Reviews: The Wise Mans Fear
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.