Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle is the story behind a legend — the real truth about the famous young man who has come to be known, for various reasons, as Kvothe the Arcane, Kvothe the Bloodless, the Kingkiller, etc. There are many names for, and stories about, Kvothe, but nobody knows which ones are true and which are merely based on some small kernel of truth. The Chronicler, though, is getting the scoop. He’s sitting down with Kvothe, now a humble innkeeper (how did that happen?!), over three days to learn the true story and to write it down. The Name of the Wind was Day One — when we learned about Kvothe’s early childhood and his goal to be admitted to the university so he could find out about the Chandrian — the strange beings who killed Kvothe’s parents and who nobody else seems to believe in.
The Wise Man’s Fear is Day Two. For the first part of the book, Kvothe is still at the university. His problems with poverty, teachers, girls, and his enemy Ambrose continue. Though it’s a lot of the same stuff we’ve seen before, and it is tiring to constantly hear about how arrogant and clever Kvothe is, I actually enjoyed this part of the book the most. Kvothe’s antics are funny, I’m a sucker for a university setting, I enjoyed the explanations of sympathy and artificing, and I just can’t help but adore Kvothe for loving the library stacks so much that he has to crawl through dirty subterranean tunnels to sneak in.
Yet when Kvothe leaves the university for a possible patronage, I was ready for some new scenery because his life had become stagnant (the familiar cycle of admissions, trying to earn money, trying to find Denna, avoiding Ambrose’s pranks, etc). At first the change was welcome, but when Kvothe is sent off to lead a group of mercenaries to flush bandits out of the forest, the story became downright dull except for the climactic scene with the bandits. After that there’s an insufferably long episode with Tempi and the Adem which crawled on for hours in my audio version. I had to increase the playback speed so I could get through it — I was having a hard time believing in their culture (and Kvothe’s reaction to it) and, besides, I was seriously worried that Chronicler’s hand was going to seize up, or that he’d fallen asleep while Kvothe rambled on.
The audio version, produced by Brilliance Audio, was read by Nick Podehl — an excellent choice for The Wise Man’s Fear. His voice for Kvothe is perfect and he does a great job with the other characters, too. The book is 43 hours long and it’s a great way to read this story, though you may find that you need to occasionally increase playback speed which you can do with Windows Media Player or an iPod.
I’ve struggled with how to rate The Wise Man’s Fear. I love Kvothe, and it’s a lot of fun to watch him use his intelligence and his trouper skills to build his own legendary reputation. The problem isn’t the story — the problem is that the story doesn’t need to be this long. There’s a better shorter book inside The Wise Man’s Fear.