I haven’t read epic fantasy better written than Patrick Rothfuss’s series, The Kingkiller Chronicle. I love a lot of other stuff—cherish it, get lost in it. I’m not complaining about the quality of other great stories. But Rothfuss is doing something else. He’s working on multiple levels. He’s toying with the reader. He’s making verbal music. And he’s pulling it off with cheek and style. It’s just impressive.
One of the things I love about this story is the role music plays. I remember being shocked as an adolescent by how the musical aspects of Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy were just as enthralling as the predictably exciting parts of the story. Rothfuss takes this to new heights. He manages to tap my almost incomparable relationship with music to the story’s advantage. When I’m reading, I can’t wait until Kvothe plays. Rothfuss’s prose meets the massive challenge of bringing composition and performance to life vividly and emotionally.
So I’m both ecstatic and nervous about the TV and movie adaptations that are on the horizon. Can they pull it off? I think what Rothfuss lets the imagination do with music will be harder to bring to life on screen than anything attempted in epic fantasy so far. Gollum marked the coming of age of fantasy CGI, and things have only improved since. Believable balrogs and dragons are a major visual achievement, though they stumble in their attempt to convey the profound terror and overwhelming power such beings represent. It’s something like the virtual impossibility of moving from Dracula being scary on screen to communicating the basic existential threat that he is. And we still haven’t really figured out how to portray magic without it seeming like hokey flashes and splashes of lights. But the difficulty of sharing Kvothe’s music on screen seems an order of magnitude larger than these standard problems. I’m hopeful and doubtful at the same time.