Monday, July 25, 2011

Review of "A Wise Man's Fear" by Patrick Rothfuss

"A Wise Man's Fear" is book 2 in the Kingkiller Chronicles, which so far involves a middle-aged innkeeper Kvothe retelling the unbelievable story of his youth- his early years as a traveling performer, his studies in the Arcanist University, where he learns how to control sympathy, a type of magic where the bonds between objects are are strong as their similarities and the belief that the arcanist can muster. I keep wondering when he's going to get to the part where he kills a king, but the story moves fast enough that it took a while for me to realize he's got to kill a king somewhere...

The innkeeper, Qvothe, polishes the bar, makes apple pie, and talks about the weather. A lot. He's grown tired of being famous, and of the reputation that he carefully built up. It's all true enough, but I suspect Qvothe has discovered that there is something to be said about anonymity. About being able to live one's life instead of being the vehicle that other people use to experience the lives they wish they could have. That it's not always comfortable to be the hero that they turn to when things go bad...and things are going bad. Strange creatures have strayed from the mountains and the woods, and hapless farmers are dying.

The writing is brilliant, the humor is actually funny, and I enjoyed following Kvothe's adventures, and especially the older Kvothe's commentary on his youthful foibles. This book sucked me in, overriding all common sense and awareness of time. Yes, Nathan found me on the couch at 2 in the morning, wondering how it got so late. I got up at 8 the next morning and finished it.

So, these books are long. They are involved. You are warned. Also, know that Rothfuss published Day 1 in 2007, book 2 in 2011, so be prepared for a bit of a wait for Day 3. They are, in my humble opinion, worth it. See: Quill award, Tor accolades, NYT Bestsellerdom, etc.

Content- Not a series for kids, imo. Day 2 has a rather lengthy encouter with a fae whose purpose in life is to drive men to their deaths with her enthusiastic and mind-blowing sexual encounters. Also he studies martial arts with the Ademe, who view sex as being as natural and expected as breathing, but it was integrated enough into the culture that it didn't seem *too* gratuitous.

Rothfuss masks details behind names of poses, much like yoga or martial arts do. Day 1 had him yearning to have close encounters with women, and in Day 2, nearly all those yearnings are accomplished. I found the scenes vague enough that I wasn't offended- I don't like books to intrude into the bedroom, I can do that in real life, thank you very much. Other content- Kvothe and his buddies drink a lot. Sometimes they even regret drinking so much;) There is fighting and people die. That's about it.

Let me know if you read it!


  1. I recently read The Name of the Wind and enjoyed it immensely. I'm thinking about waiting until book three has a publication date before reading two, but maybe that's not the way. Considering that I read the first book at scout camp—where I can read for hours guilt-free and I don't get enough sleep anyway—maybe I'll just read it at scout camp next year!

    Thanks for the review. These books are a good argument for taking your time, aren't they?

  2. My brother introduced me to these books. I like some aspects of it and dislike others. At times, I found myself wondering if he really needed to spend as much time on parts. Other times, I sped through it without noticing that a hundred pages had gone by. I'll keep reading when the next book comes out... whenever that is.

  3. Hey Ben- You get to read at scout camp? No way! Sign me up! I'm a den leader for cub scouts, but we don't do campouts here as a den, only families.

    Sometimes people make comments about these books dragging on, but it never bothered me. I guess on some level it was satisfying enough that the pacing never even came to my attention. I've had similar experiences with the Thief and books by Robin McKinley- others felt things were too dragged out, but I had no problem with those books either. Perhaps because I tend to skim without realizing it? Thanks, Kayeleen!