The Wise Man’s Fear: There’s a better shorter book inside

fantasy book reviews Patrick Rothfuss The KingKiller Chronicle 2. The Wise Man's Fear audiobookThe Wise Man's Fear Patrick Rothfuss book reviewThe Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

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.

~Kat Hooper


As indicated by the subtitle “The Kingkiller Chronicles: Day Two”, The Wise Man’s Fear picks up where The Name of the Wind left off, continuing into the second day of the telling of Kvothe’s tale. The Name of the Wind was what I consider a perfect epic fantasy, combining the timeless quality of a fairy tale with the believability of a legend gone to myth. Patrick Rothfuss’ writing is dramatic without being overly so, his prose is beautiful, and his language feels archaic while still remaining easily understood. There is no denying he’s a natural-born storyteller.

That said. I wish I’d taken Kat’s review (above) more to heart because I had the same problems with The Wise Man’s Fear as she did, but I may have had a harder time getting past them. Considering how long it took for this book to be finished, I expected better.

To start with, I had every intention of re-reading The Name of the Wind beforehand, but ended up just jumping into The Wise Man’s Fear when the mood struck. I spent the first several chapters regretting that decision. It had been so long since I read the first book that it was hard to rekindle the enthusiasm and I’d forgotten enough to be a little lost. The story’s progress has slowed to a snail-like pace. If a third of this book was removed, it would’ve been better for it. Countless pages are spent on mundane and repetitious threads, while more exciting events are summarized in just a few sentences. When I finally got to the end, I was relieved that I hadn’t spent any more time with this tale. (It took me more days to finish this book than anything I’ve ever read before.)

Rothfuss still proves to be very good at making key elements relatable to his audience. Much of Kvothe’s story continues to center on the University. His academic endeavors, as well as his social experiences, resemble real college life. Kvothe is a very talented musician, and his music is another relatable aspect of the novel. If you’re an artist, or even if you’re just a no-talent aficionado like me, you can relate to the way Kvothe’s music is a big part of who he is. As for this reader, I enjoy spending time in a nice, cozy bar, so naturally I enjoyed the Waystone Inn interludes the best.

However, I had difficulty accepting that Kvothe could be only sixteen or seventeen years old during these adventures. Admittedly, I’m a hard sell when it comes to child characters. Some authors have made me believe that a kid can fit an adult’s worth of life experience into so few years — Mark Lawrence with The Prince of Thorns, for example — but only a very few, and this time, Rothfuss didn’t quite pull it off.

It’s because Rothfuss set the bar so high with The Name of the Wind that a three-star rating seems bad by comparison. To give credit where it’s due, there are some moments of exceptionally gifted writing in The Wise Man’s Fear. Nonetheless, when I look back at my reading experience, what I recall most is boredom.

~Greg Hersom


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

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9 comments

  1. I disagree with you about the Adem – I thought it was the best part of the book, and I could swear I read somewhere that there is an African tribe with similar beliefs, though they are not mercenaries. I felt the part with Felurian is where the book really dragged. I think you are spot on about everything else. I’m curious how Rothfuss is going to wrap everything up in one more novel…

    Nice review!

    Hippogriff
    hippogriff.wordpress.com

  2. Justin said he liked the part about the Adem best, too.

    It wasn’t their religious beliefs I found unbelievable (their Lethani is very similar to the Holy Spirit of Christianity), but their disdain for all other cultures (while they hire themselves out as mercenaries) and Kvothe’s reaction to their treatment of him. He doesn’t object to them calling him a barbarian and he subjects himself to their condescending treatment of him — it doesn’t seem in keeping with his character. (Though he is trying to learn from them, which is in keeping with his character.) But mostly I just thought it went on too long, and it is possible that my perception is caused by listening to the audio version. The narrator has the Adem speaking very slowly because they’re not native speakers of the language that Kvothe speaks.

    I tend to agree with Stefan’s suggestion that Kvothe’s story will be wrapped up in Book 3 and then we’ll be in the present time and we could go on with new events in a sequel(s).

  3. helxx /

    I agree that there is no way that the story will be over in one more book.

    I read it a few months ago and what I find interesting is that I seem to be appreciating it more as the time passes than I did at the time of completion, which is saying something as i absolutely loved the book all the time i was actually reading it.

  4. In the immortal words of Bill The Cat….Thptptptptp!!

    Ok now that I got that out of my system I will admit to having a somewhat anticlimactic feeling during and after reading the book…but only a little. I get bored with stories very quickly and DNF more books than I care to admit, and I hated putting this one down even to sleep. Kat and Greg are not the first to have those feelings about this book, and it has proven to be a somewhat polarizing novel in that regard. Goes to show that a delayed release can have unintended ramifications. Hype and anticipation are very strong influences, and almost never get fulfilled completely.

  5. It seems to be a very polarizing book, Justin. That’s a great way to put it.

    If I hadn’t vested so much time in the tale -and money- already, I wouldn’t have finished. There were some nights, I actually dreaded reading it. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really great parts in this book -most the last quarter of the book and everything that occurred at the Waystone Inn-, but in between those parts,for me, it was like watching paint dry .

    For anyone interested, what I really wanted to say in my review but didn’t have the guts is in this:

    ***SPOILER ALERT*******SPOILER ALERT******SPOILER ALERT******************

    “Kvothe, bang what’s-her-face already and get it over with. Kill that royal bully. If you’re gonna make a career outta being a college student; start a frat-house, make Will Ferrell a member, and throw some wild parties. Stay away from the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon people -sure, the chics are easy but they don’t rock. And I totally get hanging out with the fae chic. She was hot and easy, plus she increased your mojo with the ladies. But Dude, it may have seemed like a week or two to you, reading about it really seemed like the several years you spent there.”

  6. I listen to audible books at either 2 or 3 x speed, so they never drag. Podehl has a greater complexity in expression than most other readers, so I usually listen to him at 2x. To me, the book never dragged, but it certainly was a rollercoaster.

    • Hi Randall, I always listen at double or triple speed, too. If it’s a new book/series, I listen at 1.5 until I get used to the characters and writing style. Then I increase to double and often triple if it’s not a “thinker.” I really suspect that audio producers have started slowing the speaking rate, perhaps to make it easier for people to follow or perhaps to make the book longer. I ALWAYS feel like normal speed is too slow, and way slower than I read in my own head. In fact, if I wasn’t able to speed up the audio, it’d be better for me to read in print because I read it a lot faster that way. Fortunately the audio players are able to increase the rate without increasing the pitch. :)

      Anyway, with this book, even though I listened to the slow parts at triple speed, I thought it dragged, meaning that it was boring in those parts even though it went by quicker than it would for someone listening at normal speed.

      Thanks for the comment. Nice to meet another audio reader! We’ve got lots of audiobooks in our giveaway “stacks.” If you want to enter some of our giveaways, you could win one.

  7. Kevin /

    I was frustrated by the plotline with the Adem because they are skilled warriors whose entire lives are devoted to learning what we would call a martial art, yet Rothfuss does not allow the reader to see the Adem in action. All they do in the book is train Kvothe. I kept waiting for their village to be invaded or for them to be called into action somewhere in the world, but Kvothe just went on his way after his training. Maybe we’ll see it in the 3rd book?

    I’m also getting incredibly bored by Denna and her relationship with Kvothe. We’re now over 1,600 pages and a couple years into their relationship and literally NOTHING has happened. They flirt. They giggle. She curtsies a lot. He goes out of his way to be a gentleman. For goodness sake, DO SOMETHING!! It’s like one of the many TV series where the two main characters happen to be a (very attractive) man and a (very attractive) woman. The sexual tension lasts for years and hundreds of episodes. Everytime it looks like they will finally express their love for each other, something happens to interrupt them and the suspense grows. With Denna and Kvothe, it’s beyond boring.

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