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It’s safe to say that Patrick Rothfuss qualified as a cult writer ahead of Tuesday’s announcement that he’s the author behind Lin-Manuel Miranda’s next big project — but the news that The Kingkiller Chronicle has brought the Hamilton creator on board as creative director will have plenty of people asking the obvious question: Just what is The Kingkiller Chronicle, anyway?
Despite the singular title, the first thing to learn is that it’s actually a series of books — ostensibly a trilogy, although material set in the same mythology has appeared in anthologies and as a standalone novella — that launched with 2007’s The Name of the Wind. Each of the initial two books takes place over the course of one day, during which Kvothe, the series’ protagonist, recounts part of his life story to the Chronicler, his would-be biographer; the books cut between the conversation between Kvothe and the Chronicler and the stories that Kvothe is telling at that particular moment.
A large part of the series’ charm is the way in which it subverts expectations. Although The Kingkiller Chronicle contains as fully formed a mythology as any high fantasy story — as Kvothe travels across “The Four Corners of Civilization,” he encounters a number of creatures and tribes, including the Chandrian and the Fae, and the books recount alternate realities and a history that includes something dramatically called the “Creation Wars” — Rothfuss writes in a more down-to-earth manner that grounds the narrative in a way befitting its central character, who has gone from being a master magician and warrior (not to mention a man rumored to have murdered royalty, hence the series title) to, at the time of the story’s open, an innkeeper trying to live a more downbeat, peaceful life.
There’s also a nice ambiguity to Kvothe’s story as it unfolds, with Rothfuss playing up the idea that, just because the character tells the Chronicler that something happened one way, that isn’t necessarily true. As he made clear in a recent interview, saying, “It is very fair to wonder, ‘How much of this is real? How much of this is true?’ Unfortunately, any answer that I gave to that would be destructive to the story … If I were gonna go back and mythologize my life, I would leave out so many of the terrible choices that I made.”
Miranda is far from the only fan of The Kingkiller Chronicle; also in Rothfuss‘ corner is George R.R. Martin, a man who knows something about creating beloved fantasy works. Both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear have become bestsellers, with the former — Rothfuss‘ first novel — winning the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category in the 2007 Quill Awards, as well as being named as one of the best 10 books of the year in the Young Adult Library Services Association’s “Alex Awards” in 2008. (The Slow Regard of Silent Things, the standalone novella released in 2014, also stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for a month after its release.)
As yet, The Kingkiller Chronicle is unfinished. The third book — tentatively titled The Doors of Stone — has been in the works for some time, although that won’t actually conclude the property. Rothfuss has previously revealed that he’s also working on a novel about another character in the mythology, although no release information has been revealed as yet. This might be a smart move; as J.K. Rowling and Fantastic Beasts have demonstrated, it’s probably a good idea to leave more material available to explore after the initial series is over, just in case the appetite remains in the audience …
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