Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man's Fear
The Kingkiller Chronicle #2
by Patrick Rothfuss
Published by Gollancz, 2012
Paperback, 992 pages

Read my review of the first book in the series, The Name of the Wind, here.

The Wise Man’s Fear is the second day of the frame story in The Kingkiller Chronicle. Our charismatic red-haired hero Kvothe resumes his story of his own extraordinary life, gradually expanding the reader’s comprehension of the world in which it takes place, and never revealing too much too soon. There is a certain mysteriousness about the frame-story-Kvothe, which unfortunately seems to lessen somewhat in this sequel.

In The Name of the Wind, the main-story-Kvothe was a boy of many questions. In The Wise Man’s Fear he grows into a young man of many more and much harder questions, but the answers he seek seldom come easily to him, and he often has to learn the hard way. 

When he cannot find the answers he needs where he is, he goes chasing the wind. He ends up in many a wondrous place, and he learns many different things, but always at a price.

The Wise Man’s Fear is sort of like an odyssey of a young man’s endless chase for answers. Tragically, it takes him about a 1000 pages to get somewhere in that quest and that is still not far at all. With every chapter, it becomes a little more obvious that the story is bound to end in tragedy – but hopefully in a grandly epic way.

Rothfuss’ way of wielding his words impresses me greatly. The Wise Man’s Fear is fearfully well written, the prose being powerful, but still maintaining a tasteful subtlety.

The characters are one of the things Rothfuss does best. They are all preciously well developed and come alive as you read. They are very varied and many-sided. In short, his books are peopled with characters that seem real and believable.

The universe still holds my heart, but it has perhaps lost a bit of its mysteriousness to me. The book seem to be rather heavy on the explanatory side at times, which is great loss for the overall experience of the world.

Rothfuss has a compelling magic system but there is just not enough of it! I do not feel satisfied after finishing this book – “I want more magic and I want it now,” said the spoiled Fantasy reader. Seriously though, it has taken Kvothe preciously long to get in contact with his abilities and still he is nowhere near a master of it.  Of course, it serves to illustrate how hard it is to learn, but come on now! 

We have watched him struggle with the Name of the Wind for over 1500 pages and – although there has been some lesser breakthroughs for him - something greater needs to happen soon or a reader might get outright frustrated. 

I think one of the problems is that Rothfuss has focused more heavily on a variety of social themes with this book. Themes like superstition, education or the lack thereof, different cultures and languages and so forth. Which is interesting, sure, but it just bothers me that it is overshadowing some of the more fantastical elements of the story.

Above all, I could not help but feel that the pace was too slow, actually bordering on the point of getting boring at times. This sequel lacks suspense, it lacks a lot of the excitement the first book had. It does have its small share of surprises and unpredictable plot twists but nothing compared to what I found in The Name of the Wind. This was no page-turner for me. 

Also, there is the matter of the title. It is a good title and I love it, but… It left me wondering after I had finished the book. Why is it called The Wise Man’s Fear? I honestly cannot think of a very precise answer to that question. Maybe I am stupid or missed some vital point in this book. I do not know. It bothers me though. Of course, the title does not exactly not fit the book, but it just seems a little off to me. 

Maybe I am being harsh with my rating, but the truth is I was disappointed – probably, in part, due to the vast expectations the first book left me with. I cannot help but feel that this book could have been so much more than it is – it is weeping with unfilled potential.

Still, in the overall nature of the thing, it was a pleasant read, and it definitely leaves you in love with its hero and longing for the next book.

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