The Wise Man’s Fear: We are divided

The Wise Man's Fear Patrick Rothfuss book reviewThe Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

If, like me, you were so impressed with The Name of the Wind that you neglected all but the most pressing business until you turned the final page, you may have decided to give it a quick re-read in anticipation of the sequel. If you did, you probably spotted this quote in Chapter 43:

There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.

After a long but worthwhile wait, we now have the second novel in The Kingkiller Chronicle, and its title refers directly back to the quote: The Wise Man’s Fear. (And by the way, if you didn’t feel like rereading book one, Patrick Rothfuss posted a wonderful web comic recap on his blog).

Saying that the level of anticipation for The Wise Man’s Fear was high is an understatement, especially given that The Name of the Wind was only Patrick Rothfuss’ debut. It’s not as if this is the concluding volume of a long multi-volume saga, decades in the making. The Name of the Wind struck such a powerful chord with many readers that, before long, messages started popping up left and right, complaining that things were taking too long and couldn’t he write a bit more quickly?

Well, merciful Tehlu be praised, Patrick Rothfuss took his time, polishing and refining his manuscript until it stood up to his own standards. The result is The Wise Man’s Fear, a novel that for the most part fulfills the promise of The Name of the Wind. You’ll find the same sweeping prose, deft characterization, rousing adventure, emotional highs and lows, and just plain and simple gripping reading of the “I couldn’t put this book down even if my house caught fire around me” variety.

Also, there’s much more of it, in terms of sheer length. Weighing in at about 1,000 pages, The Wise Man’s Fear is a heftier tale with a much broader scope. Where most of The Name of the Wind was set in and around the University, the sequel starts off there but soon has Kvothe venturing out into the world. As a result, some of the blank spaces on the map start to get filled in, giving this fantasy world a welcome new level of depth. Make no mistake, Kvothe is still front and center, but the details of the world’s geography are starting to come into focus, as well as its history, with the central mystery still being the exact nature of the Chandrian and the Amyr.

And Kvothe… is still Kvothe. One of the most memorable characters to appear in fantasy in the last decade, he again carries the tale easily. Let’s not forget that The Name of the Wind’s blurb, as well as the title of the series, seemed to spell out several major plot points: anyone who read the back cover of The Name of the Wind knew the edited highlights of Kvothe’s life even before opening the book. How often do you see that, and even if you did, how often did it actually succeed?

Here, Patrick Rothfuss makes it work purely on the strength of his main character. Kvothe, telling his own story to the patient Chronicler, has so much sheer panache that his personality has the same effect as a minor tsunami on the people around him. In some ways, he’s like a taller, more musically gifted version of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan. Sure, when he describes a noble as being as “self-centered as a gyroscope”, you can’t help but think that this could easily apply to him too, but his charm, brilliance and inexorable forward momentum easily make up for it.

Then — next brilliant trick — to forestall those readers who might get annoyed at an impossibly brilliant and already semi-legendary character, the framing story shows us a much different present-day Kvothe, now going by the name Kote, who seems to be a shadow of his former self: a small town innkeeper with the lowest of profiles and the gentlest demeanour. The fact that we still don’t know exactly how we got from Kvothe the high-flying warrior-arcanist-singer to Kote the soft-spoken innkeeper creates the tension that makes these novels so powerful. Evil is abroad, war is coming, and Kvothe, so different from how he describes himself in his story, hints that he is somehow responsible — and, to top it all, we still don’t know exactly how and why. Maybe most disturbing (or exciting, depending on your perspective and amount of patience): if Kvothe is recounting his past to Chronicler in three days, does that mean that the real conclusion of the story, describing the current and future state of the world, will only follow in books 4, 5, 6… ?

Regardless, The Wise Man’s Fear is another excellent novel. Just getting to read more about the young, brilliant Kvothe at the University is a pleasure, although it did feel as if the first few hundred pages of this novel moved a bit more slowly and actually could have been part of the first book, with Kvothe’s eventual departure making a perfect starting point for the sequel. Then again, we know this is meant to be one long tale split across three days of narration by present-day Kvothe to Chronicler, so it makes sense to think of these books as one big story with somewhat arbitrary cut-off points. (And oh, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention that the ending of this novel is once again of the somewhat anti-climactic “and then they all went to sleep to continue the story the next day” variety.)

Patrick Rothfuss’s prose is still a pleasure to read. He does high comedy as expertly as heart-breaking tragedy. He occasionally throws out a sentence that’s so perfectly on point, it’s not hard to see why his book-signing events draw such huge crowds:

Hespe’s mouth went firm. She didn’t scowl exactly, but it looked like she was getting all the pieces of a scowl together in one place, just in case she needed them in a hurry.

If the plotting is sometimes a bit transparent, with the timing and sequence of some events being so convenient that it flirts with improbability, it’s all easy to forgive because — and this is really all that matters, in the end — The Wise Man’s Fear is more sheer fun to read than most fantasy novels I’ve read since — well, since The Name of the Wind, come to think of it. Plus, we finally get to read the bit about Felurian…

If you’re looking for solid, character-driven, consistently entertaining but occasionally quite dark fantasy that has more heart than several other series combined, you couldn’t do much better than Patrick Rothfuss’ KINGKILLER CHRONICLE. And now the long wait begins for book 3…

~Stefan Raets

The Wise Man's Fear Patrick Rothfuss book reviewCLASSIFICATION: There are different types of epic fantasy. There is the kind written by George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan and Steven Erikson, which feature huge casts of characters, multiple storylines and subplots, epic battles, and world-altering events. Then there is the kind that can be found in the Soldier Son trilogy by Robin Hobb, Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series and The Imager Portfolio by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. This kind of epic fantasy is character-driven, intimate, introspective. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss is of the latter variety with a little Harry Potter charm thrown into the mix. Regarding The Wise Man’s Fear specifically, there is a surprisingly gratuitous amount of sex in the book — tastefully done though I might add — the occasional curse word, and a few moments of dark violence, but for the most part the novel maintains a PG-13 rating.

FORMAT/INFO: The Wise Man’s Fear is 1008 pages long divided over a Prologue, 147 titled chapters, and an Epilogue. Like The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear is a framed story with the framing parts set during the novel’s present day and narrated in the third-person. The story that is framed, which comprises the majority of the novel, is narrated in the first-person via Kvothe. The Wise Man’s Fear is the second volume — or Day Two — in The Kingkiller Chronicle after The Name of the Wind. While The Wise Man’s Fear is a middle volume in a trilogy, the book is structured so it has its own beginning, middle and end. The Kingkiller Chronicle is set to conclude with the tentatively titled, The Doors of Stone.

March 1, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of The Wise Man’s Fear via DAW. The UK version will be published on the same day via Gollancz.

ANALYSIS: To say that The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is one of the most anticipated novels of the year is a bit of an understatement. Not only is The Wise Man’s Fear the sequel to The Name of the Wind, arguably the most hyped and successful fantasy debut ever, but the unexpectedly long wait between books has increased expectations even further. As readers may or may not remember, when The Name of the Wind was released in 2007, we were led to believe that the already written sequel would be published the following year. Instead, a one-year wait turned into four years. The reasons for the delay have been well-documented, but it basically came down to what was more important: rushing out a product as soon as possible or taking the necessary time to produce the best product possible? Personally, I believe quality is always more important, and after finishing The Wise Man’s Fear, I can confidently say that the decision to delay the book’s release was the correct one.

At the end of the day, despite all of its praise and recognition, The Name of the Wind was far from perfect. The book, after all, was still a debut effort. Still rough around the edges with uneven pacing, one-dimensional supporting characters, and shallow world-building some of the novel’s more notable flaws. So when the two books are compared against each other, it’s easy to see how much Patrick Rothfuss has grown as a writer and how much better The Wise Man’s Fear is than The Name of the Wind. The writing, for instance, is much more polished. The prose is more refined, the pacing is tighter with fewer lulls, and the overall flow of the narrative is smoother, which is especially impressive considering how much bigger the novel is than its predecessor.

Supporting characters remain largely one-dimensional, but this time around Patrick Rothfuss does a better job of injecting his characters, both old and new — Denna, Wilem, Sim, Auri, Master Elodin, Puppet, Maer Alveron, Bredon, Tempi, Felurian, Vashet — with color and personality. This is aided by much improved dialogue, which helps to mask the characters’ lack of depth with entertaining conversation. In fact, dialogue is one of the novel’s greatest strengths, with Kvothe and Denna’s playful banter and Kvothe’s interactions with Auri, Puppet and the Adem some of my favorite moments in The Wise Man’s Fear. On the flipside, the lack of villains in the book, or more specifically a tangible antagonist, is a bit disappointing.

As far as the shallow world-building, little has changed. The Chandrian and the Amyr for example, remain a mystery, although there is a reasonable explanation for that lack of information. The same can’t be said for why the rest of ‘The Four Corners of Civilization’ is largely ignored, but at least Patrick Rothfuss branches out in The Wise Man’s Fear to give readers a taste of the world’s different cultures and races including the Fae; the Kingdom of Vintas with their superstitions, prejudices, and courtly customs and politics; and the Adem with their unique method of communication which includes hand signals, their way of life which follows the Lethani, and their Ketan fighting style. If you also factor in the author’s well-developed magic system — sympathy, sygaldry, naming — with all of its various rules and restrictions, then one can see how Patrick Rothfuss at least possesses the capacity for more detailed world-building.

Perhaps the greatest improvement made between The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear is the story. Looking back, not a lot really happens in The Name of the Wind, at least nothing major, while the novel’s climactic moments involving a herbivorous dragon, Kvothe’s rival student Ambrose and a possessed mercenary left a lot to be desired, especially considering the lengthy page count and the hype that came with the book. To be fair, the story in The Wise Man’s Fear suffers from some of the same issues as its predecessor does, like major plotlines failing to progress and the author spending an extravagant amount of time on Kvothe’s day-to-day minutiae — his studies at the University, his money problems, Ambrose, courting Denna, his love life, et cetera — but as a whole, The Wise Man’s Fear is much more rewarding than The Name of the Wind. Part of it is being able to experience the more dramatic events responsible for shaping the various legends tied to Kvothe. Then there’s the ending, which Patrick Rothfuss handles beautifully, slowly winding down the story to a satisfying stopping point, while tantalizing clues and unfinished business serve as reminders that there is third and final volume in THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLE.

Now if there is one part of The Name of the Wind that needed little fixing, it was Kvothe’s first-person narrative. Charming, heartfelt, and highly accessible, Kvothe’s narrative was a major strength of the first novel, even if the protagonist came off arrogant at times and accomplished things no one his age should be able to accomplish. In The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe is still arrogant at times and still accomplishes things that defy his age, but at the same time, the book does a better job of showing off Kovthe’s fallible side including his vanity and his dark temper and his powerful thirst for knowledge. What I personally love about the narrative is the wide range of topics Kvothe covers in intimate detail over the course of his story. In The Wise Man’s Fear, these topics include Kvothe’s music, performing sympathy and sygaldry, working in the Fishery, navigating the Archives, learning how to scout, learning the Ademic language, studying the Ketan, courting Denna and sharing stories like the one about the boy with the gold screw in his belly button, the Faeriniel crossroads, the tale about Aethe and the beginning of the Adem, Felurian, and my personal favorite, the boy who loved the moon. Throughout all of this, Kvothe’s narrative is complemented with witty humor, interesting observations, and thoughtful insights:

  • We love what we love. Reason does not enter into it. In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because. That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.
  • Secrets of the heart are different. They are private and painful, and we want nothing more than to hide them from the world. They do not swell and press against the mouth. They live in the heart, and the longer they are kept, the heavier they become.
  • It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers.

While Kvothe’s narrative may have been a strength in The Name of the Wind, the same can’t be said for the framing parts — the Prologue, Epilogue and various Interludes — which in comparison were a bit dull and brought little to the table. Not much has changed for them in The Wise Man’s Fear. The framing parts are still somewhat tedious, while providing few answers about why Kvothe became an innkeeper, his relationship with Bast, and the current state of their world. That said, the mystery regarding Kvothe’s chest is intriguing, while the framing parts do work well as a contrast to how far Kvothe has fallen from the hero he once was and how much stories can differ from the truth.

CONCLUSION: The release of The Wise Man’s Fear may have taken longer than expected, but it was definitely worth the wait. Compared to The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear is everything that made the first novel such a huge success except that it is bigger, better and more rewarding. Granted, many of the same flaws that ailed The Name of the Wind can still be found in The Wise Man’s Fear, but considering the vast improvements made to the sequel, these issues are only minor annoyances. To put it simply, anyone who enjoyed The Name of the Wind will be blown away by The Wise Man’s Fear. The book is that much better. Furthermore, there is no doubt in my mind that The Wise Man’s Fear will end up being one of the best fantasy novels of the year. As far as the third and final volume in THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLE, Patrick Rothfuss can take as much time as he needs to finish the book. If The Wise Man’s Fear is any indication, it will be worth waiting for…

~Robert Thompson

The Wise Man's Fear Patrick Rothfuss book reviewI finally got to read Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear. Life and my TBR pile would not allow for me to tackle this book as quickly as I would have liked. Luckily, Brilliance Audio sent me the audiobook and I was able to squeeze it in on my commute to work. Like many fans ofThe Name of the Wind, I was anxious to see how the story of Kvothe would progress. I was also anxious to see if Mr. Rothfuss could “call down lightning” twice. To say the least, I was not disappointed.

Fanlit reviewers Robert and Stefan both echo the majority of my thoughts on The Wise Man’s Fear. They’ve done an excellent job in analyzing the novel, so I will not take my review to that level. Instead I’ll keep it simple and give a few of my likes and dislikes about the novel.

The story ambles and sidesteps its way through the telling of Kvothe’s thoughts and adventures, and it’s wonderful. The book packs in 1000 pages and it still felt too short. What I liked most about the story is what everyone likes: Kvothe. He’s such an amazing character and its impossible not to find him engaging. In The Name of the Wind the side characters were a little flat. I felt Mr. Rothfuss made big strides in preventing that from happening in The Wise Man’s Fear. The cast of characters seemed a little more colorful and a bit more detailed than in the first book. The races of this world get some much-needed page time too. Personally, the people of Ademre were my favorite. I could easily see spin-off stories just based on the Adem.

The things I didn’t like were few, but the thing I disliked the most is actually hard to explain. I had to research and call upon my fellow reviewers to help find the right term to describe it. It’s a type of plot device, and I learned that the closest I could get to a term is Diabolus ex vacuus or maybe Diabolus ex machina. It is a fairly common trope; I just didn’t expect to see it so often. There are a couple of these devices in the story, and even the Chandrian themselves fall into this category. I do not want to reveal more than that, due to spoilers. Rothfuss’ writing is often superior to some of the story elements he uses, perhaps because the basic story was written a long time ago. Not really a huge deal overall, I just found it a bit awkward at times.

I listened to The Wise Man’s Fear on Brilliance Audio CD. It clocks in at a massive 43 hours stretched over 36 discs. It is huge. The story is narrated by Nick Podehl, and he does a wonderful job. He can be a bit dry at times, but overall his tone is perfect for the somewhat aloof Kvothe. If you usually hesitate to purchase audiobooks due to the price, I strongly suggest you pick this up because 43 hours of an amazing story is well worth the $30 you’ll spend on it. Let me repeat that in case you didn’t catch it…. 43… FORTY THREE… hours… long. That’s over an entire work week or two entire days of fantasy storytelling.

~Justin Blazier

The Wise Man's Fear Patrick Rothfuss book reviewPatrick 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

The Wise Man's Fear Patrick Rothfuss book reviewAs 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

The Wise Man's Fear Patrick Rothfuss book reviewAt one point in The Wise Man’s Fear, the second novel in Patrick Rothfuss’s THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLE, Kvothe is advised to play tok (a board game) in order to produce a beautiful and interesting game rather than just playing to win. Rothfuss appears to have adopted a similar maxim when it comes to writing. The Wise Man’s Fear invites readers to sink into the text in order to revel in the aesthetic moment rather than marching toward resolution. It’s a bold approach, and it allows Rothfuss to attempt something richer than “just” a page-turner with swords and magic.

Adolescent Kvothe is still at the university when The Wise Man’s Fear begins, a setting that Rothfuss confidently manipulates to highlight Kvothe’s strengths. Put briefly, Kvothe is a precocious underdog. Though these strengths were already showcased in The Name of the Wind, Rothfuss invests as much as he can into every moment of the story. So Kvothe’s rivalry with filthy rich Ambrose Jackis, his attempts to keep one step ahead of his creditors, and his skill at playing the lute are all given (at least) one more moment in the spotlight. At times, this rehash is comfortably familiar, and I particularly enjoyed spending time with Wilem, Kvothe’s dryly humorous friend, and Devi, who lends Kvothe money at exorbitant rates of interest and who remains an engaging rival for Rothfuss’s hero. However, after fifty chapters of reveling in the past, I was relieved to learn that The Wise Man’s Fear is actually about Kvothe’s semester abroad.

When Kvothe leaves the university, his story takes on an episodic structure that recalls Homer’s Odyssey. Though he does not outwit a Cyclops during his adventures, Kvothe does meet a fairy version of Calypso. Fantasy readers will likely find the premise of every episode promising — Kvothe studies swordplay with the Aiel, Kvothe joins a band of mercenaries, Kvothe saves damsels in distress. Each episode offers at least one nice touch, such as the use of rings to signify status in the Maer’s court. However, they offer none of the richness that Rothfuss seems to be aiming for. Their supporting casts, for example, are flat and forgettable compared to Master Elodin and the other members of the university. Kvothe has little stake in these episodes, which decreases the urgency of the narrative. Ultimately, it becomes clear that the anticipation that should accompany each premise will be followed by disappointment, and this pattern is repeated over nearly a thousand pages.

At first, I was prepared to accept Elodin’s assessment of Kvothe: he has “the feck of twenty men.” After all, Kvothe was only annoyingly smug in The Name of the Wind, but he is unbearable in The Wise Man’s Fear. Kvothe is proud of his story to the point of arrogance, and it makes him a lazy storyteller. In fairness to Kvothe, he is presumably winging it as he goes. However, I was surprised that Rothfuss was willing to give Kvothe so much control over his narrative. Bast and Chronicler both seem like useful devices for controlling Kvothe, but they never do. Instead, Kvothe is given free rein in The Wise Man’s Fear, and his story suffers for it.

Rothfuss’s refusal to rush the action of his narrative is arguably what distinguishes THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLE from many other fantasy series. He is able to characterize his hero through elaborate pranks, and he disguises pages and pages of exposition as amiable banter. However, some readers may find themselves realizing that dozens of pages of amiable banter are really just thinly disguised exposition. Ultimately, The Wise Man’s Fear aims high, but it remains an indulgent novel that seems to have been caringly, but not carefully, written.

I listened to Brilliance Audio’s production of The Wise Man’s Fear. It was skillfully read by Nick Podehl, whose voice seemed a perfect fit for Kvothe’s university days. Having said that, I found that he couldn’t carry the weight of Kvothe’s exile. Podehl fearlessly uses a wide range of accents from our world, a strategy that may take some readers out of the novel. Having grown up in a rural area, I was annoyed by the folksy accent Podehl adopted for the townsfolk in the frame story. Readers from the United Kingdom or Eastern Europe (regions that Podehl often draws upon for his accents) may have a similar experience. It should be noted that Brilliance Audio’s production of The Wise Man’s Fear is over forty hours long, and I often found myself wishing I could “skip ahead” by skimming over a written text.

~Ryan Skardal

The Wise Man's Fear Patrick Rothfuss book reviewAfter reading a couple of hundred pages and skimming much of the rest of this 1000 page tome, I’m going to send it back to the library unfinished. Here’s the deal: I enjoyed the first book, The Name of the Wind, quite a bit, but there were a few things that were starting to bug me by the end, and I was dismayed to discover that everything that bugged me in the first book is still being rehashed in the second.

The book seems to be recycling the same storylines as the first book in the series: Kvothe’s money problems, issues with tuition, fights with Ambrose and Master Hemme, fruitless chasing after Denna, seeking the Chandrian. Been there, done that. Those weren’t my favorite parts of the first book, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time reading about these same things happening over and over again with no resolution and not a whole lot of forward movement. Especially when it’s 1000 pages long.

Kvothe, the main character, is a total Gary Stu — brilliant, extraordinary musician, better than all his fellow students at magic, attractive, etc. — but he has one major failing: he’s hot-headed and doesn’t know when to keep his smartass mouth shut, defer to teachers, or let go of an issue and play nicely with others. This irritates me So.Much. He carries on this insanely self-destructive feud with another student that practically ruins his life and almost results in him dying several times, and he just can’t back off and let it die. It makes me want to slap him upside the head.

I might come back and try this again, if I hear that the third book is amazingly wonderful. Maybe.

~Tadiana Jones

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STEFAN RAETS (on FanLit's staff August 2009 — February 2012) reads and reviews science fiction and fantasy whenever he isn’t distracted by less important things like eating and sleeping. In February 2012, he retired from FanLit to focus on his blog Far Beyond Reality.

View all posts by Stefan Raets (RETIRED)


  1. Since you brought up a quote from The Name of the Wind that you’ve applied to The Wise Man’s Fear, I’ll mention another one I noticed during my re-read this week:

    “After a year waiting begins to sour.”


  2. Nice review.

    Like everyone else, I really loved The Name of the Wind, but my problem is; I just usually seem to have an experation date for my interest when it takes longer then a couple years for the next book.

    I had planned to re-read Name of the Wind, in time for the release of this one, but I just couldn’t seem to bring back the excitment enough to do it.
    I have to say though Robert’s and your review does have me wishing I’d have gotten to it. Hopefully I’ll have this worked into my reading schedule within the next 3 or 4 months.

  3. Greg, Aidan Moher told me that you don’t need to re-read. See his post here.

    Robert and Stefan, what do you think?

    • It’s been four long years of waiting, and all I see on his website, is more and more tours. I think he’s totally milking every last penny he can get!!! C’mon, I’ll buy the next book, but that’s it, even george martin, orson scott card, terry goodkind, the greats!!! Never kept us waiting that long. It sucks, and I’ve lost all respect for Pat, and wouldn’t accept anything signed from him. Keep the fans happy!!! That last little teaser book was a joke and to me, totally boring. I’m not a hater, I want another book, or just retire and reap your monthly checks Pat!!!

  4. Is that the same link as what Stefan has in the review? I hadn’t looked it yet but I was going to. Not sure how I’d feel about it over a re-read though.

  5. I don’t think you need to re-read. I think it can be helpful. It’s also enjoyable – I caught some things on my second reading that I’d missed the first time, just because I was so caught up in the story. I’m glad I re-read the first book, but I don’t think it’s strictly necessary. Just fun :)

  6. Yeah. that’s kinda what I was thinking too, that it would just be more fun. Well, I’ve got a few books to read before I decide;
    To re-read or not to re-read. That is the question. :)

  7. 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!


  8. 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).

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.”

  12. The highly contradictory reviews of this book here at Fantasy Literature make me all the more interested in reading The Wise Man’s Fear. I want to reread the first book first, though, and when I’ll have time to sit down and read two such long books back to back is a mystery.

    Nice review, Ryan — thanks.

  13. Ryan — I think your analysis of weaknesses of this book is new, and very thoughtful. Thank you.

  14. Ryan, I listened to the audio, too, but I doubled the narration speed, or else I might not have made it through. (Changing the speed on a good player does not alter the sound of the voice). The book was way too long.

  15. Ryan, absolutely love it when I read critical reviews backed up with solid rationale. The self-indulgence I see in Rothfuss’s interviews (check youtube) seems to translate to his fiction, as well. Keep those well-thought reviews rolling!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.


  1. Suvudu Likes: 4/30/11 « Del Rey and Spectra - Science Fiction and Fantasy Books, Graphic Novels, and More - [...] Review: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, read by Fantasy Literature [...]

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