Sunday 13 March 2011

CBR3 Book16: "The Wise Man's Fear" by Patrick Rothfuss

Publisher: Gollancz
Page count: 1008 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: March 4th, 2011
Date finished: March 9th, 2011

The Wise Man's Fear is the extremely highly anticipated sequel to The Name of the Wind. It's also more than 300 pages longer than the last one, and could double as a defensive weapon. It's bulk made me very glad that I have an e-reader, as carting it back and forth to work would have given me a serious back ache.

The second day of Kvothe's story begins with him at the University, still pretty much dirt poor, constantly scrabbling to earn enough money to pay next term's tuitions and pay off his debts. He still pines for the lovely Denna, the mysterious young woman who's only in town occasionally, and who tends to introduce herself to men with a new name every time. His conflict with the rich baron's son he earned the enmity of in the previous book keeps escalating, and he is forced to take a term off until matters cool off a bit. He goes in search of a rich patron, but has to fudge both his young age (nearly seventeen) and his Edema Ruh heritage, as the Ruh are generally not seen as upstanding citizens of note. While on his journey, he saves the rich nobleman whose patronage he's hoping for from slow poisoning, helps him woo a suitable young lady, and hunts down a band of bandits who've been stealing the noble's taxes and revenues. He spends an undefined amount of time in the Faerie realm with the Felurian, a faerie queen of legendary beauty and he learns to fight from the Adem mercenaries, possibly the best warriors in the world. He discovers more about Denna, but grows no closer to telling her of his affection for her.

In the framing story, it becomes clear that while Kvothe was both an extremely skilled bard, arcanist and fighter when he was younger, he no longer seems to be able to do the things he is legendarily known for. Bast cautions the Chronicler about asking questions about his singing and magic, as these topics will only depress Kvothe. We see more of Kvothe's role in the little community where he lives, and how skillfully he has donned the disguise of lowly innkeeper. None of the villagers would dream that the man who serves them ale is the Kvothe of legend.

I spent longer reading the book than I would have liked, but I have work that unfortunately takes precedence over reading a lot of the time. With only a few exceptions, I didn't think the book was too long at all (which can frequently happen with epic fantasy), although I felt the story dragged a little bit during Kvothe's stay with the Felurian, and some of his fighting training got a bit repetitive. Watching Kvothe mature a bit was good though, and seeing more of the world Rothfuss has created was excellent. Kvothe's time at the University is fun, but it's clear that his legend is not just built on his academic prowess.

Rothfuss has said in interviews and in numerous book signings that the series is going to be finished with the next book. I'm left to wonder how he's going to be able to tell the rest of Kvothe's backstory and resolve the things hinted at in the framing story in just one book. However, he's delivered everything he's promised so far, and in less time than it's taken George Martin to finish his fifth book (six years and counting, George, not good!), so I will continue trusting him.

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