Vinaya's Reviews > The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
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Mar 05, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: books-i-loved, comparative-5-stars, could-have-been-better, fantasy
Read from March 02 to 04, 2011

*Vinaya emerges from her cave, blinking owlishly at the sun*

You gotta admire a man who can hold your interest through two days and 994 pages of more or less nonstop reading. The second installment of Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles, The Wise Man's Fear, is just as compelling and beautifully written as the first. Kvothe returns in full glory to recount more of his adventures at the University, at Vintas and in Ademre.

I was a little annoyed and more than a little impatient through most of the book. Oh, I was still devouring pages and falling headlong into Kvothe's reality, but I couldn't see where the book was going. It took me a while to have my epiphany. This book is not going anywhere, anymore than the first book was. It's not like most fantasy, whose strength rests in the convolutions of the plotline. Don't expect the tale to have a progression that leads into a subplot, subtly furthering the main plot. There is NO main plot or subplot, as we understand them in the fantasy genre. This book is not so much a story as it is an autobiography. Yes, this is my big epiphany, and if everyone else has had it before me, I apologize. See, there were a lot of things that bothered me about this book. First was the fact that Kvothe was the only character really spotlit in this series. The second was that there were so many incidents, anecdotes and stories-within-stories in the narrative, and most of them didn't serve any purpose, plotwise. How does the Maer's poisoning, for example, play into the larger scheme of things? The answer is, it doesn't.

However, let's assume for one second, that Kvothe is a real person, living in an actual world. Let us assume he is telling us his life story. Wouldn't his rescue of one of the richest, most important men in the world be something he was particularly proud of? Wouldn't it be an incident worth recounting?

Once I realized that I was reading the book in entirely the wrong way, and needed a different set of expectations, I began to appreciate the "barbarian cunning" Rothfuss possesses. He can pour all of his role-playing fantasies into the book, through his hero, without having to worry about their relevance to the bigger picture, because the bigger picture IS the hero. The only time the book falls into standard fantasy storytelling tropes is during the interludes. Then we are presented with several mysteries, unanswered questions and some movement towards a larger picture looming at the end of the series.

As usual, the book is beautifully written, prose and poetry melding seamlessly. I am still very un-fond of all the female characters in this book, although Rothfuss does flesh out Denna a little more. But really, I wasn't very happy with who he made her. She's like a mixture of Ayesha from She and Fantine from Les Misérables. Not my favourite characters, but that's my gripe, not a general one. Willem and Simmons also make a longer appearance in this book, portraying a strong, solid friendship, which was the one thing Kvothe lacked in his life until now. (view spoiler) And, of course, Bast and Chronicler make their own bid for popularity, despite being sidelined shamefully by the characters from Kvothe's past.

All told, this is a great book, sure, but still ridiculously long. And I have a feeling the last book may have to be split into two parts, just to get the entirety of the story - past and present- done. I think The Wise Man's fear would have been the better for the loss of a couple of hundred pages. For me, it didn't have the same impact as The Name of the Wind, for several reasons. First, the sheer length of the book leads to a sort of disconnect; by the time you're halfway through the book, you've forgotten how the book starts. Second is a more personal reason. Patrick Rothfuss is one of maybe three authors whose blogs I read regularly. And being a verbose sort of man, Pat tends to blog very frequently. As a result, I have his 'written voice' fixed very firmly in my head. This written voice is also very clear in the Kingkiller Chronicles, so there were too many instances where I was distracted by Pat the real person, instead of Kvothe, Pat's character. I don't think I'm explaining it very well, but I also don't think it's something that'll bother anyone else anyway, so that's okay, I guess. Third is the fact that a lot of things that had been puffed up in the first book were downplayed in this one: Kvothe's time with the Ademre, for example. It wasn't half as impressive as I was expecting it to be. No doubt this was the effect that was intended, but I don't like teasers that turn out to be anti-climactic, so I feel entitled to complain about this. Fourth is what I like to call middle child syndrome. This generally happens to the middle book in a highly-anticipated trilogy; the build-up is greater than it ought to be, making you feel like the product is letting you down just that little bit.

In comparison to most of the fantasy out there, The Wise Man's Fear is a five-star read. In comparison to The Name of the Wind, and my expectations for this book, it would only get a 4.5. But everything said, I am still a rabid fangirl with a massive author-crush on Patrick Rothfuss. My recommendation: read it, but be prepared for a long haul!
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Reading Progress

60.0% "Wow, this may quite possibly be the longest book I've read since Rise and Fall of the Third Reich! Get on with it already, Pat!" 5 comments
03/08 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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Flannery First, the sheer length of the book leads to a sort of disconnect; by the time you're halfway through the book, you've forgotten how the book starts.


message 2: by JK (new) - rated it 4 stars

JK Ya know, I'm glad you realize this is a book about the person Kvothe. It's not about some grandiose quest to save the world with cookie cutter characters.

There is one other thing you should realize though. That is, that stories have great power, but they are not stagnant. They change and evolve over time and from person to person. I think part of what we're supposed to be getting from this is to not always take stories for what they seem. How often are little stories within Kvothe's story embellished and made greater than what they were? It's easy to see it when the simple farm folk make a great deal of a story and twist it to great proportions, but it is much more difficult when we do so.

I think it goes back to the first realization - that this is about a man's life, not some huge adventure. So, when we read little tidbits about things to come, we shouldn't imagine a great huge adventure. That's not what we, as readers, should expect. We should expect much more down to earth, realistic* experiences that involve this one man.

[*as realist as a fantasy story with magic and all can be]

... hopefully that is somewhat clear.

Also, I totally get what you mean about Pat's voice coming through in the book. I read the blog as well and there are times when a line will just strike me as Pat and not Kvothe at all. :D

I do appreciate this though. It makes Rothfuss a much more honest writer. He's writing his own story, in his way. He's not writing to be like other people or to cash in on something else. He's writing because he wants to write this story.

message 3: by j (new)

j at the signing tonight, patrick swore, SWORE that the series would be three books long and only three books long.

message 4: by Alexandre (last edited Mar 10, 2011 11:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alexandre What you said about hearing Pat's "written voice" also happened to me. I think I must have read all his blogs, and there are some places in The Wise Man's fear where what was written seemed just like something Patrick would say out loud.
But I think it's to be expected. He worked 14 years on this trilogy...He already said in an interview that he put of himself in Kvothe, and that in return, Kvothe's personality imprinted somewhat on his own.
As a side note, I'm presently in another reading of The Wise Man's Fear, and because I have already read it, I'm able to make some really cool connections :

(view spoiler)

Anyway, that's all I had to say, great review !

Vinaya Yeah, I thought about the Lackless connection too, when I read the book. But I didn't make the song connection, damn! I really need to re-read, but jeez, my TBR pile is sort of toppling over! Oh, and can I show you my super-cool SIGNED COPY of the wise man's fear? (I know I'm acting like no-one else ever got one, but still!)


Alexandre Vinaya wrote: "Oh, and can I show you my super-cool SIGNED COPY of the wise man's fear? (I know I'm acting like no-one else ever got one, but still!"

Lucky you ! I live in Quebec City, Canada...There's almost no way for me to get a signed copy, except from the store Patrick mentionned on his blog...but I'm a student, so I don't have a lot of money lying around.
I'll just have to hope he'll come to Montreal, it's only 2h30 from my home ! Maybe in a couple of months...

Vinaya Oh, I live in India, but one of my Goodreads friends in the US got a signed copy for me! Just one of the reasons I love this site! :)

Sean I can appreciate your 'epiphany' that the book is meant to be a biography rather than a run-of-the-mill epic fantasy with tangling plot lines. True enough. The problem is, most people learn something from their exploits. Here we're told what they are, but not what he learned from them.

Rothfuss even sets himself up with the title. The Baron warns him of three things all wise men fear. Personally I expected a character like young Kvothe to dismiss them and then begin to understand their truth through his exploits (learn them the hard way). Instead, what follows is a random series of events that only vaguely touch on the subject, certainly not enough for 'fear' to even be considered a minor/major theme of the book (which would have fit it like a fashionable glove).

Like you, I burned right through this one and was irritated that it wasn't going anywhere. I suspect you're correct in your 'epiphany' except that doesn't make the book work any better. Regardless of its intent, epic or bio, a story cannot just be 'what' happens, but 'why' it happens or in the case of a bio 'why tell it?'. Kvothe telling his life story to a chronicler in and of itself is not a complete story. Things happening 'just because they happened' is a history book, not a narrative novel (and since Kvothe is fictional, that can work for chronicler, but not for us - the readers). A work of fiction artistically posing as a biography still needs to have a point.

The series will surely make sense in the end, but that doesn't justify releasing a 1000 page middle-chapter book that has no beginning or ending (or any real sense of story structure).

Note: I believe Rothfuss is a great writer in-the-making. His smooth prose connects readers (myself included) to Kvothe in a way that makes us obsessive over his every move. This is a talent that VERY FEW writers possess. His faults in storytelling are fundamental ones - easy to learn, and if applied would make his two novels thus far actually surpass the hype they receive.

Vinaya Well said, Sean! I do think a lot of what happens in the first books will be worked into the final plot of the third book, but considering the length of the novels, I think we'll find that a lot of the extraneous incidents will remain just that, inserted to build atmosphere but not really tying into the over-arching story. But my biggest problem with analysing this book was the sheer length of it. I read NotW and WMF back-to-back and by the time I was done, I was so exhausted, I couldn't really think about it. what this really needs is a re-read, but at 994 pages, that's not happening anytime soon!

message 10: by Sean (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sean JK brings up an excellent point for the book comparing differences between reality and folklore. That's undoubtedly a prevalent theme for the series as a whole, however it's not enough to sustain the significance of every event in the book nor justify their sheer length. (Not that you're claiming it does)

message 11: by Doug (new) - rated it 5 stars

Doug Bradshaw I like your review a lot and am also affected by Pat's blog personality. His sense of humor and thoughts about women and relationships come out in the book and it kind of dilutes the story a little bit. I'm only 1/2 way through. Still, a great world to be part of. I'm yearning for Kvothe to be bigger and better and more powerful now.

Sally I totally did not get that about Lady Lackless being his aunt! I do think that the Maer's poisoning will play into things, as well as the arcanist that was doing it. It can be no coincidence that the Maer also studied the Amyr. I hope we hear from him again. And I'm torn about Denna. They can never, ever hope to have anything resembling a fulfilling relationship with as messed up as they both are - I want him to run far away from her! But her song will play into things as well. That said, I hope for a satisfying and "happy" ending with her somehow. I imagine Hemme being the new chancellor will come into Kvothe's expulsion... Thanks for your thoughts, all, I'm almost ready to start right in with NotW! lol

message 13: by Jamie (new) - added it

Jamie Fantastic review! Your insight into the novel and the author are startlingly clear, and I couldn't agree more.

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