The Wise Man's Fear review

Thursday, October 13, 2011



The Wise Man's Fear is... a novel. Sorry easy joke. This book is the follow-up in the Kingkiller Chronicles series to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, one of the most talked about fantasy debut in the last few years and interestingly, it's among the few fantasy novels that know no boundary from the genre. This title has been waited upon for four year and it's been delivered, wonderfully so!
Day Two of The Kingkiller Chronicle, an escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe uncovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travelers on the King's road. 
All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, is forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived...until Kvothe. 
In The Wise Man's Fear, Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.
In my review of The Name of the Wind, I mentioned that I expected The Wise Man's Fear to be quite different in tone.  This idea came to me since most of the first novel is concentrated around Kvothe learning years at the University and that if he is going to become a "Kingkiller", he ought to grow out of this young boy life before the end of the first trilogy.  After about a third of this second book, I was starting to fear that the novel would be set around the same period of his life with costly admissions coming again and again and the usual trouble the young red-hair is so skilled in getting into with his teachers. Even though I should have guessed differently since the first novel isn't only about his life when he tries to join the arcanum...

Hopefully, Kvothe finally gets out of the University for a ride through the country. He's chasing the wind as Elodin's put it (always a pleasure to read about this delirious character). At this point, the story really starts to shine.  I enjoyed his adventures at school, but there's only so much originality and marvel that can happen there for the guy to become the legend he ought to be. However, I can't just swipe that part away without mentioning some really great moments, the plum bob poisoning (rendering him morally blank) being at the top of the list. The whole tale is full of imaginative happenings.

One of the things I like about Patrick's writing is the ease with which he is able to wove mundane moments into his story and makes them feel cherished. For instance, when he is at the University, coming back from a drinking night with his buddies Sim and Wilem, they eventually take a break near a way stone and Kvothe tells them a somewhat banal story about the Edemah Ruh.  The whole scene is a masterpiece of storytelling for such a sensitive episode. Rothfuss found his voice more strongly than in The Name of the Wind's case and it shows in every little detail, from these conversations to the more-complex-than-it-seems world building.

That world is taking expansion but Rothfuss is not revealing its inner workings in whole. He keeps his options open. With a future so grandiose hinted at for his protagonist, that's a wise choice. Nevertheless, the 'meta' story of his life, the search for the Chandrian is still popping up from times to times and it feels more and more connected with the Four Corners of Civilization. I'm still not sure how much the author has already in mind for Kvothe, but everything feels at the place.

There are funny moments, sad moments, a couple of dragging moments, but all in all, the prose of the author has momentum while remaining slow going. That suits the tale fine, rushing it wouldn't fit with Kvothe style of recounting his life. Then again, the bard is still a dumbass recurrently.  In several occasions, you would think that the 'young seemingly grown-up' arcanist will finally do and say the right thing with Denna, Ambrose, in the Maer's presence or in the company of the Ademre mercenaries, but he stays true to his nature and reacts with heartfelt conviction but sometimes too powerfully. I found myself mentally saying "No.. no.. no don't do that!!!" in a couple of occasions...

This time again, he's not alone in all this.  The scenes with Denna tend to be repetitive (quite so...) but the addition of the Maer, Puppet, Tempi and Vashet in Ademre, Felurian in the Fae world and many more creates for him a varied surrounding cast with a lot of novelty. Even Bast opens up; god but I think he's gonna turn out interesting. The interludes with him are refreshing breaks from Kvothe first person narrative.

Furthermore, there's a scene which I included in my kick ass moments.  Go check it out, even if you haven't read the book, it won't spoil it.

Taking all this into consideration, something came to my mind in trying to resume why I like this novel so much.  I think that it's mostly because it shows through the author's writing that he had fun writing it.  And so did I, reading it. This novel was polished and the time to write it was worth it. What is best about what is still to come?  Simply read Kvothe's blurb and it seems were in for more goodness, if the man speaks true :
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have hear of me.


Technically, the Daw cover art is nice enough (first one) and the UK cover art looks stylish.  The hardcover edition of the novel is 994 pages and features the same map of the Four Corners of Civilization as for the first book.  The audiobook edition is 42 hours and 59 minutes long and is narrated masterfully by Nick Podehl.

The Wise Man Fear's review score :

Characterization............. 9 /10
World building............... 8.5 / 10
Magic system................. 8 / 10
Story.............................. 9.5 / 10
Writing........................... 9.5 / 10

Overall (not an average) 9.5 / 10

Enjoy!

7 comments:

Sarah (Bookworm Blues) said...

I have this one and I keep meaning to read it but I forget. I love Rothfuss's writing style. He's so....lyrical and poetic, I guess is a good way to describe him. Your review really gets me excited to read this. I might have to start on it ASAP.

Josh Lowe said...

How funny ... I just finished reading this today and was about to make my own entry about it.

Just our of curiosity, is Alveron the Mayor in your version (the US?)? Because in mine he was the Maer ...

Phil said...

Hey Sarah, nice to hear from you. I'm sure the book will be to your taste. Well at least I hope to read about your take on it soon :)

Josh, you're right... it's the Maer... I read the first quarter of the book and listened to the rest in audio, so it seems I got mistaken!

Phil said...

Thanks by the way Josh

Josh Lowe said...

Haha no problem! Wasn't trying to correct you, I honestly thought it might have been different spelling.

Have never tried listening to audio books, maybe I'll give it a go!

Cursed Armada said...

Must...not...read...Must read this book...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I can't agree with your overstatic review. Thugh the book isn't bad at all, it's far too long, there are far too many pages where nothing is happening (and belive it or not, Rothfuss is not Joyce when it comes to transforming language into (the) character in the book) and most of the characters could be labelled as simple flat. I think the book would have greatly benefitted from a proper editing, which obviously it didn't undergo.
Víctor from Spain

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