The Wise Man’s Fear has the same problems as The Name of the Wind, but more pronounced, the same strengths, but more subdued.
The plot is more a series of events than it is a coherent story. Things just happen in the novel, most of them distractions from the main goal of the series. For the most part, that’s just fine, since the events are entertaining as they transpire and continue to develop the main characters. There are, however, a few exceptions, which I’ll mention in detail in the spoiler section.
The characters continue to be interesting, deep, and dynamic. The interactions between them feel genuine (even at times when you wish something a bit less than realistic would happen just to provide some resolution). Kvothe continues to be a wonderful character, clever and kind yet rash and ruthless. He learns and changes, but remains the same hardheaded character that I love. He is the joy of the novel.
I didn’t find the prose quite as beautiful in this novel as the previous. It was still very good, but much of it lacked the level of excellence that I’ve come to expect from Rothfuss. In The Name of the Wind, I often read a section two or three times, marveling at a certain turn of phrase. I had to share certain lines that I found beyond exquisite. I never really had that urge in the sequel.
Since I mentioned it in the last review, I thought I’d mention it in this one. In The Name of the Wind, Kvothe had a habit of saving women who despite their strengths had the habit of needing to be saved. In The Wise Man’s Fear, this problem is largely fixed. Most of the women in the novel need no saving. If anything, they save Kvothe. There are a couple of exceptions to this, but the situation feels much more balanced.
The biggest problem with this novel is the same problem as the previous book in the series. About a third of the way in, the book changes what it’s about. And then halfway through, it changes again. Then it changes again, and again, and again, each time waiting long enough to let you get settled, comfortable, interested in the new plot. Then it rips you out and leaves you scrabbling all over again. This is much more pronounced and happens many more times than in The Name of the Wind, and I feel that this is the reason that I find The Wise Man’s Fear far inferior to last book.
And by far inferior, I mean The Wise Man’s Fear is better than half the books I’ve read. Certainly worth a read for any fans of Fantasy.
I miss Auri. We’ll see how I like The Slow Regard of Silent Things shortly. After the great tomes that were the Kingkiller Chronicles, the novella will be a snack.
Kvothe’s time in the Fae realm is in my opinion the worst part of the series up to this point. It feels dragged out to a torturous extent. It’s so detached from the main plot that I would have advised him to cut most of it if I were his editor. While the Felurian and the Cthaeh are both interesting enough, the Felurian has far too much time devoted to her, and the Cthaeh is over far too quickly. I also find this section incredibly old-fashioned, nearly archaic. The wonder of this realm simply didn’t work for me, as it often doesn’t in the classic Fantasy works. But then, I rarely have the sense of wonder inspired by truly fantastical environments or characters; what works for me is when very human, relatable characters commit awe-inspiring acts.
The Adem were very similar to the Aiel from The Wheel of Time. I couldn’t tell whether there was direct inspiration, or if Rothfuss and Jordan reached the same destination by different paths, and I find them just different enough, and interesting enough, that I enjoyed the section anyway. Perhaps this has something to do with the handful of characters in that section that I was immediately drawn to, unlike the mercenaries before them, which I never connected with.
I didn’t find the climax worked well. Or, rather, I didn’t feel like there was a climax. I felt like there were several possible climaxes, but none of them felt definitive. Taking out the bandits, learning that Spinning Leaf was his key to Naming, being accepted by the Adem, saving the girls from the fake Ruh, or admitting that he is a Ruh himself to the Maer and his new wife. None of them had enough of a kick to serve as a climax.
On that note, I wonder how long it will take him to realize that he is a Lackless himself. It’s only been obvious to readers since the first hunded pages of The Name of the Wind. Knowing Rothfuss, it’s even odds that it will never be mentioned again, or that it will become vital to the final novel.
Bast hired the men who robbed the inn, and then killed them when they failed to wake Kvothe up. He was counting on the conflict to end with the bandits on the floor, bruised and beaten, but Kvothe ended up there instead. But I have to wonder, did Kvothe let himself get beat up? Did he know that they were Bast’s men? It seems like the way he’d react to such a situation. The second question I wonder is, did Bast really fail? Kvothe begins practicing his forms, for the first time in a long time it seems. If he was indeed beaten honestly, it seems like he’s determined that it not happen again.
My last thought: If Kvothe is waiting to die, why doesn’t he just return to the Felurian? That was the deal, after all.