In detailed flashbacks, Patrick Rothfuss’s bestseller follows the harrowing early years of the prodigy Qvothe, a musician, magician and hardscrabble orphan making his way from a loving home to the city streets to a university in a vaguely medieval world. Looming above his daily struggles, however, is his quest to avenge the death of his parents at the hands of an ancient evil foe. Part schoolboy saga, part sweeping fantasy epic, the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy that kicks off with this book is not yet complete. But Qvothe is a compelling star: a roguish, supernaturally smart underdog with wit and talent to spare. Rothfuss’s descriptions of a science-based magic are technical and specific, while his attention to injustices, poverty and class-based discrimination grounds his story in a world we understand all too well. —Raisa Bruner

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