The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Book 2 of the Kingkiller Chronicles
Published by Gollancz, March 2011.
Review by Mark Yon (Review by Rob Bedford HERE.)
When I read The Name of the Wind, back in 2007, I was pretty impressed. So were many others, and like me eagerly awaited the sequel, which this is. Of course, many have grumbled about delays since then – from a year to the four years it has taken for this to see the light of day.
It’s also taken me a little while to read – not only because I wanted to read it for myself rather than for review (RobB did the official honours this time around) and also because I wanted to read it without too many other distractions.
It didn’t quite work that way – and it’s taken me a (most unusual) three weeks to read it – but was it worth it? To my mind, yes.
It is, first and foremost, an immersive piece of writing. Kvothe’s (and Pat’s!) skills as a storyteller have again become increasingly noticeable here, as we have recountable tales within tales. Not an easy trick for a writer to pull off, yet it is done here surprisingly easily.
The book continues pretty much where The Name of the Wind finished. Putting the plot this time simply (and rather glibly) here we have the further adventures of Kvothe – at university, with a gap year thrown in. In that time Kvothe goes on that search for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. He goes to work for the Maer, (a member of aristocracy), is sent as a leader of a mercenary group to kill bad guys, meets a fairy and becomes romantically (some might say pornographically) involved and then goes with a friend to interact with a previously little-known race named the Adem, becoming a bad-ass fighter in the process before returning to University as an older and more experienced person.
This voyage of discovery resonated with lots of other tales for me. Whilst reading I was reminded of many, including Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle, Raymond Feist’s Magician and even The Empire Strikes Back or the TV series Kung Fu.
None of this is a particularly bad thing. Partly as a result of these touchstones, the tale in its telling feels deceptively comfortable and engaging, likeable and engagingly atmospheric.
Some have commented that it is a somewhat leisurely trawl through the story. I didn’t have any problems with that, personally, though some readers have felt it to be slow. I prefer to think of it as ‘that immersive thing’. With such an immersive process there’s a lot to follow and a lot to remember, some of which is as a consequence of the events of the previous novel. I would recommend reading (or re-reading) The Name of the Wind before it, though.
There are odd moments of clumsiness and plot inconsistency, and plot points that raised questions – after spending pages building up a fragile relationship with the winsome Auri, what happened to her whilst Kvothe suddenly abandoned her to go travelling? Similarly, would you be so quick as to abandon your mercenary mates, seemingly almost in a matter of seconds, to go off flouncing with fairies?
Not to mention the ‘coincidence’ of the lovely-yet-pined-for Deena appearing in another place that you happened to be in, but far away from your original destination?
In such a lengthy tome we meet, spend time with and then ignore a number of characters, whilst Kvothe sails somewhat blithely through his experiences. In such a large and complex book this has led to some loose ends, though ones that will no doubt be sorted later.
It may be that part of this incompleteness is also because it is a tale told by one man, with all of its imperfections and bias. Kvothe is still perhaps an unreliable narrator, or one who is clever enough to tell things in a way that create a character rather than relate the truth. To emphasise this, we do have the usual Kvothe arrogance and swagger – it can’t be easy making a near immortal Fae pine for you after a matter of days – and there is still that nagging feeling that most things seem to come just a little too easy to him.
Nevertheless, to maintain the pace, style and wit that Pat does, over about one-thousand pages, is very impressive. He is a natural storyteller and that is what makes this book work, at least for me.
The ending does suggest that things are getting darker, which would be quite an interesting development. Tellingly, even after all those pages, I still wanted to read more. That is the sign of a great book – to be engaged, and entertained, and that this book does with gusto. I can’t wait for the next.
Mark Yon, March 2011