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Bookmark: Quality fantasies hard to come by

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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I’m a big believer in literary ideals, novels that are so good that they become the standard by which all other books are judged in their particular genre. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit are the best fantasy novels ever written, while Brian Hebert’s Dune is the epoch for science fiction novels (excepting The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the hybrid science fiction-humour category). The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco is the finest murder mystery ever penned, as well as the best historical fiction about 14 th century monks. Moby Dick is the pinnacle of narrative fiction, and most authors of today aren’t fit to clean Melville’s harpoon.

For every genre it’s the same, from John Le Carre’s superlative spy novels, to J.K. Rowling’s children’s books, to Charles Dickens’s classical books of humour and social iniquity.

The reason I mention all this is because I’m always on the lookout for books that are compared favourably to other books that I consider archetypes in their genre — preferably books reviewed by critics who are well-read enough to make an educated comparison.

Enter a review by Onion A.V. Club writer Donna Bowman for The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. Bowman calls it “the best fantasy novel of the past 10 years,” and “one of the best stories told in any medium in a decade.” She suggests that you “shelve The Name of the Wind beside the Lord of the Rings, The Deed of Paksenarrion, The Wheel of Time — and look forward to the day when it’s mentioned in the same breath, perhaps as first among equals.”

Reading that review, and always keen to read something compared favorably to Lord of the Rings, I checked the local book store. They didn’t have any copies, and had never heard of the book. So I went to the library to see if they had a copy in stock. They did it turned out, but I had to wait a few breathless weeks for it to come back.

I began to suspect Bowman was full of B.S. the moment I finally picked up my copy and saw the cover. Unlike the image that accompanied Bowman’s glowing review, the copy at the library depicted a bare-chested redheaded man, wind blowing through his hair, a lute over his shoulder. At first I thought I had mistakenly picked up a Harlequin romance novel, but there was Patrick Rothfuss’ name in block letters. Needless to say I felt a little embarrassed at the checkout.

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