Sunday, July 21, 2013

Will "The Name of the Wind" become the next "Game of Thrones"?

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Patrick Rothfuss and The Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy. The first book, The Name of the Wind, became an instant best-seller when it came out in 2007. The story involves a legendary hero/antihero/villain (?) telling the story of how he arose to infamy. I liked the first book in the series, but the second (The Wise Man's Fear) was too long-winded and involved the hero jumping around from "Gary Stu" to "fucking stupid." (Also, WAY too many pages of fairy sex.)

When I heard that the show was being optioned for television, my initial reaction was to get really excited. But then I thought about it for a few minutes, and now I'm not so sure there's much to get excited about.

Reasons The Name of the Wind probably won't adapt well to television:

1. Single character focus. Probably the main reason the book was optioned now was the success of Game of Thrones. If one best-selling fantasy series adapts to mainstream audiences, that must mean good things for another one, right? Not necessarily. One of the elements that makes Game of Thrones so popular is it's multi-character focus. Not only does more characters mean more plot, but it also gives the viewer more possibility for emotional investment. For instance, I don't care much for Jon Snow or Bran, but I love Tyrion, Daenerys, and Arya--and I will continue to watch the show because of those characters.

The Kingkiller Chronicles doesn't have that flexibility. The story follows Kvothe, and if you don't like Kvothe, too bad. While the story has some great secondary characters, most of them are there on a come-and-go basis, and very few of them have actual plotlines of their own.

2. Lack of a great villain. As of the second book, there are three major recurring villains--a Snape clone (minus any of Snape's complexity), a Malfoy clone, and a group of evil beings called the Chandrian. The Chandrian are the Big Bad, but very little is known about them, and they rarely makes an appearance. Although there are hints of another villain (and if my theory about his identity is correct, then we do see him in the second book), we have yet to see him in all of his evil, cunning glory.

3. Weak over-arching plotline. The books are mostly a series of events: Kvothe goes to the University. Kvothe defeats a draccus. Kvothe has adventures abroad. While this is great for breaking the show into episodes, you need some sort of over-arching plot(s) to bring all those episodes together, and to give the viewers a reason to keep coming back. People are eventually going to get sick of watching Kvothe be awesome at everything. If you want them to stay invested, you'll need to give them something else. The over-arching plot is important, because it makes viewers want to know what happens next. However, the only over-arching storyline is about Kvothe's hunt for the Chandrian, but so far that plot has yet to lead anywhere significant.

4. Not enough death (of important characters). There is one major massacre in the middle of the first book and the death of a minor character at the end of that book. (And when I say "minor," I really mean "minor." When I re-read the book, I thought I must have skipped over the scene during my first read, because I had absolutely no recollection of it.) No important characters die in the second book. I'm not saying that death is required for a great show, but it ups the stakes and creates a realistic sense of danger for the characters.

5. Kvothe gets older. Kvothe is a child at the beginning of the series, but is well into his teens by the end of the second book. In the frame story, he's an adult. This means they'll have to cast multiple actors for one role.

6. The book's strengths might not translate to film. Despite all of my complaints, I did enjoy the first book. One of the main reason's is Kvothe's voice. It's clever and tight and just the right amount of arrogant. But when you present the story in an audiovisual medium, the narrator takes a backseat. Another big strength is the "story" theme--the importance of stories in society and the contrast between truth and legend. And while this is a great theme, most mainstream audiences aren't going to care about it. They just want action, drama, and sex. Same with the worldbuilding--Patrick Rothfuss puts a lot of thought into his worldbuilding, but will a mainstream audience actually notice or care?


Thinking about this kind of makes you wonder--who will be the audience for this show? Fans of the book, certainly. But will the popularity spread to a less fantasy-oriented, less literary demographic? Hard to say.

That, of course, isn't taking into account any changes the creative team might make. Any story can be good, or at least entertaining, if done correctly. So who knows? As much as I'm doubtful, I am very open to the possibility of liking The Name of the Wind.


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