The Wise Man's Fear, The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two

Thoughts on Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear

adored Patrick Rothfuss’s debut novelThe Name of the Wind.  It was a wonderful, entertaining first volume (of a planned trilogy) of a boy’s quest to acquire a suite of skills, talents and knowledge, increasing his power to the point where he can avenge the slaughter of his family at the hands of an evil mythical being, growing his own legend in the process.  The book felt much shorter than its six-hundred-plus page length due to Rothfuss’s superb storytelling.  I was excited to read the sequel.

The Wise Man’s Fear, topping out a nearly one thousand pages, is just too long.  While the first novel felt tightly crafted, the sequel seems to meander at times, settle too long in one place at other times.  While the transition from one location to another was supported with believable narrative reasons in the first novel, protagonist Kvothe’s reasons for traveling in The Wise Man’s Fear do not feel like an organic part of the story.  They are more like cheats used by the author to get from point A to point B so he can get on with the next part of the story.

A portion near the middle of the novel dragged the story nearly to a halt and had I not already been invested in the story, I might have stopped reading.  I am no prude, but the entire section deals with Kvothe growing his sexual prowess through a lengthy series of training sessions with a literal sex goddess.  As the character is only sixteen years old, this section of the story comes off as teenaged boy fantasy and I was unable to take it seriously.  By the time I struggled through this scene, I could have sworn it was a couple hundred pages long.  After finishing the novel, I located that section again and was shocked to discover that it was a mere sixty pages.  Even after finishing the book, I do not feel there is a good purpose for putting a sixteen year old kid in a sex scene.  I understand that Kvothe’s talents between the sheets are a part of his legend, but to have him acquire this particular skillset in the manner in which he did just did not sit well with me, especially given his age.

Another gripe I have is Kvothe’s repeated and coincidental reunions with a particular supporting character.  No matter the time of day or place in the world, the two seem to find each other just when it is most convenient.  The first time or two it happened did not bother me, but when the characters repeatedly separate, independently travel hundreds or thousands of miles to different places in the world and still happen to end up at the same place for no reason, I find it just too unbelievable.  It happens multiple times and I uttered an audible "ugh" the last time.

Despite these problems, I think Patrick Rothfuss spins a great yarn.  This second volume could have benefited from some additional edits, but the story he tells is engaging.  I like Kvothe.  He is witty, intelligent, and determined.  His smart mouth and arrogance get him into a lot of trouble and sometimes he gets out of it, but usually he suffers painful consequences. I am not sure I can trust him and I do not know if this story he is telling us is the truth or more legend of his own fabrication.  A handful of times during the first and second volumes of this Kingkiller Chronicle, Kvothe claims to be the source of embellishments designed to expand his reputation.  He says things like, “There are many versions of this story, but I like this one best.”  These statements establish Kvothe as an unreliable narrator, adding a layer of intrigue to the story that draws me in.  I want to know how he ends up being the Kingkiller referenced in the series title or if he is even the true Kingkiller at all.  I enjoy following Kvothe on his journey, watching his skills and talents evolve, watching his legend grow.

While I had some narrative problems with The Wise Man’s Fear, I still enjoyed the story and look forward to reading the final volume of the trilogy.

The Name of the Wind, The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One

Thoughts on Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind

It has been a long time since I read a novel that gave me such an enjoyable experience.  Patrick Rothfuss is a superb storyteller, planting seeds early on that pay off later while still leaving enough carrots dangling on sticks to make the reader keep turning pages and immediately place an order for the second volume of the series within minutes of reading the last word on the last page and ERMAGERD IT ARRIVED YESTERDAY SOIHAVETOFINISHTHISSOICANSTARTREADINGIT! Well, that was my experience anyway.

The Name of the Wind is a fantasy adventure as told by the main character, Kvothe, who appears to be on the exciting first leg of what I expect to be a dramatic character arc that will develop over the course of the three-volume series. The main criticism I have seen leveled at this novel is that Kvothe is unrealistically skilled at everything he does: music, acting, crafting, wit, humor, language, magic, academics. While this may be the case, I’d argue that we are reading the story of an extraordinary person. His almost superhuman abilities are countered by great tragedies and his victories are contrasted often by tremendous setbacks. Despite, or perhaps because of his amazing abilities, he is arrogant, brash, impatient, and his sharp tongue gets him into and out of trouble in equal measure. He is far from perfect. Kvothe spends as much time in stitches as he spends basking in his own brilliance. He is a wonderful character and one I have no trouble wishing I could be, at least during his good moments.

Throughout the story, Rothfuss evoked reactions from me that I haven’t experienced while reading a novel in a long time: trepidation, laughter, joy, frustration, heartbreak, vehement desire for justice and revenge. He has crafted such an inspiring and entertaining story that I yearn for more even after finishing this 662-page first volume, the last third of which I read in a single sitting. I could not put it down.

Check out Sword & Laser's interview of Rothfuss below.  I would love to have a beer with this guy.