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The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

American fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss is the acclaimed author of the The Kingkiller Chronicle. His debut novel, The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicle Day One (published April 2007), has been translated into over 25 languages, and the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle Day Two, is set to do the same. The Kingkiller Chronicle will be published in three parts, in keeping with Kvothe’s telling of his history to the Chronicler over three days.

This review contains spoilers. You have been warned.

Day Two: The Wise Man’s Fear.

“There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.”

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 discovers 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, 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. Under her tutelage, Kvothe learns much about true magic and the ways of women.

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.

This book both surprised and disappointed me. I’m stil not sure how I feel about it, but when reading The Wise Man’s Fear I got the impression that Patrick Rothfuss took all these wonderful ideas about how he is going to change fantasy literature, and then proceeded to stuff his book with them without really thinking about the flow of the narrative or character development.

When reading these books it’s sometimes hard to remember that Kvothe is sixteen – the adventures he has are befitting of an older man. But he assumes he is all-knowing until proven wrong and is generally irritating. What else can you expect from a sixteen year old? I’m glad that he matured by the end of the book and finally empathised with those around him instead of just assuming he knows what’s best for everyone. I find the interludes most interesting because Kvothe-the-man is wonderful, grounded and haunted by his past. He makes a more interesting protagonist than Kvothe-the-teenager.

I hated aspects of the plot of this book. The beginning was ridiculous – a complete rehashing of the first book with Kvothe being poor, working hard to scrape every coin together for his tuition, the recklessly borrowing money from Levi, then spending all his money like he has no cares. The first mildly interesting thing that happens is that Kvothe decides to take some time off studying and journey to Severen. But Rothfuss skips over the journey in a page, and somehow contrives it so Kvothe arrives in Severen penniless and in rags. And then has to earn money coin by coin again. I can’t read one more page about Kvothe having no money!

The plot improves vastly during Kvothe’s time in Severen – it was great to learn about a new culture and see Kvothe in a different environment. The time with Felurian – the incredibly beautiful, sex-crazed Fean – that follows is tedious and boring. It seems like Rothfuss had included this whole section to indulge himself, with no thought to the story at all. In fact, the Felurian adventure did nothing to progress the story except to introduce Kvothe’s legendary cloak and the mysterious all-knowing, future-wrecking tree. The best part of the book occurs after the Felurian episode, with a followup of the Adem culture and Kvothe’s experiences there. Kvothe became calmer and more thoughtful after his stay with the Adem, who have one of the most unique and interesting cultures that I have read about in fantasy novels.

The upturn of the story at the end makes me want to read the next book, The Doors of Stone, now. However, I no longer feel in awe of Patrick Rothfuss’ writing skills and can’t credit him with writing superior fantasy stories – he seems to simply be churning out a story full of the usual tropes in the genre.

About the book:

  • Date published: 06 March 2012
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • Format: Paperback, 1008 pages
  • ISBN 13: 9780575081437 ISBN 10: 0575081430
  • Categories: Fantasy
  • Goodreads / The Book Depository
  • My review of The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day 1)

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