Patrick Rothfuss’ book The Name of The Wind is easily the most enjoyable book I’ve read this year. I finished the even-bigger sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, in about four days, despite it’s 1000 page length, and despite the fact that I had other responsibilities to attend to.
And still, even though I didn’t want to make myself stop, I didn’t love it the way I loved the first book. I didn’t expect to, though. Name of The Wind was so impossibly good, and such a nice surprise, that nothing really could have measured up.
That said, there were other reasons why Wise Man’s Fear wasn’t quite as ensorcelling for me. Ensorcelling is my new favorite word, by the way. I can’t promise that I won’t be trotting it out every other sentence during this review.
Summary of The Wise Man’s Fear
The first book follows the story of Kvothe, a bard/gypsy/kid who winds up gaining entrance to The University, the school where “sympathy,” or magic, is taught. I won’t spoil how he gets there, or why he gets accepted at a very early age, but it has to do with the loss of his family.
He is a student at the school for the majority of Wind. He learns, his reputation grows, he feuds with aristocratic dandies, he gets whipped a couple of times, and is generally a fascinating character. One of the most impressive things about this for me is that Rothfuss makes it all feel deadly serious. There’s very little of that gee-it’s-so-neat-to-be-a-wizard-type discovery that comprised the first four Harry Potter books (I love those as well, it’s not a knock).
These books are ominous. There’s no pretending that good things are going to happen in the end, because we know that’s not true through the book’s framing device, which switches back and forth between young Kvothe and interludes in the present day.
So with that recap, here is my major quibble about Fear, which is also a minor quibble because I still loved the book:
So many things get introduced in the first book. Characters, plotlines, locations, and hints at where things are going.
The sequel does relatively little to advance these things. In fact, more and more are added. It makes me laugh to say it, but I’m now wondering how he can possibly wrap them up in the trilogy’s conclusion if it “only” runs 1000 pages. I would also say that the present-day story, brief as those segments are, reveals more about where things are headed than the other 900 pages of the book that are set in Kvothe’s past.
By the end of Part 2, Kvothe is still at The University, which truly surprised me. Denna’s character is now very annoying to me. There are lots of very convenient coincidences.
But on the upside, he gets to leave the University and go traveling for much of the book, he meets up with a tribe of what reminded me of medieval ninjas, he gets to shack up for an indeterminate amount of time with someone from another world, his feud with Ambrose escalates, and he still spends the entire book in a creation of Patrick Rothfuss.
That’s at the bottom of it for me: I enjoy spending time in this world so for me, criticisms about pacing and plot advancement and loose ends are trivial at best. I didn’t really care where the story was going while I was reading it.
I loved the book.
It’s no Name Of The Wind.
I think that’s a good thing.
I can’t wait for the end, but I can’t imagine how long it’s going to take for him to write it.
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