This is not a perfect book. After reading many one-star reviews of "The Wise Man's Fear," I have to chuckle because, in a sense, I agree with them: Kvo...moreThis is not a perfect book. After reading many one-star reviews of "The Wise Man's Fear," I have to chuckle because, in a sense, I agree with them: Kvothe is irritating. His perfection is slippery, inconsistent, and obnoxious. His humility feel staged. His sexual prowess is, well, doubtful. I rolled my eyes repeatedly - I admit it.
Nonetheless, I loved the second installment of the Kingkiller Chronicles. Patrick Rothfuss has found his voice in "Wise Man," or at least his sense of humor. While the first book was equal parts charm and pretentiousness, the second felt looser and more sure footed, as if Rothfuss were a gifted runner who, nervous about showing off his talents in the first lap, held his muscles too tense and his back too rigid. In this second time around, he lightens up considerably and the result is an easy pace and a more comfortable stride. I laughed out loud at least a half dozen times, and I am not one to laugh at a book.
The real strength of this series is the very likely way he established the conceit of magic. It feels all too possible - scientific, almost. If I had read these books as a 12 year old, I would have spent countless hours trying to train my own Alar in order to fashion a simple binding. I would have been convinced that it could happen, and as an adult reader, I am almost just as sure. Rothfuss conjures a world that satisfies all the fantasy tropes without treading too-worn paths, and yet makes that world seem only a hair's breadth away from our own, as if we were reading a lost history rather than an alternate universe. His description of the Adem made me sorry I'd stopped studying tai chi. His addict-dragon reminded me of the bears that used to ransack our town dump. The Cthaeh is the devil's Cheshire cat. Rothfuss pulls us between the Fae and the real with the ease of stepping through a patch of sunlight in the forest - all we need to do is follow.
The story-within-a-story format does its job; the foreshadowing is powerful, and provides a foil for the relentless annoyance of Kvothe's youth. His obnoxiousness seems purposeful and conscious. My only concern now is that he will not be able to finish what he's started: Day Three is coming, and the story feels as if it has only just begun. I wish Rothfuss and his editor the best - there are a lot of us out here waiting with fingers and lute strings crossed. But I'm not going to hold my breath.(less)
Reading Haruki Murakami is like slipping into a warm bath. There is always a stripped-down, naked quality to entering his texts, and then the pleasure...moreReading Haruki Murakami is like slipping into a warm bath. There is always a stripped-down, naked quality to entering his texts, and then the pleasure soaks in as if through the skin. The reader is cared for, pampered. The pace is leisurely. I still cannot tell whether Murakami succeeds at what he does because he is so adept at crafting worlds with slightly altered truths to our own, or if his skill is in the sleight-of-hand he employs to distract us from the mundanity of his subjects. As in most of his work, 1Q84 employs dreams, doubles, aging women, longing, and cats to populate his fantasy. The result is unsettling, sweet, and surprisingly suspenseful. The last section (or in the paperback version, the final book) is as gripping as any thriller, even as its characters drift ever more into the sublime.(less)
It is becoming ever more tempting to write off the overwhelming emotional, temporal, and - I thought at the time - literary finesse that Niffenegger b...moreIt is becoming ever more tempting to write off the overwhelming emotional, temporal, and - I thought at the time - literary finesse that Niffenegger brought to The Time Traveler's Wife as a fluke, a sudden outburst of long-percolated talent that is now being stretched thin, or perhaps just returning to its natural state, a slightly-better-than-mediocre trickle.
Or maybe I am being harsh. The Adventuress was gorgeous and haunting. She has an undeniable flair for the ethereal weird. Nonetheless, Three Incestuous Sisters left me bored and wanting. Her Fearful Symmetry seemed unfinished, somehow - not in the ending, which was strange and satisfying, but in the overall lack of polish. The entire novel reads as if a deadline had become incontrovertible and was rushed past a small, whining fleet of editors, none of whom had the chance to work their critical magic.
This is a passable ghost story, a creepy love story, and a not-so-decent novel of ideas. I was alternately bored and captivated throughout, and while the oddity of the plot twists did overcome my sense that the pacing was wrong, I left the book feeling clammy and unsettled, and not in a way that I liked.
Read it for the love and research that went into revealing Highgate Cemetery in all of its anecdotal charm, and for Niffenegger's unapologetic flirtation with incest (again). Her frank examination of the intimacy of twins is refreshing. Her caricature of Obsessive Compulsive disorder, however, seemed unnecessary and turned a sympathetic character (and an opportunity to educate people about the illness) into a freakshow. (less)