It’s all there: sorcery and swordplay, bandits and monsters, a hero searching for his parents’ killers, an academy of wizards and alchemists, even a hand drawn map of a pretend world in its first pages. Patrick Rothfuss’ acclaimed debut series The Kingkiller Chronicle reads like a big, fat delicious cheeseburger. It’s satisfying. There might be a few surprises; perhaps a few jalapenos and some feta cheese, but the basics are essentially the same. That’s how you make a delicious burger, and that’s how you write a wonderful fantasy tale. Perfect the flavor and tenderness of the patty. Construct realistic, intriguing characters. Melt the cheese and toast the bun just so. Create a universe with more detail than the page can hold, and let the characters run wild. If the yet to be released third volume matches the excellence of its two older siblings, Rothfuss may find himself immortalized as a fantasy great. In these books, readers will find echoes and reflections of canonized fantasy. Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Robin Hobb have even written lush reviews for Rothfuss’ website. The Kingkiller Chronicle may inhabit the expected realm of fantasy conventions, but Rothfuss takes his readers to exciting new depths. His books read so enjoyably precisely because he does not stray from the rules of the genre. “You’ve written a fantasy novel. Deal with it. Learn to cope,” he explains.
Physically, Rothfuss more resembles a character from his books. Healthy, unkempt curls flow from atop his swollen head, suggesting the likeness of a hobbit. His long, wiry beard appears to be borrowed from a satyr or gnome, and he most often wears a devilish grin to match. A self-proclaimed geek and homebody, he admits to finding the fast pace of his new life as a successful writer sometimes overwhelming. A native of Wisconsin, a region famed for its long, boring winters, he learned early on to find solace in fantasy books. In 1991 he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, first studying chemical engineering, then clinical psychology, later changing his major to undeclared. In this time, working three jobs and scrounging for food and money in Stevens Point, he began filling his spare time by writing a sprawling fantasy novel, The Song of Flame and Thunder. In the ten years it took Rothfuss to graduate, (finally with a B.A. in English), he perfected The Song of Flame and Thunder. After nearly 50 failed query letters, he found a publisher, and so The Kingkiller Chronicle found its way out of Rothfuss’ hard drive and onto bookshelves.
At public events, fans almost invariably ask Rothfuss to explain the details of his world: “What other kinds of monsters, aside from the scrael, live in the Commonwealth?” “Does the kingdom of Aturan have any kind of common law or judicial system?” This is because there are other monsters Rothfuss has neglected to include, and there is an entire system of governance that goes far beyond what is printed on the page. When The Song of Flame and Thunder became The Kingkiller Chronicle, Rothfuss cut out nearly 100,000 words, and before that he had already conceived every aspect of his world, fully knowing the majority of his ideas would never make it on paper. The result is not just a book, but an entire universe for readers to savor, the heart and key to successful fantasy-fiction. The ability to arrange exciting work from a familiar palette is the mark of a master. You heard it here first.