Book review: “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss

Some friends of mine warned me I’d be in for disappointment if I got myself into The Name of the Wind. Noooo! You got sucked into the trilogy that will probably never lead to a third book! they said. Maybe Sanderson will finish it when he dies they said. Well, I had a spring break and an flight, so I decided to do it anyway.

I tried to define what made The Wise Man’s Fear so enjoyable. It’s one of those books that you can set down and pick up again without much difficulty getting back in. I also found me always wanting to read more, and I don’t doze off nearly as much while reading as I do with other books (it’s inevitable; I will doze off some time). There is one narrative device Rothfuss uses that doesn’t capture everything, but it definitely contributes to the novel’s readability. The book is a nested story: the protagonist Kvothe is relating his story to his apprentice of sorts Bast and a travelling historian The Chronicler. The story is told at Kvothe’s pace. For the most part, he goes into excruciating detail. Supposedly, he is able to tell this entire 150-chapter story in one 24-hour period, which I find very hard to believe. There are one or two instances where Kvothe hits the fast forward button leaving out tantalizing details. But the narrative device in question is his use of the first-person. At times, Kvothe describes his actions but doesn’t tell us what he is thinking. There are hints at what he observes, but then he acts out in surprising ways– even though this is told in first person. It further exacerbates his apparent erratic nature. I’m sure this narrative device is fairly common. But if I were writing a book, I would have a hard time keeping my protagonist’s mouth shut. It does remove the problem of twice-telling: first the narrative explains his plan, and then they carry it out.

When I first began reading, I was a little worried the plot was going to be very similar to the previous book. Kvothe is going to school. He plays his lute. He takes classes and makes clever quips. He fights with Ambrose. And it was for perhaps a third of the book. Kvothe eventually has reason to leave the University giving rise to some new and interesting developments. But the book has a less formal narrative structure. There isn’t really a climax to the book. There are crazy awesome things, I will say that. But it didn’t really resolve. I had felt it was going to lead up to something. I was waiting for some conflict relating to the Chandrian or the Amyr, but each one was a dead end, or at least would wait to be taken up in book three.

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