The Wise Man's Fear

Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind was released with much fanfare in 2007. Indeed, this debut enjoyed both commercial and critical success. The Name of the Wind became the bestselling fantasy debut in hardcover format of all time, beating both Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule and George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. The novel won the Quill Award and cracked the top 10 of the New York Times Bestsellers list in paperback. All in all, it was everything any author could ever hope for.

Based on the fact that the first draft of the entire trilogy had already been written, readers expected The Wise Man's Fear to be released the following year. Based on Rothfuss' answer in his first interview, his growing legions of fans were persuaded that the entire trilogy would be out by 2009:

Well.... I've already written them. So you won't have to wait forever for them to come out. They'll be released on a regular schedule. One per year.

You can also expect the second book to be written with the same degree of care and detail as this first one. You know the sophomore slump? When a writer's second novel is weaker because they're suddenly forced to write under deadline? I don't have to worry about that because my next two novels are already good to go.

Unfortunately, as many authors will tell you, life got in the way, forcing Patrick Rothfuss and his publishers to push back the release date of The Wise Man's Fear time and again. Following several postponements, Daw Books officially announced that the book would be released in early 2011. But as was the case with Martin's A Feast for Crows, the intervening years have raised readers' expectations to an incredibly high level. And the question was: Would The Wise Man's Fear be worth the wait?

So was it, in the end, worth the four years it took to be published? Let me set your mind at ease. For those who enjoyed The Name of the Wind, you can safely go ahead and pre-order The Wise Man's Fear. It's everything its predecessor was, and then some! However, if you weren't thrilled by Rothfuss' debut, then I believe you need not bother with the second volume. Style-wise and plot-wise, regardless of the fact that the storylines are a bit more ambitious, there is likely nothing that can win over readers who were not that impressed with The Name of the Wind. In terms of style and tone, both novels are pretty similar. So I doubt that The Wise Man's Fear can satisfy readers that weren't enchanted by the first one. But for fans of the author, buckle up! It should definitely scratch that itch!

Here's the blurb:

In The Wise Man's Fear, Day Two of The Kingkiller Chronicle, 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, forced to reclaim the honor of his family, 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.

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

The structure of the book is the same as that of The Name of the Wind. The better part of the novel recounts Kvothe's past and is told in the first person. The interludes, on the other hand, occur in "real time" and employ a third person narrative. I recall finding that specific structure a bit odd in Rothfuss' debut, but it works well in The Wise Man's Fear. It feels as though there are more interludes in this one, but I could be mistaken. While it's evident that many of these interludes will pave the way for the second trilogy to come, at times they felt a bit redundant and unnecessary. Especially since many of them break the momentum of the narrative, just as things are getting really interesting. Like unwanted commercial when you're watching a particularly good movie on TV. . .

Before going further, I also wanted to address something that's been appearing on many message boards on the internet. Patrick Rothfuss has often claimed that The Wise Man's Fear would feature more sex and violence than what his fans have been accustomed to in the past, and many readers have been wondering if they would find that offputting. In retrospect, it all depends on what sort of speculative fiction works you usually enjoy. If, à la Brandon Sanderson, you can't abide swearing and the depiction (in any shape of form) of sexuality, then perhaps you might find certain scenes offputting. There is nothing graphic, degrading, or low-brow about those sequences, mind you. Sex is part of life, and thus it is also part of this tale. Regarding the violence, there's very little of it. Nothing to write home about, to tell the truth. All in all, if you are a fan of authors such as George R. R. Martin, R. Scott Bakker, Joe Abercrombie, and Richard Morgan, what sex and violence you'll find within the pages of this book barely warrant a PG-13 label.

It's also been said that a more sexually active Kvothe was sort of a wish fulfillment thing on Rothfuss' part. It's been compared to that of Guy Gavriel Kay with bearded characters. Keeping that in mind as I read along, I would have to agree on this. For a redhead male, Kvothe sure gets an inordinate amount of action in The Wise Man's Fear. And if you had trouble believing that Archie could have both Betty and Veronica, you may raise an eyebrow on more than one occasion in this second volume. Having said that, it's simply something that will make you smirk from time to time, and it doesn't take anything away from the reading experience.

In terms of worldbuilding, the cover blurb hinted at a lot more in The Wise Man's Fear, so my curiosity was piqued. Rothfuss played his cards rather close to his chest in The Name of the Wind, and I was hoping to learn more about the world and its societies in this one. Sadly, yet again, the author offers us a few glimpses of the depth of his creation, yet he appears to be always holding back. Granted, Rothfuss elaborates on a lot more in this novel, which never fails to get the reader to hope for even more. That's good, no question, but Rothfuss rarely follows through with more revelations. To a certain extent, that was at times a disappointment, especially given the length of this book. I would have thought that the tale would have expanded a lot more in scope and vision, yet always you get the feeling that Patrick Rothfuss is holding himself back.

Oddly enough, what is perhaps the book's most impressive aspect could also be its biggest shortcoming. Rothfuss has an amazing eye for details. His fluid prose and evocative narrative make the story come alive, creating an imagery that never fails to dazzle. And yet, it could be that Rothfuss is too in love with his creation and spends an excessive amount of time describing the minutiae of Kvothe's mundane life instead of focusing on the greater scheme of things. As I mentioned, Rothfuss does it exceedingly well, and it makes the story leap off the page. But overdone, it's simply overkill.

Which then leads to pacing issues, precluding the story from progressing in a meaningful way in several portions of the novel. The Wise Man's Fear starts slow. How slow? Slow enough for Patrick Rothfuss to make Tad Williams look like Mike Tyson. And it's mainly due to the fact that the author spends about 400+ pages re-establishing facts from The Name of the Wind. Yes, Kvothe is poor. Yes, he has to play music to make ends meet. Yes, he has problems paying his tuition fees and must borrow money from dubious sources. Yes, he is a smartass. Yes, the Masters hate him. Yes, he's kind of a dumbass with women, especially Denna. Yes, there is trouble brewing between him and Ambrose. Nothing new under the sun. . . We're talking about a character who will kill a king and experience all sort of wonders. He'll go through harrowing ordeals and become one of the most notorious hero/villain the world has ever seen. So do I want to read another chapter featuring Kvothe crafting more sympathy lamps to help pay for tuition? Simply put: no.

Not that there is no meaningfull or important stuff within those chapters. Far from it. But I feel that a 3-page "What has gone before" section would have allowed Rothfuss to concentrate on those specific plotlines and probably save himself about 300+ pages of things we already knew. In addition, rehashing all that material means that there is very little sense of escalation, very little tension. In a sense, The Wise Man's Fear doesn't truly kick in until we are done with the University part. That's when the story kicks into high gear and where Patrick Rothfuss truly shines. Only then do we really realize that The Name of the Wind was no fluke. At that point, the tale that would make Kvothe the man he'll become begins in earnest.

I will not spoil the tale by unveiling anything that the blurb hasn't already revealed. But I really enjoyed how Kvothe's unending search for the Chandrian will bring him to attempt to uncover the secrets of the mysterious order of the Amyr. The time spent both with the Adem mercenaries and in the faerie world were also quite engrossing, if a bit overdone. Kvothe's time with Felurian is probably the most flagrant example. Yet that's just nitpicking, in the end. The last two thirds of The Wise Man's Fear are extremely good. They give us an idea of the breadth of the author's talent and imagination, hinting at a lot more to come.

My main complaint would have to be that for a work of its size, given its length The Wise Man's Fear doesn't move the story significantly forward the way George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords, Steven Erikson's Memories of Ice, and Robert Jordan's The Shadow Rising did with their own series. Could be that volume three will be for all the marbles. We'll have to wait and see. It might be that Rothfuss attention to details and certain would-be extraneous plotlines will pay unanticipated dividends in the final installment of the trilogy. Time will tell. . . But at face value, it looks as though, like its predecessor, The Wise Man's Fear is decidedly overlong.

Once more, this second volume is a character-driven book. As a first person narrative, it can't be anything but that. There is some character growth where Kvothe is concerned, yet less than I expected. Still, I figure that what he goes through in the last portion of the novel will help shape him into the figure he is destined to become. The supporting cast, though bigger than that in The Name of the Wind, is composed of a relatively small number of protagonists. Unfortunately, Denna remains as annoying as ever, and if they keep it up she and Kvothe will soon dethrone Perrin and Faile as the most exasperating couple (or pseudo couple) in fantasy.

In the end, if you liked The Name of the Wind, you will love The Wise Man's Fear. Indeed, although both books suffer from the same shortcomings, Patrick Rothfuss managed to take it up a few notches in this one. Hence, you are less likely to find the pacing issues and my nitpicking offputting in any significant manner. For those who had problems with Rothfuss' debut, however, this one might not be for you.

The Wise Man's Fear is a solid and accessible fantasy work. Whether or not it lives up to the high expectations the many delays engendered remains to be seen. But based on his loyal and enthusiastic fanbase, I'm pretty confident it will! Now let's just hope that it won't take four years for Patrick Rothfuss to complete the final chapter in this quality series.

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

26 commentaires:

drey said...

I loved The Name of the Wind, but did find it a bit slow at times. Hearing that The Wise Man's Fear is similar isn't encouraging... I will pick it up, though, because I like smart-alecky heroes, and Kvothe's definitely one. Denna I'm not too fond of, but hey, if I wanted a say in that, I'd be a writer. Thanks for the awesome review (as usual!).

Anonymous said...

Great review. I'll check it out to take a gander at Rothfuss's 4-year labor and the resultant prose, but admit hesitantion to embark on 400 pages of tNotW all over again. Hopefully we'll learn something about the bad guys, this time around....

Darkstar said...

Thx for letting of know. So I definitely can spare me the effort to buy the book and look into it.
THE NAME OF THE WIND - so written in a wonderful style - bored me nearly to death so I guess I wouldnt be satisfied with the WISE MANS FEAR

Martien said...

So - maybe tNotW was at times a bit slow... (and it was), that doesn't mean it was a badly written story.

Even the best have slow parts, remember Book 4 and 6 of LotR, they are slow too, and my least favourite.

If tWMF is anything like TnotW, it will blow my, and everyone with me, mind.

Martien said...

So - maybe tNotW was at times a bit slow... (and it was), that doesn't mean it was a badly written story.

Even the best have slow parts, remember Book 4 and 6 of LotR, they are slow too, and my least favourite.

If tWMF is anything like TnotW, it will blow my, and everyone with me, mind.

Anonymous said...

Rothfuss was honest in his original interviews assuming people would not have to wait long for the trilogy. He spent the ten years before TNOTW writing all three novels. Once the first novel came out, though, he trashed the next manuscript and started over. and over. and over. Hence the delay.

Marvin said...

Yo Pat. Aren't you being a bit of a douche implying that Kvothe getting some action is simply because of some wish fulfillment on the author's part? Does that also means that all the underage sex, incest on A Song of Ice and Fire series by George Martin was added because he wants to fulfill his dark fantasies?

I like The Name of the Wind when I first read it years ago, specially like the small details of Kvothe's daily life. It was slow in some parts, but they were easy to read because of the prose. I refuse to believe that his writing style had worsen enough that the Wise Man's Fear would trump the slowness of Tad William's Memory and Sorry novels.

Anyway, I don't expect the book to be perfect. I too had feared that maybe TNoTW was just a fluke. An 8/10 coming from you must mean that I'm going to enjoy this book a lot.

Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea what people saw in The Name of the Wind. It was a tedious, pointless, badly-written, high fantasy Harry Potter rip-off.

Unknown said...

The Name of the Wind rocked! I am sure the Wise Man's Fear would be equally good. I haven't read your review yet because I don't want any spoilers, and instead just scrolled down to the final score you gave. 8/10 is pretty good too.
I just can't wait for it to come out. I am re-reading the Name of the Wind right now.

Does anyone know when The Republic of Theives will be coming out? That's another one of the most anticipated books.

machinery said...

"second trilogy" ?
i assume it happens in the future, beyond the "real time" that you describe.

GP said...

Just wanted to mention that I think this is one of your better reviews. I recently started reading The Name of the Wind, and I wasn't sure if I should go ahead and purchase The Wise Man's Fear.

I agree that the pace of TNOTW is slow. So slow, in fact, that I've been reading it like a non-fiction book (about 30-50 pages a day). It's taking me forever to finish, but I've been enjoying Rothfuss' writing style.

@Marvin: I didn't think Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn was as slow as TNOTW. I think MST covered more plot (and there was a lot of it), while Rothfuss does this lingering thing. A straight line versus a meandering river kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

sounds like one for paperback (or the library if I can get it)

Elfy said...

Thanks for the review. I'm another one of those that didn't think TNotW was all that. If WMF is more of the same I think I may just wait until Rothfuss has the entire thing out and read it then.

mike said...

So, anyone wanna lay down any bets the "trilogy" doesn't end in book 3? A blog post by Rothfuss along the lines of "I really thought this would be a 3 book series as I originally wrote it, but now it turns out I really need 10 books and 20 years to do it justice"?

We've been down this road before, a few times too many folks. I aint falling for it again. When the "third and final" volume's manuscript is confirmed as completed and a firm publishing date is announce, then I'll consider picking up vol 2 and not a second before.

Sebert said...


I think Pat was refering not to MST, but Williams Shadowmarch series. Which can be very very slow at times.

Anonymous said...

Pretty gay review.

Anonymous said...

any news on The Republic of Thieves?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review Pat! I have one comment in response to:

"For a redhead male, Kvothe sure gets an inordinate amount of action in The Wise Man's Fear. And if you had trouble believing that Archie could have both Betty and Veronica, you may raise an eyebrow on more than one occasion in this second volume. Having said that, it's simply something that will make you smirk from time to time, and it doesn't take anything away from the reading experience."

As a wife of a redhead I take exception! There are many very sexy male gingers! Examples: Toby Stephens, David Wenham, Matthew Jaeger, Simon Woods, Robert Redford, etc. etc.

You need to spend some time in Northern Europe!

Anonymous said...

Awesome review. Very balanced and critical. Kvothe remains the poster boy for a "Mary Sue" in my book.

Tal said...

Nice review, and thanks for going into so much detail. gingers?

*Uncomfortable expression*

Oh...@ above: Kvothe's not quite a Mary-Sue. He leans that way, but he also has a litany of flaws, and his arrogance over his superbrain tends to cock things up for him, so I'd be wary of coming right out and saying he's a self-insert.

Rothfuss's structure kind of demands someone a little more gifted than normal as protag. I think Kvothe is a little unbelievable objectively, but I don't necessarily think he's Rothfuss's ideal depiction of himself in the story.

No, if you want to see a real Mary-Sue, try Richard Rahl. Even Rand al'Thor is a bit closer to Mary-Sue than Kvothe as things stand, though he arguably gets off the hook for past idiocy.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I definitely agree that both characters named are more clear cut versions but that doesn't let Kvothe off the hook. Especially since his "flaws" seem token (though the final assessment of this will depend on how the series progresses).

Unknown said...

Dude, Kvothe gets all the chicks because he plays an instrument. Look at rock stars around the world, some of them are pretty hideous and their wives/girlfriends are smoking hot. Just sayin'

SamC said...

Having just raced through Wise Man's Fear, I agree with you on some points, Pat, and vehemently disagree on others.

I agree that too much time was spent on Kvothe at the University in the beginning. Some of the more plot relevant events could have been condensed and handled in half the pages.

However, I deeply disagree that Kvothe is getting too much sex. In a book where a main theme is the exploration of the sexual mores of different cultures, assuming that Rothfuss' world has a similar reaction as ours to red-headed men is simply ill-judged.

I agree in part with you on the worldbuilding being frustratingly slow. But how much did we REALLY know about the Malazan universe after two books? Not all that much compared to what we know now, that's for sure. The revelation of the world occurs when it's plot relevant, which is frustrating to the worldbuilder but far better for the novel than dumping 500 pages of sociopolitical exposition on an already long book.

This might not be your ideal type of fantasy, Pat, but it is elegantly done and that small flaws present themselves doesn't mean they aren't ENJOYABLE flaws. This work deserves far better than an 8/10. Rothfuss' writing might be slightly more sappy than the gritty, largely joyless worldview that Abercrombie, Martin and Erikson have been articulating in their fantasy worlds, but that doesn't mean it's not master-class.

Little My said...

@Mike - Rothfuss has a recent interview with the Portland Mercury in which he reiterates that "it'll be hefty, and it will be one book. This I know for sure." My guess is two to three years for the final book.

I adored both books and didn't find them slow at all, but I thought this review was fair-minded. I just happen to love the writing style, and I actually find his stories (story, I guess) much more fun than GRR Martin's.

Anonymous said...

I am still so baffled by the success of Name of the Wind. I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to fantasy, but it was one of the most poorly written, poorly-paced, boring reads I've ever waded through. Kvothe is 100% a Marty Stue, and the plot wanders into the woods and dies; literally nothing happens. It sounds like The Wise Man's Fear is just more of the same. I won't waste my time.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I've tried to read these things since all the hype and the comments about what a great writer the guy is, but it isn't great writing. It's tedious. It's pseudo-great writing. The empty metaphors are just baffling. He throws random words together that have completely different meanings and people think it's deep.

"the imperceptible smell of citrus and quenching iron."

What pray tell is quenching iron (implies you would drink iron to slake your thirst) and how does that have a smell? I take it he means it smelled like iron being cooled by thrusting it in water?

"He moved with the subtle certainty that comes from knowing many things."


"It was as deep and wide as an autumn's ending."

What does that mean? How is autumn's ending, deep and wide? Gibberish, but sounds artsy.

"It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die."

I've cut many a flower and that makes no sense to me. I have no idea why these books are so highly rated. Empty metaphors.

"It was the stoic face the moon makes when butterflies cry."

I made that one up. It's easy.

Also, it feels like he's just running around leveling up on side quests. There's no real story, just a fanfic version of Skyrim or something.