Kote is an old innkeeper in a small town on a scenic byway, when trouble stumbles in the front door. Bloodied and dazed, one of the townspeople stumbles in, carrying the thing that attacked him. Though the town has come to think of Kote as a world-weary innkeeper minding his own business, it soon becomes apparent he knows more than he’s letting on.

Confronting Ambrose required no real bravery on my part. I simply couldn’t muster any real fear of him. I saw him as a puffed-up clown. I thought he was harmless. I was a fool.

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The next morning, he finds himself confronted by the scribe rescued the night before, who reveals himself to be the Chronicler, a keeper of stories. And the story of Kote, rather Kvothe, is one he’s been trying to gather for some time…

Why is this on our bookshelf?

Romance, fights, trials and tribulations, we can relate to almost everything in the story. We’ve all been that “Just moved into town, don’t know anyone here…” new kid at school.

The story is a realistically portrayed one— the main character isn’t an all-powerful knight confronting evil or a kid who finds out he’s a wizard, but a kid who grows up in a world full of light and dark, just like the real world.

Rating (4 stars)

All of the characters in the story that matter are fleshed out in a natural way. Many fantasy novels find the main characters built as perfect people in a perfect world thrown into darkness who find themselves carrying a magic sword and consulting with wizards.

This tale begins simply enough: an innkeeper running his inn one evening when a patron stumbles in, half-dead. The innkeeper feigns ignorance of the evil lurking outside, but seems to know more than he lets on. It very rapidly becomes a retelling of his story up to now, through his own eyes, to a wandering scribe.

The story doesn’t stop for pages of narrative explaining the details, but instead weaves the discovery of those explanations into the story. There is no assumption that we know everything of historical importance, but there is also no attempt to provide backstory where it doesn’t belong.

Rather than explain the main bad guy in a wall of text or alternating points of view, we are forced to follow the path of discovery undertaken by Kvothe. Kvothe’s stumbles in his first weeks of the Arcanum are our own stumbles at college— how many of us went to college knowing every single rule and piece of etiquette involved in the particular university we attended?

The framing narrative (that of an innkeeper cornered by a scribe to retell his story) is weaker than the main narrative, though events in the framing story do certainly lead the reader to believe there’s more to come in the “present” story.

We are left at the end of the first day wondering what will happen on the second…and how will the third conclude? Clearly Kvothe survives the tales retold to the scribe, but does the story fade out with a “Thanks for your time, I’ll see you around…” as the scribe rides off to his next appointment? Only time will tell…