So many fantasy novels, though their concepts are interesting, are ultimately mediocre at best, largely because they are written as clumsily as might be expected from an eighth grader with a C in English class.
Rothfuss has joined the very, very small group of fantasy authors (think Tolkien, Martin, Gaiman) who can not only build an intriguing world and spin an interesting story, but who can also use the English language with elegance and verve. His dialogue, expression of ideas (yes, there are IDEAS here, not just plot and character and setting), and description are written at a level that is appropriate for a well-educated adult.
Rothfuss uses a frame narrative, which is somewhat unusual for a fantasy novel, and which he handles with such skill that it greatly adds to the suspense of the story. His system of magic is well-conceived and not oversimplified, and his characters, though sometimes of mythic proportions, are never cliche. He builds a nuanced and believable world without the cardinal sin of "infodumping." In short, he has provided everything for which a serious lover of fantasy literature (as opposed to fantasy genre fiction) can ask.
While the actual writing is undoubtedly a step above that found in most fantasy novels, a fact which I greatly appreciate, the novel itself still falls far short of the truly excellent fantasy works available. It is all concept, concept, concept. Sanderson does indeed follow and develop the consequences of his ideas, such as metal-eating and falling ash, and some readers will definitely enjoy that aspect of the book. But the concept is developed at the expense of character and story, which are both ultimately uncompelling.
Overall, this book has a very "workshopped" feel, as though the author has learned rules of "good" writing through workshops and how-to books, and then applied them here. (Create a conflict, heighten it by impeding your character's progress toward his goal, ensure that your ensemble cast consists of contrasting personalities, etc.) There is none of the rich atmosphere of Tolkien, nor the character complexity of Martin, nor even the fancifulness of Jordan. Listen to it while you wait for the next work of genius to come along.
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