names in fiction

I’m reading an excellent book by a relatively new author. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I’m about a third of the way in. The scene setting is wonderful, the world is really nicely constructed, the characters are building very well. It has all the makings of an excellent read. It’s just two names that are bugging me.

All the characters, place names and elements within the world have that familiar yet different feel that helps set the scene for a fantasy environment. The principles and laws exist in similar fashion so everything is grounded and believable whilst at the same time clearly set in a place parallel to our own, it works well. Except for two animals which are named Alpha and Beta.

To me this steps too close to reality when all the other elements are at least one remove from it. Alpha and beta, besides being part of the Greek alphabet, are also used in maths, science and computer coding. Although they have ancient roots they also exist quite prominently in the modern world, and they feel completely out of place in this fantasy environment. I imagine I would feel the same discord if one of the characters in Lord of the Rings was called Mercedes.

Don’t let that thought dissuade you from reading the book though, the names make only a brief appearance and everything else about it is superb.

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