But then, just when our reluctant, retired hero ventures out into the wilderness to deal with the threat and secretly save the town (and a traveling scribe, to boot!), the book switches gears rather abruptly. All of the built-up tension and excitement over this taste of the bigger danger to come is slowly extinguished. Chapter after chapter bleeds by. A promising call-to-action is all but forgotten, replaced with a memoir-like retelling of our hero's entire life as he dictates to the rescued scribe who, as it turns out, is actually there to find Kvothe and record his story.
I didn't expect this to be a slice-of-life book, and I think that's the main reason I didn't enjoy it. I've never picked up an epic fantasy novel and expected to read a memoir. Many say that The Name of the Wind is more a work of literary fiction. That the point is that Kvothe is an unreliable narrator. That he's exaggerating, editing, or flat-out just lying about his past. Perhaps that's an interesting way to experience this book, but that was not at all the sense I got as a reader.
Many people love this book, but it wasn't for me. I spent the whole first half thinking, "Okay, maybe just a few more chapters of backstory and then we'll get to the good stuff." By the time I was 2/3rds of the way through, all hope had been thoroughly snuffed. The protagonist had turned from a gruff old adventurer I could admire to a pompous know-it-all who never seemed to fail because he was just so good at everything. My eyes hurt from rolling them so often. An attempt is made at humbling our hero via a mild social awkwardness around a pretty girl he likes, but this check to his universal proficiency arrives far too late to be at all effective. By this point, I just wanted to finish it.
At the very end, Rothfuss throws us a bone and Kvothe actually does go do something mildly interesting, but by that time I'd been so soured against him that it fell flat. The phenomenal musician, effortless theater performer, genius academic, gifted mage, pickpocket, lockpick, and in some future book, a master swordsman as well... he is easily three or four protagonists crammed into one, and the result is a remarkably unlikable Mary-Sue. With the strange and somewhat random dragon-slayer arc at the very end, I ended the book feeling...tolerant...of Kvothe, but I won't be continuing this series.