrega, and the song is immediately ingrained in baby Frankie’s memory.

On the boy’s first birthday his guardian takes him into town to its largest store where Frankie hears a song by Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia on a wind-up gramophone for the first time, and he finally cries. In fact, he continues to cry constantly and the only thing that will ease his torment is music.

Frankie is raised by a blind guitar teacher in Spain, known to him as El Maestro, who gives him six mysterious blue strings and a beautiful acoustic guitar, educates him in music, and allows Frankie’s magnificent talent to blossom.

Throughout this extraordinary story, we travel back through Frankie Presto’s illustrious history from the 1940s jazz scene to the Grand Ole Opry, to the birth of rock and roll and Woodstock, while Frankie (accompanied by his hairless dog with no name) searches for his childhood sweetheart, Aurora York. We meet some of the great artists who influenced him and were influenced by him along the way, including Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Elvis Presley, Darlene Love, Tony Bennett and Paul Stanley to name a few, who help Music to narrate the tale.

I couldn’t believe it when in Part Five of the novel, Albom wrote about Paul Stanley‘s reminiscences of Frankie Presto, at the end of which he recalled:

“It’s funny. In 1999, I got a chance to play the lead in Phantom of the Opera in Toronto. I’ve never tried anything like that. But I went for it, partly because my son at the time was about five years old. And I remember thinking, “I want him to see me in this.”

Well, I saw Paul Stanley, guitarist and founding member of KISS, in 1999, in Phantom of the Opera in Toronto, and he was absolutely brilliant!

I was mesmerized by Albom’s story from the very first chapter and found myself smiling a lot, although sometimes tearing up too while reading Music’s epic tale about Frankie’s journey to discover what matters most in life and how the power of talent can change our lives. Music, fame, true love and the inevitable fall from grace shape the melody and harmonies of Frankie’s soundtrack and like all great soundtracks, leave us thinking about our own.

Like most of us, Frankie doesn’t get through life unscathed and has to deal with more than his fair share of tragedy, but music, love, and the magic of synchronicity save him, again and again.

This passage brought tears to my eyes with its simple truth:

He recalled a conversation with his teacher.

“Why do the strings make different sounds, Maestro?”
“It is simple. They work like life.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The first string is E. It is high pitched and quick like a child.
“The second string is B. It is pitched slightly lower, like the squeaky voice of a teenager.
“The third string, G, is deeper, with the power of the young man.
“The fourth string, D, is robust, a man at full strength.
“The fifth string, A, is solid and loud but unable to reach high tones, like a man who can no longer do what he did.”
“And the sixth string, Maestro?”
“The sixth is the low E, the thickest, slowest, and grumpiest. You hear how deep? Dum-dum-dum. Like it is ready to die.”
“Is that because it is closest to heaven?”
“No, Francisco. It is because life will always drag you to the bottom.”

I love the messages in this story that tell us with perseverance, practice, and determination, we can overcome the largest of obstacles in our lives…and the loyalty of a good dog can sometimes save us. But ultimately, true love and leaving a positive legacy for our children, is what matters most in life, and for this die-hard romantic, no truer words have ever been written.

With this book, Mitch Albom has become one of my favourite authors. I hope that you will read it so that he will become one of your favourites too.

 

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts: The Best Book I’ve Ever Read

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Book Review
Title: Shantaram
Author: Gregory David Roberts
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Released: 2003
Pages: 944
ISBN-10: 0312330529
ISBN-13: 978-0312330521
Stars: 6.0

The sensational epic novel Shantaram by Australian author Gregory David Roberts is one that I don’t think I will ever forget for as long as I live. It is the best book I have ever read and giving it 5 stars just isn’t enough to express how much I loved it and what a profound effect its author has had on the way I look at the world.

This is a book I savoured like a last bottle of water in the desert, while reading several others in between over a period of five months, because I never wanted it to end. Its gripping, visceral descriptions of prison life will make you squirm in your seat and its heartrending passages about the loss of loved ones will have you weeping uncontrollably, but it will also make you daydream, smile, and laugh out loud.

The theme of Shantaram is the exile experience, alienation, and man’s quest for meaning. It’s also about shame and self-loathing, sadness and hope, fear and forgiveness, poverty and true wealth, understanding and catharsis. And above all, it is about love.

Shantaram (which is actually the second book in a trilogy that has not yet been published) for the most part takes place in Bombay (Mumbai) and the author’s knowledge and love for the Indian people is so intoxicating and infectious that it will make you want to visit India with the hope that you will come to know its people in the same way. He describes the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feel of India (as well as his romantic retreat in Goa and the war torn and ravaged Afghanistan) with as much perfect detail, love and care as a famous artist put into his masterpiece with each strategic brush stroke.

Shantaram is the story of the indomitable spirit of a man who has lost everything – whose will to survive is astonishing – and the lengths to which he will fight to climb out of the abyss, absolutely astounding. The main character who has a number of names: Linbaba, Lin, Shantaram…is a man who feels damned and beyond redemption because of the crimes he’s committed (robbery, smuggling, gunrunning, counterfeiting, and working as a street soldier for the Bombay mafia) but who manages to find light, peace and salvation through the relationships he shares with the people he loves.

“It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are. Without forgiveness, our species would’ve annihilated itself in endless retributions. Without forgiveness, there would be no history. Without that hope, there would be no art, for every work of art is in some way an act of forgiveness. Without that dream, there would be no love, for every act of love is in some way a promise to forget. We live on because we can love, and we love because we can forgive.”

Based on many of the true life experiences of Gregory David Roberts – who after the failure of his marriage in Australia became a heroin addict, robber, inmate, escapee, and finally a refugee hiding out in India – Shantaram is stellar fiction that will leave you with many questions about how much of the story actually happened and how much was devised by Roberts’ literary genius. You may also find yourself falling in love with its author because of his intellect, charisma, and the sheer magnitude of his gigantic heart.

This book should be required reading for every college and university student on the planet. It’s a story that should be read, if possible, before embarking on the major part of your life’s journey. It is filled with so many exquisitely written passages and profound and remarkable quotes that you will be able to find something in it to express almost every situation you could possibly encounter.

“Everything you ever sense, in touch or taste or sight or even thought, has an effect on you that’s greater than zero. Some things, like the background sound of a bird chirping as it passes your house in the evening, or a flower glimpsed out of the corner of an eye, have such an infinitesimally small effect that you can’t detect them. Some things, like triumph and heartbreak, and some images, like the image of yourself reflected in the eyes of a man you’ve just stabbed, attach themselves to the secret gallery and they change your life forever.”

The characters, particularly his closest friends outside of the mafia council, such as Prabaker, Johnny Cigar, Qasim Ali Hussein and the slum dwellers, and the European crowd from Leopold’s Bar: Karla, Lisa, Didier, Ulla and Modena, Maurizio, Lettie and Vikram, Scorpio George and Gemini George, as well as Abdullah, Khader Khan and the other members of the Bombay mafia, are richly developed and fully realized and as a reader you become invested in them as you experience their joys and tragedies. I believe that some of these characters were amalgamations of several different people who Roberts knew in India in the 80s, but the world he creates through their eyes is as complex and colourful as the one we live in at this moment. Rarely, have I read a book that so completely transported me into the author’s world and seldom have I thought of one so much after I’d put the book down.

As I read the last few pages of this giant tome, tears trickled down my face, because of what Roberts had written in ending this part of his tale, and because I had come to the end and now I have to wait for the sequel to be published; hopefully in September 2011. Having a writer’s work that is this good, to look forward to, is something exceptional indeed. Gregory David Roberts’ life has been beyond extraordinary.

I won’t say anything more but READ THIS BOOK.

NOTE (as of March 2021): A TV series based on Shantaram and its sequel The Mountain Shadow is currently in production with Apple TV+, Paramount TV and Anonymous Content. Shooting was interrupted due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The series is set to resume filming in 2021.