The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2)
by Patrick Rothfuss
Cover Artist: Photo composite of Getty Images various photographers
Review by Meagen Voss
DAW Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756404734
Date: 01 March 2011 List Price $29.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
If you're leery of the New York Times Bestsellers list, I don't blame you. The Twilight series managed to dominate the bestseller list during its run, and those books have the literary merit of a gossip magazine. In contrast, Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear is a gorgeously written tale that represents the very best of fantasy, and it debuted on the NY Times list right where it belonged—in the number one spot.
This volume picks up where The Name of the Wind left off. Kvothe, a young arcanist, who is talented, stubborn and too clever for his own good, continues to eke out a living at the University, even though he barely manages to pay his tuition each semester. When his rivalry with Ambrose, a noble's son with a short temper and deep pockets, comes to a head, Kvothe is forced to leave school. The rest of the story details Kvothe's exploits in foreign lands, during which he uncovers an assassination plot, trains with mercenaries, battles bandits, makes love to a Faerie, and sees wonders few men live to tell about. Even as people start to write songs about his travels, Kvothe continues his quest to find those no one will dare sing of--the Chandrian, a group of ancient beings that killed his family and left nothing but a mystery in their wake.
This novel can easily be classified as a doorstopper. Only seven pages shy of 1,000 pages, the hardcover edition of this book will undoubtedly tone your biceps, not just because it's heavy, but because once you pick it up, you won't put it down. To be honest though, not everyone will be as enamored by this book as I was. People who enjoy a tight, to-the-point style of storytelling will probably not enjoy this rambling fantasy tale. Still, trust me when I say that Rothfuss rambles well, and he doesn't waste a single word.
Yet, the most impressive part of this book is not the length, it's the fact that Rothfuss' storytelling is nearly devoid of the tired stereotypes that plague fantasy literature (elves, dwarves, and halflings anybody?). On top of that, Rothfuss' decision to tell the story in first person takes you inside Kvothe's mind so well that you will be cheering for him one moment and shaking your head in shame the next. And the fact that Kvothe (knew what he wanted, went straight to school, skipped a few grades) is nearly the polar opposite of Rothfuss (had no particular direction, spent ten years milling about in college), makes the character's depth all the more impressive.
Fans of Tolkien and George R.R. Martin will love this book. And The Lord of the Rings fans who skipped everything written in italics when they read the series will also love this book (and they won't skip anything). These books would also be appealing to Harry Potter fans looking for something new to read, though parents should probably read it first before sharing with young, nightmare-prone kids.
As of this writing, The Wise Man's Fear has fallen to the number five slot on the bestsellers list. But I don't doubt that Rothfuss' next book will debut on the list as well, in the top slot.