The Wise Man’s Fear Mini-Review-Thing

In case you live under a rock–which is quite all right, from one troglodyte to another, though I prefer a good bridge–the sequel to the long-awaited (an understatement) fantasy sensation The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss hit retail stores March 1st. Was it worth the wait, you ask? I would have to respond with “Yes… though I find myself woefully disappointed.”

But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Please bear in mind, this is merely a mini-review, as I simply don’t have the time to review the book in great depth. But fear not, in this age of instant feedback, I’m certain there will be no shortage of lengthy critiques and “reviews.”

Oh, and for those of us who detest spoilers, this mini-review is spoiler free, so do read on.

The Synopsis
From the publisher’s website:

“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 Trebon. 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, Day Two of The Kingkiller Chronicle, 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 Good

“If you’re going to have a complicated story you must work to a map; otherwise you’ll never make a map of it afterwards.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Rothfuss is undoubtedly working from such a map. He is a true literary maven, displaying seemingly-effortless precision in weaving an intricate, resplendent tapestry of the written word. His descriptive language and meticulous worldbuilding skill calls Tolkien and Lewis to mind.

There is certainly much to like in this sequel: action, intrigue, surprises and rich character development. From start to finish, this engrossing tale will have you feverishly turning the pages of this 900+ page tome and leave you wanting more.

The Bad

Or not.

As a “sub-creator” (as Tolkien would say), I know how much blood, sweat and tears is poured into every project a writer undertakes. Because of this awareness, I am slow to make negative comments about another author’s work.

In this case, however, I feel strongly compelled to let my voice be heard.

When I was a young boy, I remember the breathless awe I experienced reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I knew it was something I wanted to share with my own children one day. I knew it was something special–something bigger and grander than anything I had ever read before. This led me to seek out all of Tolkien’s work. I simply couldn’t find enough tales of Middle-Earth to slake my thirst.

I felt a tinge of that same childhood breathless awe after reading The Name of the Wind; it was a sensation I hadn’t experienced in many, many years–though I certainly longed for it.

That is why I was so disappointed to find that the second half of the novel chronicles little more than the protagonist’s sexual exploits.

Yes, seriously! It becomes almost comical. Almost.

And while I understand the inclusion of Felurian and what transpires in the Fae (which obviously draws from Celtic myths and provides a key development in the storyline), seriously… did readers really need to know about Kvothe’s (or anyone else’s, for that matter) sex life any more than they needed to know about Aragorn’s? Or Legolas’? How about Gandalf’s? No, it was extraneous information, irrelevant to the story, and such events were completely (and wisely) left out.

As is, the inclusion of these events (and they are numerous) comes across as self-indulgent hubris at best and a bizarre form of projection at worst.

Perhaps Kvothe is an unreliable narrator–in which case, the character’s hubris would certainly color the events of his life; especially his sexual escapades. I don’t believe this to be the case, however, as he has already relayed several embarrassing happenings and mistakes rather than embellishing to save face.

The simple reality is this: many readers will stop reading the book when they become offended or exasperated by what could be seen as fanboy pandering or sexism. Or poor judgment on the author’s part.

Ultimately, it will be the stumbling block which prevents this series from advancing into the echelon of timeless classics.

The Bottom Line

While I look forward to the next book in the series, I do so with reservation. And while I longingly awaited this novel with baited breath, I may or may not read the next. Rothfuss has taken the shine off a work that may have otherwise been immortal.

And that is disheartening.

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9 thoughts on “The Wise Man’s Fear Mini-Review-Thing

  1. It seems a lot of folks are getting turned off by the end of WMF, primarily because of the scenes you mentioned. I was certainly surprised by it, as Kvothe’s relationship with the mysterious Denna is so very chaste all the time. But I trust Rothfuss to have put all that in there for a good reason.

    Wouldn’t it be insane if there was a little Kvothe running around somewhere?

  2. His approach to sex is so juvenile… so cavemanish (yes, I made that word up). I think that’s what shocked me the most.

    Regardless, a true classic is a book that can be read by ANYONE. And I would certainly not let my children read it or recommend it to any of my family or friends.

    I’m sad to say it. I sincerely wanted to love this book as much as I adored The Name of the Wind.

  3. caveman-ish . . . you know, I can’t argue with that. some of the scenes were quite lacking in the eloquence of the earlier parts of the book. although the iambic pentameter conversation cracked me up to no end.

    there are plenty of family friend and younger-reader-appropriate classics floating around, so I’m not as bothered that this one is for grown ups only.

  4. I’m glad you were able to overcome the story’s obvious shortcomings and enjoy the book. I could not.

  5. Like you I found the second half of the novel lacking. So lacking, in fact, that after powering through the first part in a day and a half I was taking so long getting through the second half that I. Stopped. Reading.

    Now I don’t problems with the fact that there was sex. I like George R.R. Martin ffs. But I’ll get to that.

    (There are some spoilers here, I don’t really apologize, am just warning)
    I felt like in the second half of the novel Rothfuss spent SOOOO many words on such unnecessary stuff. Nearly 100 pages were dedicated the time spent tracking the bandits and then about another 100 were spent on Kvothe’s time with the faeries. That. Was. Not. Necessary. That is way too many words.I understand that Rothfuss has a plan but I couldn’t take not knowing what I was reading for that long. The bandit story should have been half of that but he drew it out. The faeire story? I actually skipped it because for about 50 pages Kvothe is in bed with this faeire chick. Really? I need to hear how beautiful and dangerous she is for 50 pages? And how AMAZING sex is? Come on, sex is fun and good and it adds to a story, but not like this. I even skipped the parts of the faerie world once they left bed because I was just so freaking tired of that story line. And that took up nearly another 50.

    So then he gets out. I start reading again. And his description of sex with the redheaded girl in the inn was pretty repulsive. I’m glad that you’re time with higher beings gives you leave to be a sexist jerk, Kvothe /sarcasm

    BUT I can get over that if the story improves (though it IS really hard) but now suddenly we’re going to a different land? I’m sorry, if I felt more like it had something to do with the PLOT I would have been ok with it but it just felt like these were all side quests. Really long side quests that while in some small way contribute to the larger story they spend too much time ambling on before telling me WHAT they have to do with the larger plot. So I stopped reading at that point because it felt very self indulgent. Like the first half of the book was edited and here he and his editor fought about making something more concise and eventually the editor just gave up so they could get the book OUT.

    I have two people who have read it who agreed that it started rambling, though unlike me they finished it, and one person who was genuinely offended that I didn’t adore it as much as he did. But I have other books to read and if it’s going to take me two weeks to read 200 pages because I’m bored? I can’t keep going.

    So in conclusion to my OWN rambling, I agree with you to an extent and I disagree with you a smidgen 😛

  6. Yes, I believe you may be right about editing, Jenna. The first half of the novel is taut and polished, but the second half meanders and drags and doesn’t have the coherence of the first part. It seemed as if he was trying desperately to protract the story–and I have no idea why he felt the need to do so. Even minus the extraneous information, this book still would have been at least 800 pages long.

    All the self-indulgences you have listed are spot on, so I’d say we agree more than disagree. 🙂

  7. I never thought about reading Name of the Wind to kids to be honest. I always saw it as an adult book. If for no other reason than the size of it. While I’m not saying kids can’t follow large novels it just seems so very hefty.

    I have to admit that I didn’t think of it as a sort of Mary Sue move until reading this but I do now. And I don’t know, maybe it’s the criticism from other series I’ve been hearing lately but now I can’t think of it as anything BUT.

    And I am glad that someone else felt like his attitude toward women was a little off after the devirgining. I was afraid I was overreacting and truth be told I CAN get past attitudes like that from the right character (if they are punished for it, if they are jerk and/or bad guy etc) but the line about how sometimes you just feel like good old home cooking was so objectifying it made me mad.

    Still, had he chosen to add a sex scene or 10 that spanned only a page or two and were less, well, cavemanish IS a good word, then I think I wouldn’t have noticed.

  8. Pingback: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss « Book Monkey

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