It's less a novel than a series of scenes.
At pages oh dear, another one , it could have taken care of business in half the length. These are not insignificant problems. There's too much shilly-shallying around in epic fantasies these days, with already-thin plot threads stretched out until they're nearly transparent. And to what end, precisely?
Simply to set you up for the next book? The central conceit of The Kingkiller Chronicle , of which this is volume two, is that it reveals the truth behind the legend of Kvothe the Kingkiller, a man said to bear a cloak of shadow and a silver sword, who knew "six words he could whisper in a horse's ear that would make it run a hundred miles.
He could turn iron into gold and catch lightning in a quart jar He knew a song that would open any lock, and he could stave in a strong oak door with just one hand Presumably, somewhere along his whole career of being awesome, he gets around to killing a king. The Wise Man's Fear left me wondering exactly when Kvothe is going to live up to his rep.
We are now two very long novels into his life story, and he hasn't graduated school yet. Cue another of my frustrations with bloated fantasy series: the interminable postponement of any sort of dramatic payoff for all that reading you're asked to do. At least George R. Martin — the figure to whom everyone else, perhaps unfairly, is inevitably compared — punctuates his sprawling epic with plenty of narrative peaks.
You never know when utter chaos will erupt and claim the lives of your favorite characters without warning. Rothfuss's story is notably lacking in anything like suspense or dramatic tension. In The Wise Man's Fear , Kvothe can be accurately described as a young man who travels here, does some stuff, travels there, does some other stuff, and travels a third place, where he does yet more stuff. Some of it is interesting. Some of it is downright tedious. At no point does the book get your pulse racing.
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At no point are you at the edge of your seat, flipping pages in breathless anticipation of what is to come. If Martin is a roller coaster, Rothfuss is the little train that chugs around the park. I'm being kind of a downer here, so I might as well mention the book's qualities. Despite the fact that Kvothe is, to put it plainly, not so interesting a young man give me Locke Lamora any old day , Rothfuss still manages to make him appealing, and I followed his exploits with, for the most part, pleasure.
He certainly does get around.
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Ostensibly, his driving agenda is to learn what he can about the Chandrian, the mythical beings who slaughtered his parents as well as the entire troupe of traveling performers with whom he grew up. But Kvothe doesn't seem especially single-minded in his pursuit, as heroes in revenge stories usually are. It is simply one more thing on his to-do list.
As a young man in his mid-teens, it's understandable that Kvothe would still be maturing and developing, honing his personality on the whetstone of life experience, as it were. But it's a stretch to believe that a guy who, early in the book, cannot manage to control his temper, leading to a nearly violent falling-out with a money-lender who's little better than a common criminal, would, only a few months later, have such unshakable sangfroid and self-possession that he effortlessly bluffs his way into the good graces of the autocratic ruler of a neighboring country.
Not just into the man's good graces, but actually becoming his second most-trusted confidante! I think that Rothfuss means for these inconsistencies in Kvothe's personal journey to be deliberate, and indicative of some deep paradox within the young man. Fine, I'll bite. But it does force you to endure some wildly uneven storytelling and shifts in tone all throughout the book, especially in its protracted second half.
For the first half, The Wise Man's Fear depicts Kvothe's ongoing exploits at the University, where he continues his musical career and education as an arcanist despite crippling poverty, having alienated half his instructors, and earning an implacable personal enemy in the wealthy Ambrose.
Kvothe pursues his erratic, not-quite-a-love-affair with the free-spirited Denna, who's something of a freelance courtesan and who represents the unattainable in every young man's life, I suppose. We learn that for all Kvothe's achievements, the goal of true love will be forever beyond his grasp. Rothfuss builds upon the supporting characters of Kvothe's classmates, too, making these chapters altogether pleasurable reading even if Rothfuss is nowhere near as deft with the chummy banter and hijinks as, say, Scott Lynch.
Everything gets more problematic in the second half. Upon the advice of his friends, Kvothe takes a term off, and travels far to the east, where adventure, or something like it, catches up to him. Kvothe's insights on women: "Each woman is like an instrument, waiting to be learned, and finely played [fucked], to have at least her own true music made. Realizing that what he just said is sophomoric, sexist, and a little insane, Kvothe clarifies: "Some might take offense at this way of seeing things. They might think I degrade women. Before the book ends, your skinny little ass has sex with half the village by the university.
Review of Wise Man’s Fear – Book 2 of The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
I don't feel like transcribing any more of it. Kvothe prances around with the approximate wisdom and subtlety of a slightly below average modern-day teenager. A musician with a delicate disposition more at home at a pedicurist than a fantasy novel, he's best described as a weakling, a coward, and a fool.
At one point he actually loses a fight to a 10 year old girl. Someone responded to this earlier by saying: "But she was a really badass little girl. Locke Lamora is charming. Kvothe is a self-absorbed brat with the emotional depth of a teaspoon. The narrator insists on his intelligence and success at the university, but every time Kvothe speaks, it's an eyeroll-fest.
What does Kvothe do? He says some dumb things and abandons her to go on a pointless expedition into the woods; stumbles over the Fey, where he loses his virginity; screws 5 more women that we're told about - this in the space of a couple of months; and finally returns to the university by the end of the book, only to reveal that he is not in love with the original girl anymore.
Stay classy, Kvothe, buddy. Here's what he has to say about love: Kvothe: "Love is a subtle concept. But it can be defined.
The Wise Man's Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Book 2 (Kingkiller Chronicle) [Paperback]
Tell me of love. At least that shouldn't take long. Listen, Kvothe, love is the condition wherein the happiness of another person is essential to your own. It's not rocket science. And it does not require physical attraction.
Wtf are you, 16? Oh yeah, that's right, you are.
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Seriously, half the time Kvothe opens his mouth, I want to punch him in the face. Don't do this to me. And look, I completely understand that the author deliberately made his main character into a crappy teenager. I get it.
But the result sucks. Jun 24, Brandon Sanderson added it.
This review is from Of sorts. Also, a reminder, I did an interview with Pat and he kind of interviewed me back for Amazon.