The Wise Man’s Fear: Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2
I bought Wise Man’s Fear about a year ago and it has been sitting on my bookshelf taunting me by its sheer size. The Stand looked small by comparison. I leafed it. 980 odd pages. The Stand was bigger. I read The Stand, I would read this book too. But first, I needed to plow through “The Name of the Wind” (500-600 more pages). I started in November and now it’s December and I’ve finished “The Name of the Wind” and I’ve finished “The Wise Man’s Fear” and I’m at odds as to what I do with my life next. I didn’t plow through both of them. I took my time, I caressed the pages, I drank in the story and fell in love with the characters.
I loved The Name of the Wind. In fact, I’ve been able to make myself a hero on oodles of occasions by recommending Name of the Wind to people “looking for a good book.”
“My name is Kvothe. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me.”
So begins the tale of a hero told from his own point of view – a story unequaled in fantasy literature.
Now in The Wise Man’s Fear, Day Two of The Kingkiller Chronicle, an escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe uncovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travelers on the King’s Road.
All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, is forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived… until Kvothe.
“If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more abour yourself than a hundred years of quite introspection.”
In The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.
I was never bored while reading it – the characters were sharp, Rothfuss is a ridiculously skilled writer, and there’s plenty in this book to keep you engrossed and entertained. I loved the discussions with Elodin about the nature of words and the importance of names. I loved the funny bits at University – even how the masters treated their pupils.
“You can divide infinity an infinite number of times, and the resulting pieces will still be infinitely large,” Uresh said in his odd Lenatti accent. “But if you divide a non-infinite number an infinite number of times the resulting pieces are non-infinitely small. Since they are non-infinitely small, but there are an infinite number of them, if you add them back together, their sum is infinite. This implies any number is, in fact, infinite.”
“Wow,” Elodin said after a long pause. He leveled a serious finger at the Lenatti man. “Uresh. Your next assignment is to have sex. If you do not know how to do this, see me after class.”
“Re’lar Kvothe,” he said seriously. “I am trying to wake your sleeping mind to the subtle language the world is whispering. I am trying to seduce you into understanding. I am trying to teach you.” He leaned forward until his face was almost touching mine. “Quit grabbing at my tits.”
I loved the travels and adventures in the lands of the Moer and how he saved him from poison, I fell in love with the rag-tag band of mercenaries he assembled and saw how his training with Tempi was similar to martial arts – training both the mind and the body into a flow.
I didn’t care that much about the tale of the Felurian and I have to warn you – there is a lot of sex in those 20 pages or so. From virginal blusher, Kvothe becomes a skilled lover and only through charm and wits he manages to escape the man-eater Felurian. With a gift to match too – a cloak woven out of shadows and moonlight. This is the stuff of fairy-tales.
My biggest problem is that, with some minor, token exceptions, I know exactly as much about the evil Chandrians as I did before I read this book. Same goes for the Amyr and the Valeritas door in the archives. I actually feel like I know less about the framing story with the Scrael and Kvothe’s slow-mo death wish. All the new things Rothfuss reveals in Book II are things that are kind of cool and groovy in their own right, but they seem fairly inconsequential to the overall story. I like how he likes to keep his reader guessing though!
“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.”
It’s like I’ve watched an entire season of a Kvothe TV series that is saving all the good bits for sweeps, which presumably doesn’t arrive until Book III. And, to dangerously and alchemically mix metaphors, Book III is going to have to do a whole lot of heavy lifting to tie up all the loose ends. I would not be surprised if the Kingkiller Chronicles isn’t really a trilogy as Rothfuss initially intended.
Lots more sex in this book than the recommended daily allowance. Kvothe also kills a lot of people in very gruesome and bloody ways, and, disconcertingly, he seems to enjoy it altogether more than he ought. Even though it’s not on the path of Lethani as Tempi tells him afterwards. Fights should not be enjoyed, fights and deaths are serious matters and should be treated seriously.
Kvothe a very interesting, compelling character, but I don’t like him nearly as much as I did before this book started. But what do I know? He’s on a drug called Kvothe, and if you took it, your children would weep over your exploded body. Oh, that leads me to a minor spoiler: Kvothe also, apparently, nibbles on some obscure birth control root on a regular basis to keep his Kvothified spermies in check. This was the only moment in the book that I thought was unqualifiedly ridiculous. Kvothe loses everything he owns multiple times in this book, but somehow, someway, he holds onto his arboreal condoms?
Still love Rothfuss; still love The Name of the Wind, and will buy and devour the third book on the first day of its release.
There is intrigue, mystery, complex interpersonal drama, great writing, and great pacing. Denna the lovely is only present through part of the first half and we know that her search for the mystery patron has left her bruised and beaten but not defeated. When she rescues a young girl from a John who left her unconscious, she tells a story about horses. About horses that work a lot, about pure breeds that do not and get the best food and the best care. She tells the girl that they are horses and it’s in their power to choose what type of horse they want to be and how much they are willing to sacrifice for this.
Kvothe is her only refuge – a man who does not ask anything of her, who does not pressure her into being something for him.
“I thought of all the others who had tried to tie her to the ground and failed. So I resisted showing her the songs and poems I had written, knowing that too much truth can ruin a thing. And if that meant she wasn’t entirely mine, what of it? I would be the one she could always return to without fear of recrimination or question. So I did not try to win her and contented myself with playing a beautiful game. But there was always a part of me that hoped for more, and so there was a part of me that was always a fool.”
But even this relationship is strained when Kvothe hears her first song – a tale he knew well – about the Nameless murderer who in her song is a hero. He tries to correct her but she won’t hear none of it and some harsh words are spoken.
Kvothe and Denna are frustrating, and not in a Pride and Prejudice way, but in a “Yeah, yeah, dude…We get the picture…She’s hard to get! Can we PLEASE
move ON!!!” way.
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.
Also, Denna is the most uninteresting character in the series. Her only good qualities seem to be that she is pretty and witty. Given the many interesting women with whom Kvothe finds himself, Denna is the least exciting.
My favorite of Kvothe’s relationships is the one with loan-shark Devi, a fascinating character who practically leaps off of the page. When you read her scenes, it almost feels like Rothfuss realizes how much more interesting she is than Denna, and so stubbornly stops himself from letting her truly shine in the way she should.C’mon Patrick! Free Devi!
…Or else make Denna more interesting. We should be given a reason to fall in love her along with our protagonist. SO far, you have given us no reason for Kvothe’s bizarre obsession with her, and given us every reason to fall in love with Devi. Can’t blame us for that.The book is worth reading if you can tell yourself to go ahead and skip ahead a few pages when it feels like it is meandering.
I will read the third installment when it comes out. Hopefully Rothfuss will keep it moving forward and spare us the adolescent fantasies the next time around.
There are a lot of stories and folklore tales and you can see how superstitious people used to be in the past, frowning at any display that looked like magic but was in fact science and alchemy.
“A story is like a nut,” Vashet said. “A fool will swallow it whole and choke. A fool will throw it away, thinking it of little worth.” She smiled. “But a wise woman finds a way to crack the shell and eat the meat inside.”
I like how a hard core of truth can be found in any fairy tale and how the author took time to develop languages and traits for each of the nations on the map.
I like the University and the enmity between Kvothe and Ambrose, between poor and hard-working and rich and entitled. It reminded me a bit of Harry Potter and Hogwards, especially when potions came into play.
“You know what’s strange?” I said to him through the door. “I tried to think of something funny I could do while you were gone, but I couldn’t.” I looked around at the room. “I think that means humor is rooted in social transgression. I can’t transgress because I can’t figure out what would be socially unacceptable. Everything seems the same to me.”
I liked Tempi! From simple Adem mercenary in red clothing, he transformed himself into a warrior, learned Aturan and taught Kvothe the path for making intrinsic good choices. He got into trouble for that with his people as the Lethani (art of fighting) is a well kept secret and only certain people are allowed to teach.
“I do not understand this man,” [Tempi] said. “Is he attempting to buy sex with me? Or does he wish to fight?”
The lessons that he teaches are good: don’t speak too loud or too much. Don’t yap like a dog. Don’t perform unnecessary movements. Keep all expression out of the face and into the hands. Do not use a knife into a fist fight. Keep silent.
“There are some silences that even words cannot drive away.”
What I didn’t like
Denna. Kvothe is pining for her waaay too much. There are other worlds than these and there are other women than Denna.