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, is 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… until Kvothe.
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.
To say that The Wise Man’s Fear was one of the most anticipated books in the genre community this year is an understatement. The eagerness and amount of speculation on when the book would be done and would consequently released, reminded me of fans waiting for Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and GRRM-fans waiting for A Dance With Dragons (though less rabid). I was lucky to only read Name of the Wind for the first time last year, so my wait wasn’t as long. Still, I was very glad to finally read it.
Once I started the book, it took me a bit to get back into the story, because I was trying my best to remember all the details of the first book. Once I decided to just not wonder at what I didn’t remember, I slid right in. And I read the book over the course of six days during the work week, which for such a chihuahua-killer of a tome is really fast for me these days. I really liked it and it was so good to return to Kvothe’s world. As last time, I fell in love with Rothfuss’ prose and the cleverness of his wordsmithing. For example, the way Felurian often speaks in rhyme, whether standard end rhyme, alliteration, assonance or internal rhyme. It’s really clever and helps create her almost hypnotic effect on Kvothe. But for all that I loved The Wise Man’s Fear, there were also a few things that caused some problems with the book for me. But let me start off by talking about what I did like.
Discovering more of Kvothe’s world and the University was great. Exploring the Archives and returning to the Fishery and The Eolian was fun, especially the Archives. It might be a professional deformation, but I love reading about libraries and I loved the time we spent there this time. I couldn’t repress a shudder of sympathy for Wilem when he explains the problems of the different cataloguing systems due to the different masters and the resulting Dead Ledgers. At work some of the faculty libraries were moved into the main library building last year and they’re are still working on getting all the numbering systems switched over, I can just imagine how hard it would be to have to work with several different systems!
Seeing more of returning secondary characters, especially Elodin and Auri, and meeting new ones, was another pleasure, though I’m still hoping for Auri’s mystery to be solved. Elodin, while as enigmatic as ever, became less frightening and more human, especially in the scenes he and Kvothe shared with Auri. My favourite new characters were Bredon, Tempi and Vathas. Bredon’s urbane wit and easy acceptance and mentoring of Kvothe made me like him a lot. Tempi and Vathas are great characters and a good window into the Adem personality. Tempi since he’s the first one we meet and Vathas because she is able to translate between Aturan culture and Adem culture not just for Kvothe, but for the reader as well. The silent complexity of the Adem and the Adem language was fascinating and as a result I loved the time Kvothe spent at the Latantha school. To me the education he got there, was far more interesting and valuable than that Felurian gave him, though I realise the latter’s helped his reputation far more! It wasn’t just the martial skills the Adem taught him, but the need to be accepting of different viewpoints in the world. Not every society’s mores will be the same as your own and you have to respect that. For all his worldliness, Kvothe has some pretty strict notions of what is proper, with which he’s confronted living amongst the Adem.
Now onto the somewhat less glowing part of this review. Problem the first: at times, the story stalled quite a bit. Most noticeably during Kvothe’s stay with Felurian, but in Severen and Adem as well. Though, honestly, in the latter two cases this didn’t bother me as much as it did with the Felurian chapters. Every time we’d get to a point where it seemed now we’d be getting on with the story, something else happened to keep him in the Fae world even longer. And for some reason, beyond their stroll to create Kvothe’s shead and his little talk with the Ctaeh, I didn’t find this episode in his story very interesting. I mean, yes it’s nice that she teaches him how to please women, but after two scenes of that, I kind of get the picture already. That part was easily my least favourite of the book.
Problem the second: Denna. I mean I don’t dislike her, but come on already! She’s turning into a Molly or an Elene and, as mentioned before, I can’t stand those sorts of slavish, pre-destined love stories. It’s not just the endless pining, the will-they-or-won’t-they of it, it’s also that it makes Kvothe blind for other, perhaps more suitable love interests, such as Fela (though in that case I’m on Team Sim) and Devi. And I understand Denna is damaged and fragile and has a phobia of commitment and Kvothe has to step lightly around that, but she just makes me grit my teeth.
Problem the third and my biggest problem was a problem that arose mostly after finishing the book. Where is Rothfuss taking this? If you see how slowly the story moves, how on earth can he wrap it up in only one more book? If you see what Kvothe has done and learned in this book, and if you take into account what he still has to do, guessing from the story so far, I can’t see how Rothfuss can do all of that in one book. At least not in one that’s the same size as The Wise Man’s Fear and maintains the quality of the series. And of course, there’s the question of what will happen after. In the interludes it seems as if both Bast and Chronicler are trying to manoeuvre Kvothe towards something, some action, though it isn’t clear what. And if that is the case, will Rothfuss tell us that story in a new series? Or will it be left untold? There are so many question marks after this book. And we’ll have to wait for the publication of book three for the answers.
While The Wise Man’s Fear didn’t blow me away as much as Name of the Wind did, I truly enjoyed it and I am looking forward to seeing how the trilogy ends. Hopefully, I’ll be lucky again and it’ll take only another year for the last book to be published, but however long it takes, I’ll be there to discover the rest of Kvothe’s story.