The Wise Man’s Fear

March 16th, 2011
This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series The Kingkiller Chronicles
  • The Wise Man’s Fear

There are two kinds of books that tend to clog up my reviewing process, here. There’s the books that I didn’t really enjoy reading and won’t really enjoy reviewing, and then there’s the amazing books that I loved reading and feel like I can’t begin to do justice to in a review. Happily, The Wise Man’s Fear falls into the latter category.

When I went to Montréal for the 2009 Worldcon, I took my camera, a silver suit and the debut novel that everyone had been talking about for a while: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. So, there I am, with a room in the “party hotel,” surrounded by some of the most fascinating people around, right? But I spent at least as much time in my room with that book as I did at the parties, because it’s just that good. Rothfuss tells us a story of a man telling his story (which not infrequently includes stories of other men telling stories), and yet the story manages remarkable heights of tension despite being a recollection. This is in part due to the fact that the framing story itself has a feeling of tension to it; a feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop and the mystery to be unraveled either just in time or even not quite in time for the story to reach its completion. 

Our protagonist, Kvothe, is a story teller born and raised, and despite all the other skills he learns in these books (and the list is extensive: magic, forestry, medicine, thievery, and martial arts are just some of them) when it comes down to defining who he is, it will always be his music and the stories of his people that define him.

So what do we know of his story, since it is a retrospective after all? We know it has great deeds, beautiful women, and magic galore. We know above all this, though, that it cannot end well. It ends with the death of a king and the installment of another king who certainly seems terrible from what we can see in the “current” interludes we are witness to. It ends with tragedy and circumstances that lead our “hero” (if hero he is, I am withholding judgment just yet) to be in hiding and presumed dead.

The Name of the Wind is the story of Kvothe as a child, and in The Wise Man’s Fear we see Kvothe truly becoming a man, and a man whose reputation is already becoming a thing of legends. Much of the groundwork is laid for what we know he must yet become in this book, and it is equally as gripping and satisfying as that first book was. Let me emphasize that: this is the second book of an epic trilogy, and it’s just as good as the first book. It may even be better, depending on your preferences. That is just unspeakably rare, and a magnificent accomplishment. In case there was any doubt, these books receive my full recommendation. If you enjoy epic fantasy, this is one of the best works to come along in years, and you should definitely check it out.

One Response to “The Wise Man’s Fear”

  1. Kit OConnell says:

    Thanks, these books look good! I will have to read ’em.

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