About The Book
The series is essentially the biography of a famous musician, arcanist, and adventurer named Kvothe.
After gaining notoriety at a young age, he disappears from public life and is eventually tracked down to a backwater inn by Devan Lochees, who goes by
the name 'Chronicler'. After some persuasion, Chronicler convinces Kvothe to tell him his life story, which Kvothe announces will take three days.
However, Kvothe's first-person narration is occasionally punctuated by interludes, during which it becomes clear that someone is looking for Kvothe.
Meanwhile Kvothe's friend and apprentice Bast is unwilling to let Chronicler tell all of Kvothe's story. The story thus proceeds on two levels, as we
learn how Kvothe came to be the man he is now, whilst other events take place in the present hinting at a greater story to follow.
Kvothe begins his story in his childhood amongst the Edema Ruh, a travelling and performing people. Kvothe, even for an Edema Ruh, is an extremely
talented musician, particularly with lute and voice. As a youth, his father's troupe picks up an arcanist by the name of Abenthy, a graduate of the University (there is only one), who begins to train the extremely-bright Kvothe in matters of science.
Particularly, he teaches Kvothe "sympathy," a form of magic which allows the sympathist to link two objects together and cause changes in the bound object by manipulating the other (a system drawing equally from modern thermodynamics, quantum entanglement and voodoo dolls). However, sympathy is only the weaker form of magic in Rothfuss' story; Abenthy also knows the secret of naming, thus giving him power over those things he has named, particularly air, as he demonstrates to an astonished Kvothe by using it against a suspicious townsperson; Kvothe spends the remainder of the novel attempting to find someone to teach him the titular "Name of the Wind."
Meanwhile, Kvothe's father is attempting to compose a song about the "Chandrian," a mythical (if human) force of evil, occasionally referenced in children's rhymes but otherwise submerged in the murk of legend. Kvothe's father's curiosity leads the Chandrian to visit the troupe—and put everyone to the sword, which Kvothe escapes by the simple expedient of having been out in the woods at the time.
Now orphaned, Kvothe spends several mean years in the town of Tarbean, forced to become a street urchin, before finally making his escape to the University to continue his education. There he bargains for, and obtains, enrollment on a shoestring budget, gaining acceptance to the University but being forced thereafter to scramble constantly to make ends meet.
While at the University, Kvothe continues to feed his love of knowledge, as well as resuming his pursuit of music, which helps ease his monetary woes after a significant down payment on a new lute. He also renews his acquaintence with Denna, a beautiful young woman whom he met on the road to Tarbean and has since taken up residence in a town near the University.
He begins a rivalry with a rich fellow student, Ambrose, who also has his eye set on Denna, and with an arrogant head faculty member, Master Hemme; he also attempts to gain the attention of Master Elodin, who holds the promising title "Master of Naming," though to no avail. After Ambrose "helps" him explore the University's library by renting him a lit candle, Kvothe is banned from the stacks for life, and expends considerable effort in (successfully) finding another way in.
Finally, he takes up his father's interest in the Chandrian, eventually investigating a destroyed farmhouse outside Trebon where those mythical villains supposedly slaughtered a wedding party; this leads directly to a confrontation with drug-addicted dragon (the herbivorous tree-eating "draccus," which has stumbled upon a "denner resin" farm, and is about to attack Trebon in its euphoria). As night falls, Kvothe relates how Elodin finally took him as a student, after Kvothe demonstrated that, even if only subconsciously, he has the power to name (and command) the wind, smiting Ambrose with it as he saw Abenthy do after Ambrose destroys his lute. However, the novel ends before Kvothe can reveal any more details about himself, such as which king he killed and why, what became of his love for Denna, how he got expelled from the University and what, precisely, the Chandrian are.