The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. DAW Books, 2011.
FINALLY! This review was so long coming and I’m thrilled to finally be writing it. I started reading this book in December; it’s a 994-page Goliath. The Wise Man’s Fear is the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss (I reviewed the first one here).
I must say that I didn’t like this book as much as the first one. There wasn’t as much excitement. This book is very much a there-and-back-again story, but unfortunately the “there” wasn’t particularly interesting to me. Day 2 of the telling of Kvothe’s epic story begins while he is still a student at the University, but this time the story takes us to far-off places. I love every bit of it that takes place at the University. The quirky teachers, the student rivalry, Kvothe’s antics, Denna’s visits, Auri…everything about that setting is so well put together. But Kvothe spends a lot of this book away from the University, going on various adventures, some of which are more compelling to read about than others.
The longest part that had me the least interested was the training sequence in Ademre during which Kvothe learns (or attempts to learn) how to fight like the Adem mercenaries, a group of mysterious hired warriors who basically never lose a fight. Kvothe spends a long time in Ademre, learning not only to fight, but also about the culture, communication, and ways of life of the Adem, which are vastly different than any culture Kvothe is familiar with. I understand the need for this experience and the important role it played in shaping Kvothe as the hero he is. But I got bored. It reminded me a lot of the long training sequence in Christopher Paolini’s Eldest, the second book of the Inheritance series, in which Eragon trains for what seems like hundreds of pages. Again, yes, important for character building and for the believably factor that it takes a long time to become a great hero, but like I said, it got boring for me.
The other part during which I began to feel slightly bored was the Felurian sequence. Kvothe spends a long time in the Fae, and I kept thinking it was going to be over with each successive chapter, but it kept going longer than I expected, and nothing all that groundbreaking happened. Ok, he calls the name of the wind again (and possibly the name of Felurian), they make a magical cloak (which takes ages), and they have lots of fairy sex. The only parts I liked about the Fae were his run-in with the Cthaeh and the devilishly clever way he makes Felurian let him go.
That being said, I didn’t dislike the other parts away from the University – I thoroughly enjoyed the courtly life and scandals Kvothe gets involved in during his time in Severen. That section had a few twists and turns which kept me excited. The court rituals Kvothe must learn in order to pass as a member of the gentry were quite entertaining. I enjoyed reading about the motley group Kvothe ventures with to find the highway robbers – the relationship between Dedan and Hespe was adorable. So for the most part, I liked the majority of the book with the exception of a few slow spots.
The last thing I want to talk about is the repetition in the first and last chapters of these books. The opening and closing of both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are written in parallel with some of the exact same sentences. I don’t know how I feel about it. I think it’s a bit of a juvenile writing tactic and that Patrick Rothfuss is better than that. I get the effect it’s trying to give, and it worked for the first book. But repeating it again for the second book was overkill, and I’m hoping the third book doesn’t start with the words, “The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.”
HOWEVER, I still love the series. I’m very excited for the release of the third and final installment because I think Rothfuss has set it up to have a hell of an ending. In the interim, I plan to read the companion book about Auri, The Slow Regard of Silent Things. And…dare I say it? I think Kvothe might be shaping up to be my favorite fantasy hero of all time. There, I said it. 3/5 stars.