I tend to like Science Fiction and Fantasy books, simply because they tend to be a bit more imaginative and easier to read. Plus, to be honest, I like wizards. Come on, they’re wizards! What’s not to like? The long gray beards, pointy hats, and fashionable robes…

Unfortunately, a lot of fantasy is puffed up, boring, and uninterestingly vain. Writers so in love with this world they’ve created that they feel the need to lecture you on it.

Anyway, ever since I struggled through Lord of the Rings I’ve had a way to disambiguate fantasy I’ll like, versus fantasy that is boring. It is a simple test and has a very good accuracy.

Simply flip through the first few pages of the book, before the book proper begins. If there is a map there, I hope you haven’t bought the book already. If you have, sorry, you’re screwed and in for a very, very boring time.

So for the past 5 or so years I’ve had a phobia causing me to avoid books with maps. The mere thought of an atlas chilled me to my bone. It was all going well, until I read a review of “Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss on RealLifeComics (an excellent comic). He gave a short but basically glowing review so I ordered a copy on Amazon.

Now Amazon has a great feature called “Look Inside The Book” that lets one peruse a few pages (typically, the first few, and then an excerpt) of a book. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available, so I didn’t get to check for a map.

(One aside – the novel has two different covers. Amazon, at the time, was featuring the version I can only refer to as “the homoerotic cover,” so I ordered from Buy.com, where I hoped to get the “non homoerotic cover.” It’s not that there’s anything wrong with homoeroticism, it’s just not for me)

Anyway, the book comes – and it’s quite a long book, especially considering it is the first of a trilogy. It’s about 700 pages long, and when I flip it open, I notice the first page is nothing but a map.

“This,” I proclaimed out loud, “does not bode well.” Immediately I imagined being lectured on the finer points of some random language some bushy-bearded dude thought up in his mom’s basement while the main character goes for a THREE BOOK WALK THROUGH THE WOODS.

(Another aside – nothing wrong with living in your mom’s basement, especially if it has its own bathroom).
(One more aside – I think the last harry potter book was a homage to lord of the rings, in that Harry goes on a 300 page CAMPING adventure. I wondered why there were no book liner notes on Book 7; it was simply a technical decision because the summary would have read “Harry and friends go camping” and it’s hard to fluff that up to fill an entire book liner).

I actually put the book off further and read the Midnighter’s trilogy instead. After those books, I looked back at the giant tome and decided reading it would clear the most space in my cabinet of books to read.

It is, simply put, fantastic. I encourage you to ignore the fact that the first page is a map, and pick up a copy of this novel. It is smooth, well-polished, and somehow, for a 700 page book, not even remotely wordy or redundant. The author doesn’t spend words telling you fluff or things you don’t need to know.

The book’s story is hard to explain or describe – you learn of this character who is, for reasons unknown to you, legendary and presumed dead. He goes by an assumed name, living as someone else, until a scribe comes and asks for his story. The majority of the novel is him telling that story, with brief interludes into the current time.

Pick up a copy and read it – then thank me I suggested it to you.