Review: ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ by Patrick Rothfuss

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.

My name is Kvothe.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trehon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins the tale of a hero told from his own point of view — a story unequaled in fantasy literature. Now in The Wise Man’s Fear, 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 uncovers 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.

The Wise Man’s Fear is the second in The Kingkiller Chronicle. If you haven’t read the first book, then this isn’t the place to start; they need to be read in order. This book continues Kvothe’s retelling of his life to date, picking up where the first book leaves off. It is now day two of Kvothe telling the story and, again, the book jumps between Kvothe’s tale and events in the inn where he is telling it.

I adore the foreshadowing that Rothfuss is able to do by virtue of glimpses of “current” events. One non-spoilery example is the fact that Kvothe at some point killed a king. I’ve been getting a kick out of building my own little theory as to who that might be and why, and will be very interested to see how the story unfolds. Likewise, the fate of Denna has a question mark over it. Regardless of what I think of her (I have mixed feelings), she is definitely past-Kvothe’s love, and her marked absence from present-Kvothe’s life (and his obvious depression) suggests she meets some kind of sticky end.

I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS, YOU GUYS.

There are elements of this book that I didn’t enjoy as much as the first book, although I suppose they are inevitable given the story is about the development of a hero (who must at some point have learned magic and how to fight). They mostly revolve around loose threads. I get really frustrated when characters seem to put one (quite important) thing on hold to chase up another. I’m not talking about Kvothe taking a break from university — I think that was a good idea to mix up the story — but when he decided to take a several month (several hundred page) detour before reporting back to Alveron, I got a bit twitchy. Especially with the Felurian episode … although why that was important became clear by the end of the book.

Still, even the more tangential bits of history are interspersed with action set in the present, and there are little mysteries unfolding there too. For example, what is going on with his student, Bast (a character I really enjoy)?

Overall I’ve given The Wise Man’s Fear 4.5 stars. It was very good, but the first book in the series was very, very good. Regardless, I will definitely be going back for book three, Doors of Stone, when it comes out … which will hopefully be some time this decade. *sniff*

Four-and-a-half stars

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