Sunday, May 8, 2011

Book Review: Wise Man's Fear

Title The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2)
Author Patrick Rothfuss
Tags fantasy, kvothe, arcanists, magic, music 



Wise man's Fear is book two in the story of Kvothe. How good is this series? After two books and about 1700 pages, we are not quite up to Kvothe's 17th year, and the story never palls. I never once thought this book is too long, that part should have been cut out. It is a fantasy series in a vaguely medieval setting, though magic exists and those at the University, or Arcanum, study magic and related sciences such as chemistry.

The two books are a seamless story. There is a framing story in which Kvothe is older, we don't know how old, an innkeeper living quietly at the fringes of civilization under another name. A scribe, The Chronicler, finds Kvothe and eventually persuades him to tell the real story of his life, a life about which legends abound. Kvothe grows up in a troop of traveling players, learns acting and music from his birth. The troupe is joined by an arcanist who recognizes the boy's brilliance and begins training him in magic, with the goal that Kvothe will go to the University when old enough. Kvothe survives the loss of everything at age 11 and three years of life on the streets before getting to the University, where things are, shall we say, rarely dull.

How is it that the story never gets dull? The plots are good, first of all. Rothfuss never violates the reader's willing suspension of disbelief. The reader feels that yes, this could have happened in this way in this world. There is also plenty of action. Yet Rothfuss also builds the story with exquisite detail, showing Kvothe's life as more than just action. We have Kvothe's thoughts, emotions, his loves, dreams, fears, - and we have his soul, at the heart of which is music and magic. We have his interactions with the other characters, all of whom are also marvelously human. Kvothe is brilliant, but young. He makes mistakes and deals with the consequences, and there are also consequences when he gets things right. We see him almost mad in grief, in love, with all a young man's difficulty figuring love out, we see how music anchors him, we see how he cares for others, how he deals with enemies... In short, we see a universe entire through one brilliant character.

How good is this series? I started reading Wise Man's Fear about noon on Saturday, and with a couple of interruptions finished at 7:15 Sunday morning, and I'm a person who needs a good night's sleep. Do I recommend both books? Oh, yeah. With these two books and Discovery of Witches, my year of reading is already extraordinary, and it is only May!


Publication date 2011
Publication DAW Hardcover (2011), Hardcover, 1008 pages
ISBN 0756404738 / 9780756404734

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