The Wise Man’s Fear

by: Patrick Rothfuss

This is the second installment in the Kingkiller Chronicles, a fantasy trilogy. It’s got magic, a great main character, Kvothe, and a sense of epic adventure that permeates both stories told.  This is a direct continuation of the first book, so it’s still covering the story of present-day Kvothe in third person and Kvothe’s life story in the first person. I enjoyed it nearly as much as the first, barring two major problems.

The first problem (which I have previously ranted about) is Denna, the love interest of the main character.  Her character development lacks.  Just lacks, in general.  Like I already said, if I were to tell you she was a beautiful, mysterious women – this book adds “in trouble” to that list – the character that popped up in your head, probably something like the more intelligent Bond girls, would exactly match Denna’s character.  And I have the sneaking suspicion that Rothfuss is setting her up for some grand romantic rescuing by Kvothe.  This annoys me to no end.  That being said, one rant on my feelings is more than enough.

The second caveat is how fast the events in this book happen.  Not so much the pacing of the writing, which I think is excellent, but the sheer amount of stuff that Kvothe goes through in this book and the latter third of the last.  Whenever I stop in my reading and put the timeline together, my head whirls a little.  The book covers about a year of nonstop adventure but is over 400 pages of well-paced writing.  You may be thinking: J.K. Rowling did that! However, Rowling built her books around one main adventure climaxing at the end of the year and allowed her characters to show the wear and tear of their lifestyles.  In Rothfuss’ work, it’s multiple, completely separate events in a timeframe that exhausts me just to think about.  And Kvothe never seems to really respond to the stress of consistently having one’s life in turmoil. Don’t get me wrong – he’s had the occasional drastic response to short-term stress.  But the long-term stress of his life has yet to be addressed.  I can only assume it will factor in during the third book.  (Writing this, I come to the realization that perhaps the reason the present-day Kvothe is so different from the Kvothe in the past is because of this continuous stress.  Ah! In that light, it begins to make more sense.)

In this book, I liked all the things I liked in the first book – plot, world buildings, characters, use of magic, ect.  Some of the characters I liked in the first book barely show up in the second, but to compensate some really interesting new characters were added.  I especially liked some of the fairies that were introduced.  My favorite was an evil one whose power of words was most intriguing.  The only thing I enjoyed more about this book than the first is that Kvothe starts having some big growth and realization moments and it’s the first time the reader becomes aware of his character maturing into adulthood.  Markedly, he begins to appreciate the need for tact, if not to embrace it. The first book featured more present-day Kvothe lamenting past-Kvothe’s naivety than past-Kvothe growing up. This book was at least an equal balance of the two.

 I am of the firm opinion that the second book in a trilogy is always the worst, yet I would hesitate to claim I noticed a marked decline in quality.  The first book was, I think, a tad bit better, but the second book didn’t feel like a placeholder as so many second books do. (The Two Towers, anybody?) It was a story, in and of itself, rather than a way to transition the character in book 1 to the character in book 3. 

I am going to recommend reading this trilogy in order – though either book could be a stand alone, there are little connections and references to the first book that are nice to pick up and help the reader develop a clearer understanding of the Kvothe’s world.  If you liked the first one, definitely pick up the second one and give it a chance.  If you like epic fantasy, magical adventures, and strong, intelligent main characters, than this is definitely a book for you – though read The Name of the Wind first if you can! If you’re not into fantasy trilogies or if you’re driven crazy by stereotypical female characters, you may want to give this one a pass.


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