‘It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts. The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighed through the trees, set the inn’s sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with conversation and laughter, the clatter and clamour one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of the night. If there had been music… but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.’

In the middle of the countryside, a man named Kote runs a small inn. He is quiet and unassuming, but appearances can be deceiving. He is actually Kvothe, notorious magician, masterful musician, accomplished thief and infamous assassin. This is his story.

(I’ll save you some annoyance immediately; it’s pronounced ‘Quothe’.)

This is a brilliant fantasy novel and an excellent start to a series from a talented new voice in fantasy writing. At first I wasn’t quite convinced by the framing narrative – the book is written as Kvothe telling the story of his past, with frequent flitting between past and present – but I came to really enjoy this method of storytelling.

Rothfuss has created characters of legend that will live on in your memory long after you turn the last page. They are witty, flawed, strong, intelligent, complex and utterly real. Their relationships and conversations are a joy to watch unfold.

Kvothe is a brilliant protagonist. This is very much his coming-of-age story and it is fascinating watching him construct the building blocks of the hero he will become. The character development is second-to-none; I can’t wait to see where Kvothe’s journey will lead next.

The plot is never slowed down by info-dumps, and Rothfuss does a brilliant job of introducing you to the world of the story. It is very much a medieval world – only with magic. He doesn’t throw hundreds of place names at you and expect you to remember complex geography; he doesn’t have characters who are referred to by multiple different names (this, I find, is a significant flaw with George R.R. Martin); in fact, we don’t even know the name of this fantasy world. It is testament to Rothfuss’s skill in world-building that this doesn’t matter. The magic system, too, is original but not over-described. It is introduced gradually, in poetic but easy-to-follow language.

There are moments, as is the case with most fantasy novels, when the plot or characters slip into cliché, but given the overall strength of the book this is a very minor complaint. Some might find it slow-paced, but if you commit to it you will easily lose yourself in the story. Fans of Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire will especially love this book.

Highly enjoyable reading and utterly gripping, I would definitely recommend both this book and its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear.