Monday, June 30, 2014

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I'm a big fan of Patrick Rothfuss' first novel, The Name of The Wind. That novel started slowly before getting you invested in the story of Kvothe Kingkiller, the man who started a continent-wide war.  So I was looking forward to reading this novel, and while I will admit "The Wise Man's Fear" is not as good as "The Name of The Wind", I still find it to be an excellent read.

The story continued the plotline of the previous novel with Kvothe continuing to reveal the truth behind his legend to the king's scribe, Chronicler. Like the previous novel, the main meat of the novel is young Kvothe's time at the prestigious University where he continued his studies in magic and music. At the same time, he is engaged in a vicious feud with fellow student Ambrose and trying to get a patron to alleviate his destitute status.

Like they say; don’t fix what’s not broken.

By the end of the first half of the novel, Kvothe has been arrested for petty crimes and despite defending himself in court, Kvothe attracted negative attention to himself and the University. Faced with a tuition too high to pay, he took a term off and travels far to the east for adventure.

Still in desperate need of a wealthy patron, he got lucky. Stumbling upon an assassination plot, he gains the trust of the Maer Alveron, ruler of the neighboring country Vintas. Maer then send Kvothe off to root out a gang of bandits who were targeting his tax collectors. After that is done, Kvothe then met the fae seductress Felurian. Seduced by her, he then spent time in the fae country where he got his legendary shadow cloak. After leaving the fae, he takes a detour further east where Tempi, a mercenary of the Adem race, formally teach him the Adem's martial arts.

Now, "The Wise Man's Fear" was a critical and commercial success, debuting at the top of the New York Times Fantasy list. I can easily see why.

Young Kvothe is simply a very interesting character. As a young man, he is an appealing young man yet at the same time he is so driven, you can see how he could become the hated person he is in his adult life. He is smart but at the same time, a young man who don't take advice very well.

Many times he was warned about the consequences of his actions but driven as he is, young stubborn Kvothe just couldn't make himself heed them; even when he agrees that they were good advice! He has many things on his agenda but once he decided on a course of action, he cannot be swayed from his course of action. In short, he is a very believable flawed character.

This is helped in large part by Rothfuss' writing. The man can really write. His prose is nothing short of excellent, the pacing is great (once you get used to it) and before long, you will be drawn effortlessly into his story. The novel is also much more subtle than in "The Name of the Wind". He is a good writer who is improving!

Of course the novel isn't perfect. I can understand why Rothfuss decided to spilt the book into two, but I thought the novel really suffered once Kvothe went on his road trip. His time at the University is far superior to his time beyond it.

Also I have to wonder just how long this series will be. "The Kingkiller Chronicle" is supposed to be a trilogy but I fail to see how Rothfuss can finish the whole thing in one novel.

Kvothe is a man who is supposed to know six words he could whisper in a horse's ear that would make it run a hundred miles, turn iron into gold, catch lightning in a jar, know a song that would open any lock, and kill a king. By the end of “The Wise Man’s Fear”, he hasn't done any of that! Even if he up the pace, I fail to see how Rothfuss can do all that in just one novel.

Still "The Wise Man's Fear" is an excellent read. In many ways Rothfuss is the victim of his own success as "The Name of The Wind" may have raised expectations beyond decent common sense but that was just how good "The Name of The Wind" was. Take that out, and you will find and excellent enjoyable read in "The Wise Man's Fear". 

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