p. Lately I've been geeking out about The Name Of The Wind with friends, so I went in for a re-read. I was immediately struck by how dense the opening chapters are, laying out themes and setting up later events. I'm gonna take a few minutes to blather at you about how much I like them.
Let us, as Arliden would demand, begin at the beginning. The first sentence in the prologue is "It was night again." Again? It's the first sentence! Of the prologue! It's a dreary start, better suited to some existential philosophical discourse than the tale of excitement the back-cover blurb promised us. But this is a tragedy, as we'll see in the prologue's last sentence. There're fireworks in the middle, but at the end it's the story of a man who is waiting to die.
After the prologue, though, things are a little more what you'd expect. We open in a tavern, the sort where a D&D party might begin their adventure. Old Cob is telling a story of Taborlin The Great to a small crowd: his friends Jake, Shep, and Graham, along with the smith's apprentice. Immediately Rothfuss introduces the Chandrian, and the story-within-a-story motif that's gonna recur and recur, and the theme of "old stories, corrupted by time, but with a kernel of truth." We see Kvothe think of the Chandrian as "familiar." This is all in the first half-page of chapter one.
In the next page the Taborlin story continues. Taborlin leaps from a high tower, but he knows the name of the wind, so he's borne safely to the ground. So now, already, on page four including the prologue, we see the meaning of the book's title: names have power. Next there's an interruption over the exact phrasing of a proverb. Everyone remembers it differently--again with the corrupted stories--but they all agree on another recurring theme: Be Friendly To Tinkers.
The tinker argument segues into a description of Taborlin's amulet: it's "cold as ice to touch." We can infer it's either a gram or an arcanist's guilder. This is sort of thing that gives me confidence that Rothfuss means what he says when he announces a release date, by the way. It's just a passing reference in the first chapter, but it foreshadows something that won't come up again for ages and ages. We see Abenthy's guilder, but there's no mention at all that it might be protective until midway through book 2. The author knows exactly where he's going.
We have more debate about the origins of the Chandrian and the exact effectiveness of Taborlin's amulet. More corrupted stories...and then Carter bursts in, wounded and carrying a dead Scraeling. Suddenly the stories are right here in the tavern, uncomfortably close. This is where the thematic buildup tapers off and things themselves start happening, so this is where I'll leave off.
Consider: everything I've written about here is in the first six pages. There's a lot going on here!