• The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2) by Patrick Rothfuss
• Hardcover: 994 pages
• Publisher: Daw, 2011
• ISBN: 0756404738
• Genre: Fantasy
• Recommended For: Fans of the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicle series, The Name of the Wind; fans of fantasy.
Quick Review: Earns an 90 %, or 4.5 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment.The Wise Man’s Fear Rubric
I definitely recommend this, my favorite of the two books in the Kingkiller Chronicle series. Well-paced, full of mystery, and lots of themes to ponder.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
Day Two: The Wise Man’s Fear.
“There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.”
An escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe discovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travelers on the King’s road.
All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived. Under her tutelage, Kvothe learns much about true magic and the ways of women.
In The Wise Man’s Fear Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.
My Analysis and Critique:
There are a lot of lovers of this book. There’s also a lot of haters. I happen to be a lover. In fact, I liked this book a whole lot more than the first book in the series, The Name of the Wind, whereas most reviewers definitely saw this book as much weaker.
When reading the negative reviews on Goodreads, I couldn’t help but notice that many critiqued The Wise Man’s Fear for faults that I actually found in The Name of the Wind (they also hated the book because they were mad at Rothfuss, which is a very poor approach to a review, but I’ll discuss that elsewhere). Since reading The Wise Man’s Fear, I no longer find these faults in Rothfuss’ writing, as I believe there might be a purpose behind the seemingly trivial and dull points of the book. Actually, I am considering that there might be an even bigger purpose that has me leaning towards my conspiracy theorist side. But, that comes later in the review (warning: this will be a long one!). Since a lot of people have similar issues with Kvothe and The Wise Man’s Fear, in this review, I will share my initial reaction to the novel, and then my response to some of the criticism I found on Goodreads after finishing the novel.
My Initial Thoughts
This was an expansive novel, as Kvothe gets a lot done–both at the University and in his travels. He develops a lot as a character, learns a lot of new things (a few new languages, how to fight, how to make love like a fairy, how to call down lightning on bad guys, to name a few), and in search of answers to his many questions, he only finds more questions (close, but not quite as frustrating as a season of Lost). I loved the pacing of the plot, the new cultures and myths that were introduced, and the growing sense of mystery pervading throughout the tale. I had a lot of favorite quotes as well. Here are a few that stood out:
Kvothe on teaching: “It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers,” (556).
Vashet on why women are better fighters: Kvothe argues that men are bigger and stronger, which Vashet counters with: “that would matter if fighting were the same as splitting wood or hauling hay. That is like saying a sword is better the longer and heavier it is. Foolishness. Perhaps for thugs this is true.[...] the key is knowing when to fight. Men are full of anger, so they have trouble with this. Women less so,” (763).
Vashet on sparring before you’re ready: “That is like throwing two virgins into a bed. Enthusiasm, passion, and ignorance are not a good combination. Someone is likely to get hurt,” (767).
My only gripe with this book was the extended scenes of Kvothe in the land of Fae. He has a lot of fairy sex, and it felt eerily similar to Odysseus’ stay with Calypso in The Odyssey. However, I wish Rothfuss would have taken a lesson from Homer and skimmed over it–Odysseus was with Calypso for seven years, and yet Homer barely shows it. Unfortunately, Kvothe, and the reader, experience the fairy Felurian for months, which covers 80+ pages. Yet, this is a small gripe, because during these pages, we get a new plot twist with Kvothe’s encounter with the malicious oracle Cthaeh, and Kvothe got some new stories and a cool cloak out of it as well. Not too big a deal.
-”It’s offensive to women”: I completely disagree with this viewpoint. This was one of the most feminist books I’ve read since Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale last August. I mean really? Rothfuss has created what is supposed to be a superior society in the Adem, similar in their civilized ways to Swift’s Houyhnhnms in Gulliver’s Travels. The Adem society accepts that women make better fighters than men because they are more cool-headed (I might disagree with that occasionally, being a woman, and not always cool-headed) and considers men to be mainly useful for their Anger (penis).
Then, there’s the scene where Kvothe breaks the arm of a boy who calls two girls “whores” after they’ve been rescued from rapist bandits.
“I want you to look at these girls. And I want you to think about the hell they’ve been through in these past days, tied hand and foot in the back of the wagon. And I want you to ask yourself what’s worse. A broken arm, or getting kidnapped by a stranger and raped four times a night?”
The point which is considered to be offensive by some is when Kvothe compares sex with women to playing music. I just don’t see the offense. Apparently, Kvothe can, as he remarks
Some might take offense at this way of seeing things, not understanding how a trouper views his music. They might think I degrade women. They might consider me callous, or boorish, or crude.
But those people do not understand love, or music, or me.
I guess that means I do understand love, music, and Kvothe, because I could completely relate to his analogy.
- There’s a lot of slow, unnecessary parts: I really felt this way more often with The Name of the Wind, but not so much anymore. Each segment in the plot is clearly building Kvothe’s character as well as providing a framework for the overall story. I felt there was a purpose in all scenes (although, again, I could’ve done with less Felurian).
- “Look how awesome Kvothe is!” and Unbelievably, after each plot point, Kvothe is off on another adventure: Many reviewers gripe about a lack of plausibility in Kvothe’s character and numbers of adventures. Kvothe seems to be a genius at everything he attempts. He also seems to be involved in every crazy, over-the-top adventure possible, and these adventures are back-to-back-to-back (kind of goes against the above critique of slow, unnecessary parts, doesn’t it?).
I definitely see where these critics are coming from, but this is when I urge readers to remember that The Kingkiller Chronicle is a story about some dude telling a story–a dude named Kote, an innkeeper, who claims to be the legendary Kvothe. The majority of the two novels in the series are covering the story of Kvothe, and we only get little tidbits on the man telling the story. Who is this Kote, and is he reliable? Is he truly Kvothe? He’s certainly mysterious, and there are definitely little things about him that might cause the reader to question him.
Even if Kote truly is Kvothe, he’s still a master storyteller, and we’re hearing his story. He will make his hero out to be amazing, a genius, as it suits him. And, he’s telling the stories of Kvothe’s adventures, not the daily minutia of Kvothe’s day-to-day life. Thus, it will be action-packed because it is a story. A story within a story. We already know Kvothe likes to embellish his stories, so who’s to say he’s not embellishing his own “true” life story.
A final thought on this, coming from my conspiracy theorist side. Maybe, I’m too much of an X-Files fan, maybe I follow too closely the “Trust No One” creed, but sometimes I felt like Rothfuss was pulling a long con on me. I’m really not a hundred percent sure that I can believe everything the innkeeper Kote is telling the Chronicler. There is so much mystery–Bast, the innkeeper’s fae sidekick; random occurrences around the Inn; Kote/Kvothe’s lack of genius and ability in the present time. I feel like there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. I think I want to re-read all of the present-day scenes at the inn and see if I can pinpoint just what is making me second-guess.
Overall, I recommend this series highly. I will re-read it, I’ve bought copies for friends, and I think you should check it out too!
Man, this review is LITTERED with links! Click on a few, as they’re in context.