Tim Hicks's Reviews > The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
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Sep 18, 2011

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Read in September, 2011

I have almost 1500 SF/F books in my database, and I've probably read 500 more that I forgot to list. I have never read a book that was simultaneously so bad and so good. I suspect that as time passes I will like it less. You know when you go to the local Enormous Portions restaurant and go with the meat in the rich gravy with the fries and onion rings, and the mud pie for dessert, and a couple of drinks, and you enjoy it all. Until near the end of the meal, when you don't feel so good; then you can't sleep because your stomach hurts; then it gets worse? Like that.

It's a page turner. Interesting characters do interesting things. You want to know what happens next, so you don't stop to reflect.

I never did like Denna. I'll give Rothfuss credit for being brave in showing us a probable reason for her approach to life, but it's dangerous ground. Or perhaps the author just heard Richard Thompson's song "Beeswing," which describes Denna perfectly. With or without that reason, by the end of the book I just wanted to stuff Denna into a wood-chipper, then put the chips in a blender, then put the result into a strong acid, then go an invent a time machine and go back to a time when I had ever heard of Denna and stop the early me from reading about her.

[ spoilers after this ]

The first several hundred pages were a boring rehash. Never mind that.

I first became uneasy when Kvothe went out after the bandits. They're looking for bandits. They see a band of men. Without further discussion, they slaughter them all. Step 1 of "some people need killing," a theme we'll hear again.

Then I noticed that perhaps 0.05 percent of all the people in Kvothe's world ever notice that he's in his mid-teens.

Then the author tells us that 16-year-old Kvothe knows ten thousand songs and stories. Sure. We are told that this is possible because he and ALL his clan can always remember a song perfectly after hearing it once. We are reminded that he is the best lutenist in the world, at 16, and he even says that he is. Sure.

I give Rothfuss full credit for finally telling us that there are some things Kvothe is not good at. Then he spoils it by suggesting that it's only because they don't interest him. There's no doubt that he could become the world's best in an hour if he wanted to.

Then, after all that, he makes very slow progress in the Adem way.

I like the way Rothfuss leads us into thinking Kvothe is learning something from the Adem. Then he leaves them, and within a very short time he's slaughtering another dozen baddies. This time the "some people need killing" is actually spoken right out.

He also crosses the continent, often on foot, carrying a heavy box full of money that never seems to get in the way or slow him down. The antigravity properties of his new cloak were never mentioned but they must be there.

Ah, the cloak. Made by Felurian. Jesus on a tricycle, can this book really have had an editor? I can't imagine that a professional editor would leave this Felurian part in the book at all, let alone at the length it is. It's time he got laid? You can do that in two pages. He needs a magic cloak? Same thing. But no, he has to outwit a millennia-old fairy while demonstrating that despite zero experience he is already the best cocksman in history. Puh-leeze.

As other have mentioned, there are a lot of cardboard characters. But the Maer is very good. Kilvin, Hespe and some of the Adem are good. Elodin and Bast we can't decide about, but they are interesting. Auri's too weird, and seems tacked on, but no doubt she'll be important later. The Adem culture was a good piece of worldbuilding; the Severen culture OK but not great.

In the end, this is just another "ridiculously talented kid from the poor side of town overcomes all obstacles, reluctantly shoulders burden of being the guy who judges everyone and slaughters many of them while women swoon at his feet." For that, I'd rather read about Drizzt the Dark Elf.

And I admit that Rothfuss has left us some broad hints that Kvothe has a lot of growing up to do. That might fix some of the above.

But for something like this only better, I'd go to Lois McMaster Bujold's "Chalion" series.

Fairness: This is a genre people like, and within that genre it is an excellent book. I just don't care for the genre any more, and it's probably because I am old and have read a lot of them.

In 2015 2016 2017 or so, Rothfuss is going to write a REALLY GREAT book for grownups.

LATER ADDITION: I admit that it is also possible that Rothfuss is going to stun us in book 3 with some plot developments that make everything fall into place as the characters mature, and we realize that the trilogy is some form of "with great power comes great responsibility" lesson.
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02/18/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Chris Moore Kvothe is telling his own story, and it's sometimes hinted that he has quite the gift for storytelling and creating his own legend. I think more than a few of your nitpicks here with Rothfuss will turn out to be Kvothe's embellishments.


message 2: by Tim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tim Hicks That seems reasonable, Chris. We'll see soon enough.


Megan Your review was like listening to an infinitely more hilarious echo of my own thoughts.


Justin Dloski You do not get it. He is legend. A prodigy. You are just an old bitter jealous man who in real life, probably discount everything a young kid says or does, because he's young, and you are sooooo much smarter.


Rachel "There's no doubt that he could become the world's best in an hour if he wanted to."

Hehe. Come now, he's clearly pretty shit at learning Yllish, despite a strong desire to.


Fayley I agree, but found the beautiful writing overcome the "heroic brilliant youth" cliche.


Elin Johansson Great review, thanks for putting words to my thoughts!


Rosalyn Young Whole-heartedly agree. Additionally, how many times is it necessary to remind us of the qualities of the Edema Ruh? I swear he said the same sentence over and over and over.


Rosalyn Young Whole-heartedly agree. Additionally, how many times is it necessary to remind us of the qualities of the Edema Ruh? I swear he said the same sentence over and over and over.


Andrew Honestly couldn't agree more with your review. Minimum of 300 pages where nothing integral to the story happens at all. I actually considered quitting during the Felurian romp chapters. Huge disappointment from having just read the first book, nowhere near as compelling, and almost a novel's worth of extra pages which were unnecessary.


Russell Boyd Wait. But...you do love Drizzt, right?


message 12: by Tim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tim Hicks Drizzt is fine, yes.


message 13: by Lina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lina standing ovation for this comment. thank you so much.


Randal Justin has the single most butt-hurt response to any review I think I've ever read. And yes, this book has gotten worse for me the longer it's been since I read it. But I still remember it, which is weird. Anyway, great review. Thanks.


message 15: by Ann (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ann Your review hit the nail on the head. This book was a big disappointment. I felt like I was reading an extended r/iamsmart post on Reddit. And don’t even get me started on Dena/Dina/Dinay. Thanks Tim. I couldn’t have said it better.


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