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The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

July 5, 2011

Sequel to the extraordinary Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear is the second instalment of this superb fantasy trilogy from Patrick Rothfuss. Picking up the tale of Kvothe Kingkiller once again, we follow him into exile, into political intrigue, courtship, adventure, love and magic …and further along the path that has turned Kvothe, the mightiest magician of his age, a legend in his own time, into Kote, the unassuming pub landlord. 




If you read my previous review of The Name of the Wind, the first in the Kingkiller trilogy, then you will know how much I adored it. Rothfuss has created a beautiful fantastical world that can only be compared to the likes of Tolkien, and I loved every word of it. I was hesitant to read the second instalment, The Wise Man’s Fear, at first because it is currently only out in hardback and it is one hell of a tome! So in the end I checked it out of my local library and have been referring to it as ‘the beast’ ever since!

It was always going to be a struggle to create something as superb as The Name of the Wind, and with a long four year wait for his many fans, Rothfuss certainly took his time in making it something he could be proud of. However, I feel sad to have to say that whilst this book had some fantastic moments, it had a lot of dull ones as well that failed to grab me in the way that The Name of the Wind did.

The main thing that I think let this book down is the way that the premise of the story isn’t really much different to that of the first. We see Kvothe at the university, meeting with the lecturers as they decide how much of a tuition fee has to pay, and then him worrying about how exactly he will be able to afford it. Then eventually we see him taking off from the university and going into the outside world for a while, creating more legendary stories that will be told for the next hundred years, and then once again returning to the university. And of course, whilst this is going on we also witness yet again his struggling relationship with Denna. For me personally, I find the parts where Kvothe is learning at the university the most dull – it’s just too repetitive and mundane and it feels like I’m reading Harry Potter all over again. It’s when he’s out in the world, making something of himself that really draws me in. At least, this is usually the case.

First of all, I have to say that Rothfuss has created some brilliant characters once again. Most particularly Felurian, one of the mythical fae, who has lured him into her realm where they make love for what feels like years to Kvothe. There are many beautiful descriptions in these scenes and Felurian is just the kind of character you not only expect, but the kind of character you want in a good epic fantasy novel. She reminded me very much of the elves in Lord of the Rings. She can have any man she wants and make him hers for however long she desires, and she certainly takes a shine to young Kvothe. At this point, Kvothe is an inexperienced lover, but under Felurian’s spell he learns everything he needs to know to be the best lover a woman will ever know. Whilst I loved the escapism from the main storyline that Felurian provides, and the simple magic of it all, it does ultimately take something away from his and Denna’s relationship. I know it’s a huge cliché, but I wanted Denna to be his first. I love how the chemistry between them is so powerful and yet somehow they never quite give into their desires with one another.

The other favourite character of mine has to be the Cthaeh, a rather malevolent oracle who will tell anyone who meets him the darkest paths their lives will take. The Cthaeh is highly feared among the Fae for bringing about disaster, and Cthaeh has much to say to Kvothe that will certainly play out within book three I think.

There are many, many new characters in this novel and too many to go into much detail right now. But ultimately we see Kvothe living with the Maer, a powerful noble who requires Kvothe’s help in seducing the woman he loves. The Maer then asks Kvothe to take a journey into the Eld to destroy some bandits who are waylaying the Maer’s tax collectors. Here we meet a host of new characters who become Kvothe’s companions throughout this task. Unfortunately, I found this section very dull and a struggle to get through. After meeting Felurian and the Cthaeh, Kvothe then embarks on a journey to Ademre with Tempi, one of his companions from the bandit hunt. Here he learns the ways of the Adem and how to fight likes a true Adem mercenary. Again, I found this section to be rather slow.

There is so much that happens in this book that I can’t possibly detail it all, hopefully I have highlighted my favourite parts and those that I didn’t like so much. I still admire Rothfuss greatly for his talent and dedication, and despite the negatives that I’ve listed here, I did ultimately enjoy this book, just not as much as The Name of the Wind. This seems to be most people’s opinion judging from other reviews on the internet. I still love Kvothe as a character but we are starting to see parts of his personality that are becoming a little too overconfident and a little too ‘perfect’. It is clear that Kvothe certainly has a rather dark past and I’m interested to see where Rothfuss will take his story next. I will definitely be reading the third instalment in the Kingkiller Chronicles, and if you haven’t read any of them yet I very much urge you to do so!

The Wise Man’s Fear is out now in hardback, published by Gollancz.

To read my review of The Name of the Wind please click here.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2011 19:40

    I agree that this is a massive book, albeit not the biggest I’ve purchased in the past year (Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings” beats it out by 8 pages) it did take me the better part of a week to read it. I agree with your overall statement that the beginning of the book is far to much of a repeat of book one, and it was a lot more interesting once he got away from the university. Sadly, since he ends the book back at the university, I think the third book will likely start out the same way. I also got a little frustrated with the book because as much as I like Kvothe’s past, I want to know more about why he is hiding as an innkeeper, that to me is the most interesting part of the book and he almost never talks about it. Nice post.

    • July 5, 2011 21:50

      Hi Adam! Thanks for your comment. It’s good to see I’m not alone in my thoughts here! I haven’t read anything by Sanderson before but have him on my wish list… would you recommend him? I can definitely see book three starting in very much the same way as well. I didn’t expect to find out about why he is an inkeeper until we reach the end of his story, which I’m guessing will come in book three. Hopefully all will finally be revealed…but it could be a few more years of waiting yet! But you’re right I think the present day of the book is the really interesting bit. I loved it in The Name of the Wind when those big spider-like creatures were destroying everything in their path. I want to know what’s happening in Kvothe’s present day much more than his past most of the time.


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