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.
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.
“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.
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.