Book Review: The Wise Man’s Fear

Book Two of Kingkiller Chronicles

By Patrick Rothfuss

Kvothe has survived his first terms at the University, but not without building a bit of a reputation. Is it a good reputation? Maybe not, but it is a reputation. And with reputation comes those who want to break that reputation, and Kvothe is no exception. Perhaps it’s time to take a break? His tutors agree, and he sets foot into the wide world.

And although he has lost his most tangible link to his childhood obsession, he gains in other areas. His adventures take him far and wide, and his life is rich with adventure: hobnobbing with royalty; cavorting with faeries; and being humbled by the legendary Adem mercenaries.

But all roads lead to his past, and the heavy weight of his family’s fate still hangs around his neck. Now he has the tools to do something, so all that’s left is to find the murderers. Unfortunately, that has always been the problem. It still is.

Hurrah!  The second book in the fantastic Kingkiller Chronicles.  Book one – The Name of the Wind – is a rather hard act to follow, so does this achieve the impossible and live up to the lofty expectations that book one laid?  Yes.  Just yes.  This another multi-layered masterpiece and I’m left even hungrier for the sequel.  Come on Pat.  When’s it gonna be ready?

So, what is it about this that really tickles?  Well as you might expect, there is a lot of cross-over with book one.  I will list my favourite aspects briefly here, but for the full lowdown, go take a look at my review of The Name of the Wind:

  • The technical beauty of the book’s construction;
  • The fabulous fantasy world that feels exotic and yet warmly familiar;
  • The fantastic magic systems.

So, rather than go on about the same things again, I’m going to jot down some specific thoughts on this novel.  What was it that I really liked?

Our hero, Kvothe, really starts to broaden his horizons here.  In book one, he is a ‘legend’, but we only really see his university education years, and it is clear that this is a bit narrow for the legend status he earns.  In book two, he really starts to spread his wings, learning a few things about the art of fighting and having to hold his own in a political hot-pot.  Our Kvothe is developing, and all of his rather assorted qualities start to melt together into a formidable formula.  We are starting to see the bones of the legend we expect.

We’ve also now gone two whole novels with only a smattering of information with respect the Chandrian.  It is clear that the Chandrian will be a major plot driver, though it’s less clear whether anything resembling a conclusion will be reached, and you might think this would be annoying.  But it’s not.  It’s strangely hypnotic.  The journey itself is so engaging that this heavily cloaked secret only becomes more intriguing, and I am hungry for more.

So, another masterpiece.  But unlike the first book, there were a couple of bits that had me scrunching up my face.  I won’t dwell on them, but here’s my thoughts.

The book felt a bit segregated, with several shallower arcs rather than a single deep story.  This kind of fits with the continued feeling of a prequel, but I think I was hoping for a more obvious major-line plot driver.  And tied in with this segregated sense, the final section of “loose ends” felt a bit protracted.  None of this will stop me reading on hungrily, but in a weaker novel they may be slightly off-putting.  Fortunately, this is not a weak novel.

And on a personal note, I found the whole experience with a certain faerie lady a little bit … much.  I think it’s there to test the bounds, but in my mind, it might have stepped a bit far.  Then again, who am I to say?  And he does get an awesome cloak out of it, as-well as a startling confidence boost!  And it is a wonderful thread to the legend that is Kvothe too…

But overall, this is every bit of book that the first one is, and I look forward to reading on.  If anything, the questions are even deeper.  What to do while I wait for the next volume?

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