Reviews: The Wise Mans Fear

The Wise Man Better Stop Farting Around

I was told one fact about The Wise Man's Fear before starting it; it has an eleven chapter long sex scene. I can honestly say that isn't true, but what happens in that particular section of the book is much worse than childish, wish fulfillment bone jumping.

This section comes two thirds of the way into a one thousand page book, and I was at the end of my tether, reading it. Our hero, Kvothe, has gone into the fairy lands to gather bits for a cloak, being made by his fairy sex partner, whom he met whilst hunting bandits, on a mission for some noble, in exchange for patronage, so that he might afford his study fees at magic college, so that he'll have the powers to track down and kill the murderers of his family. I despaired at how much this book was getting off track with its nesting doll approach to adventure. A lot is happening, but to little narrative consequence; even if he gets his cloak, or patronage, or picks up some more skills, our hero still isn't any closer than he was by the end of the last book to resolving the story.

A lot of people complain about how much of a Mary Sue Kvothe has become by this point. I had been quietly hoping from the last book that he was simply a talented con artist who had a knack for taking credit for the amazing things that happened around him. But this sequel assures us that he is the real Mc Coy; a man capable of screwing a sex monster into submission despite being a teenage virgin; a guy so quick to pick up martial arts, he becomes the only person in history to be permitted special training with the race of violently xenophobic mercenaries. Well screw that guy, he isn't relatable anymore. Especially not when he starts comparing women to musical instruments for him to play, and then justifies the sexism by arguing the reader doesn't like music like he does. Weird how such a perspective does nothing to deter every woman in this book from instantly falling in love with him.

Once again, this was a frustrating read. Especially because it isn't a bad one for most of the time. It is written with skill and humour, and whatever faults there are in the pacing and characters, they are mostly made up for by the writing itself. I enjoyed most of what I read, but was deeply annoyed by what I wasn't reading. My only consolation is that with only one more book in this trilogy to go, well have to start seeing great strides in plot points to catch up.

Entirely too much of fairy dalliances and european tai chi.

When Kvothe said in the first book that he had spent a night with Felurian and walked away with his life and his sanity I sure as hell didn't expect that "night" to be so boring. How did Rothfuss manage to make endless sex with a fairy goddess boring anyway? Now that's a question.

When Kvothe said in the first book that he had learned to fight with the Adem I sure as hell didn't expect the Adem to be such insufferable morons. Why did Rothfuss try to present as perfect a group of idiots full of backwards-thinking? Now that's a question.

The chase of the bandits dragged on a bit too, but it gets a pass because it culminated with the best moment of the series so far.

Amusingly, of this book's side quests the one I found most compelling was the one that seemed most boring on paper: Kvothe navigating the intricacies of a court. Maybe a testament to my sensibilities.

Still, all of the subplots mostly unrelated to the main plot are a detriment to the book's pacing. For all of his skills at myth building, Rothfuss's world building is not quite smooth. While The Name of the Wind is a breeze to read, this one feels like a chore at times.

Anyways, as with TNOTW, this book's best asset continues to be the inner mythology, which thankfully gets expanded quite a bit here. Mostly Iax and the Cthaeh's deals.

Hopefully, the lack of anything happening in this one means that the third one will be a thrill ride. One can dream.

And, hey, that pest Bast got slapped twice and it was cathartic. That's something.

The Art of Travelling Without Actually Going Anywhere

With his second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles, Patrick Rothfuss manages to simultaneously go a lot of places and remain on the same spot as when the first book ended. He expands greatly on the world, giving a glimpse of different cultures and the nature of magic and the order of things. Kvothe, ever in the spotlight, grows and develops in interesting fashions, but there is no lack of interesting side characters and the Mary Sue stamp is still thoroughly inapplicable. All in all, looking back at the Name of the Wind, it's more of the same. And so far, so good.

On the other hand, comparing the end of book one to the end of book two... the general situation is basically the same. Kvothe is still in the university, even if we know he's the youngest student to ever get expelled. He still plays music, even if we know he refuses to play in the frame story. He still dances his delicate dance with Denna and yet, despite being quite experienced by this point, we still don't know what he meant by "my first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it" from the intro in the first book, making us wonder if he didn't yet consider any of his lovers "real". Hell, he hasn't even met Bast yet!

Comparing to a TV series or animated cartoon, if the Name of the Wind was the first couple of episodes where the foundation of the show is detailed and the main characters fleshed out, and the next book will be the grand, climactic finale, this the Wise Man's Fear is the episodes in the middle, where the cast goes on a bunch of little side adventures which are interesting in their own right but only tangentially related to the show's main story. I enjoyed the Wise Man's Fear a lot, particularly the first parts Kvothe spent in the University and the time among the Adem, and I'm glad that Rothfuss realized that the concept of book one needed to be expanded, but fact is that we still haven't gotten much closer to the known end state.

This tells me that book three will either be concentrated, condensed essence of intensity, or come with free delivery to your door by forklift.

'cuz this is FILLER! Filler Niiight...

Because nothing happens, that's why.

When last we left Kvothe, at the end of the brilliant The Name of the Wind, he promised us that he would explain how he was kicked out of The University, confronted the Chandrian and, eventually, killed a king. At the end of this book, we are still waiting to hear any of that.

Your Mileage May Vary, to be sure, on whether that makes this Filler. Kvothe doesn't sit around. He furthers his studies at the Arcanum, eventually calling the wind several times. He travels—a lot—which opens up the scope of the story's world and changes the story's dynamic enormously. He learns kung fu, morality and swordwork from the Adem. He gains a patron and can finally stop worrying about money. He has more Unresolved Sexual Tension with Denna. He has his first time with Felurian and learns bedroom arts. Things do happen. It's just that The Kingkiller Chronicle is about how and why Kvothe became The Kingkiller, and this book doesn't tell much about that. The only progress Kvothe makes in that direction is that he learns the seven names of the Chandrian, and figures out that the Order Amyr, an anti-Chandrian force long believed extinct, are still around. He also meets the Cthaeh, which I assume will prove meaningful, but I'm not sure how.

But the other 984 pages? Kvothe Level Grinding, which is the opposite of story progression—especially in a book, where you know for a fact that he isn't going to Game Over. And the best part? Bast still invokes The Scottish Trope over the Chandrian, suggesting they haven't been defeated.

It's Patrick Rothfuss's first novel(s), so he gets a bye, but I don't think he was correct in feeling Kvothe was an interesting-enough character to sustain a novel without the help of plot. While I enjoyed the book, I left it feeling like I'd been promised story but instead received DLC full of Irrelevant Sidequests. Hopefully the third book will make it all make sense—Rothfuss is good enough to pull it off—but I can't claim it makes sense to me now.