The first thing that crossed my mind once I held The Wise Man’s Fear in my hands and the handicapping fanboy-giddiness had passed was ‘here it is, finally, this spring’s most anticipated release.’ Even before cracking open the first page, there’s a sense of satisfaction from holding an object of desire such as Rothfuss’ sophomore effort. Unlike many, The Name of the Wind didn’t completely blow me away, at least not in the way many other critics would say it did them. I felt there was much potential in Rothfuss’ debut, but its slow start and Kvothe’s long journey bogged the narrative down too much in the beginning for me to be wholly satisfied. The Wise Man’s Fear, though, deals with most if not all of these faults and the result is a writer at the top of his game and a book that succeeds in all respects. In short, a long wait that was entirely justified and rewarding for a novel that will surely shine brightly for years to come.
The man is lost. The myth remained.
Kvothe - the dragon-slayer, the renowned swordsman, the most feared, famed and notorious wizard the world has ever seen - vanished without warning and without trace. And even now, when he has been found, when darkness is rising in the corners of the world, he will not return.
But his story lives on and, for the first tie, Kvothe is going to tell it...
As I mentioned above, for me The Name of the Winds was not the perfect debut many made it out to be. Sure, it was really good, but it was not perfect. It had a bit of a slow start, but it is true that once it had gotten going, Rothfuss got pretty close to excellence. The Wise Man’s Fear, thankfully, is much quicker out of the starting blocks than its predecessor, and in spite of its near 1000-page length, Rothfuss’ well-worked prose carries the reader along at a far from slow pace.
Very quickly, you become entangled in the delicately woven plot threads. From fire-side stories to musical performances to romantic outings or instruction in the ways of using magic - Kvothe’s tale never stops being deeply personal and engaging. Herein lies Rothfuss’ strength as a writer: his skill with words is such that he can make any scene, any action (or almost) a unique and captivating experience. This is why like The Name of the Wind before it, The Wise Man’s Fear is an all-absorbing read.
Much like the story it tells, The Wise Man’s Fear is magical in the reading experience it impresses upon the reader. There’s nothing genre-defining about the story Rothfuss tells, but it is more the way in which he does so that is so different. I imagine this is how The Hobbit would read had Tolkien written it in 2011, except Kvothe is a more mature, realistic character around which to base a story.
In this second volume of the Kingkiller Chronicle, Kvothe grows even further as a character. His eccentricities that became apparent continue to account for a lot of the fondness I feel towards this character. He is both at times the wise and dangerously-powerful arcanist he wants to the world to see and in other circumstances the inexperienced, if ever so talented teenager he really is. The plot is his story, his life, and so it stands to reason that if we get caught up in the plot we get caught up in Kvothe - and being so linked with a character, in my mind, can only be a good thing.
The biopic nature of the narrative continues to be an interesting and refreshing way to tell an otherwise typical fantasy story. I was expecting a bit more to happen in the ‘present’ where Kvothe going as Kote battles with the demons of his path, but at the same time I can’t say that these sections of the novel disappointed. Rothfuss keeps displaying the strengths of telling his tale in this way as it expands the scope and depth of the novel in all kinds of ways.
I won’t deny that there are some parts of the novel I enjoyed more than others. For the sake of keeping this review spoiler-free, I won’t exactly go into details, but suffice to say that the time Kvothe spends at the University were by far the most entertaining. This is because of the different aspects of Rothfuss’ prose that come in to play depending on the situation. The University section bring out his humor and energy, while the others bring out his true skill with words, his lyricism while losing a lot of the wit.
What it all comes down to in the end is that The Wise Man’s Fear has matched any of my expectations, if not surpassed them. Readers who fell for The Name of the Wind will love this one - it’s everything its predecessor was but better. Rothfuss is not afraid to write the fairytale-like stories we’d forgotten we wanted to read, and his Kvothe story serves to remind what makes fantasy so appealing. One thing’s for sure: rarely will a reader be so effectively plunged into a secondary world as when reading Rothfuss’ latest, and that alone is worth giving it a go. If you haven’t picked up The Name of the Wind yet do so, then go and enjoy The Wise Man’s Fear.
When did you say the third book was for, Rothfuss?
My Rating: 5 out of 5
Reading Age: 15 and up
Patrick Rothfuss's website: http://www.patrickrothfuss.com/content/index.asp
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