on March 6, 2011
I love 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." The only person I've recommended it to who didn't really care for it was my wife. So figure that one out.
I received Wise Man's Fear from Amazon early Tuesday morning and devoured it. 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.
So why three stars? Why am I not falling all over myself to praise this one?
Because it's kind of a mess. An engrossing, brilliant, hot and swanky mess, but a mess just the same.
My biggest problem is that, with some minor, token exceptions, I know exactly as much about the Chandrian 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, and often they feel as if they've been dragged in from the Kvothe band's inferior opening act. 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 as trilological as Rothfuss initially intended. (No, trililogical isn't really a word. Shut up.)
And, to move from the trililogical to the puritanical, I found it jarring that Kvothe shifted from Gentlemanly Prude to Sheenlike Horndog in about twenty pages. 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. He's 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. (For the record, I don't really like Charlie Sheen that much, either.)
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? Please.
To sum up: Wise Man's Fear is a mixed, messy bag. 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.
on March 31, 2011
The first half of Wise Man's Fear is an improvement over the previous book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. There is intrigue, mystery, complex interpersonal drama, great writing, and great pacing. Then halfway through the book, Rothfuss decides to let us in on the fantasies of his fifteen-year-old self, and the book goes downhill from there.
The book picks up precisely when the previous book left off, sparing little time to catch people up or re-explain everything in case a reader started with book two. I'm glad about that. I hate it when a series is up and running and the author or publisher feels that they need to throw in some exposition for people who didn't read the earlier books. Seriously...who starts a series at book two? Anyway...It goes great for a long while. I found the second half of the first book to be the best, and this seemed like a continuation of that. A lot happens, mostly having to do with Kvothe's adventures at the University and then on to a different land, where Kvothe gets some experience dealing with nobility and goes on an adventure with a ragtag group of adventurers.
Then...just over halfway through the book, the plot comes to a grinding halt. Don't want to spoil anything. So I'll just say that something happens that is totally unrelated to what had been going on in the first two books. It is mentioned in book one (I think), but only as one of Kvothe's many legendary accomplishments. Funny thing is, what happens is very similar to one of the fantasies I used to dream up before bed when I was a nerdy, lonely, sex-crazed teenager. I don't mind the occasional bit of self-indulgence from an author, but this goes on way too long, further emphasizing just how juvenile it is. After it is finally over, we are then diverted again to another side-adventure in which Kvothe learns how to fight. Once again, the teenage fantasies kick-in, and not only does he learn to fight, but he gets to have sex with hot women while doing doing it. As I was reading this, I couldn't help but chuckle and shake my head at just how unbelievable and juvenile the whole thing is. And yet again it goes on way too long. After these two bits are over, we get a bit of the good from the first half again...then the books is over.
I felt the author took too long with side-diversions and things left unresolved from book one were left hanging, especially his relationship with Denna. I'm not going to spoil anything, but I feel confident in advising anyone who hasn't read this yet to go ahead and skip the "romantic" scenes with Denna. Seriously. Just skip them. NOTHING is resolved. They 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. 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.
on March 31, 2011
Maybe the review title sounds like a pan, and I guess it is, but as much as I was absolutely enchanted by "The Name of the Wind", Rothfuss's followup "The Wise Man's Fear" left me tired and ultimately frustrated, and yet all the while I couldn't put it down. Many have spoken about how 1000 pages of story barely advanced anything in the grand scheme of things, and it's a sound argument. As pointed out by another review I read, WMF feels like Act 1: Part 2 rather then Act 2 of 3. It's a ***, maybe a *** 1/2 whereas the first one was a full *****.
*** SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON ***
My main problem was that every time it felt like the story was advancing and evolving in an organic way, Rothfuss slammed the breaks on the plot and sent Kvothe off in another disappointing direction. The transition from the University to the Maer's palace was fine enough, if you don't mind several chapters worth of plot excised (the shipwreck, pirates, etc.) I can see why it was removed -- anything to move the story along, right? We needed to get Kvothe to Vintas. OK, cool. And everything in that section of the book, the palace intrigue, political maneuvering, Kvothe's cunning and observation really felt like it was pushing Kvothe towards a new chapter in his life. And it was. And just as things got interesting and were leading towards a culmination of several hundred pages worth of plotting... Rothfuss decides to send Kvothe out on an elongated, drawn-out bandit hunt.
I felt the air draining from the novel's lungs. So now we have to start a whole new plotline just when things were getting REALLY good in Vintas. The Bandit Hunt. Great. What was the overall purpose? To introduce Kvothe to Tempi AND to show a brief glimpse of a Chandrian (who makes a hasty exit to no last impact). OK well several seemingly endless pages later, everything's wrapped up and we can get right back to Vintas, right?
Nope. He sees Feleurian one night (out of the blue), runs off after her, and the plot is sidelined AGAIN for a hundred pages of Kvothe: SEX GOD! He can't lose his virginity in a human way that reflects his growth into manhood, he has to pursue and subdue an anotherworldly Fae sex goddess who teaches him some combination of the Kama Sutra and the Malaysian Pile Driver that makes him the master cocksman of the universe. Oh and he gets a cloak and some plot exposition from a powerful talking tree. Can we get this over with please?
So now he comes back and he's banging half the universe, but OK, **NOW** the plot can start getting interesting again? Nope, Tempi's in trouble for teaching the Ketan and Lethani, so now he's going to run off and defend him in Admere. For the love of God, we don't have THAT many pages left in the book and we're off on another tangent. But it's OK because now not only is Kvothe a 16-year-old Sex God, he ends up being the only barbarian admitted to the world's baddest martial arts order as well. But as long as he ends up learning something from it, right?
Wrong. He goes back to the University and he's back EXACTLY where he was before, still headstrong, still angry, only now this time he has money. And the book ends.
I haven't mentioned Denna at all until now. Because the fine, mysterious, intriguing character from the first book became an annoying, obnoxious, forgettable buzzkill in this book. Every time she showed up -- magically, wherever Kvothe seemed to be -- she was the literally equivalent of 17-car pileup in a deep fog. The dynamic of their relationship never changed, and the sum change in their relationship from book to book is nonexistent.
And yet, for all the problems I had with the plot -- and there were many -- it was the details, the universe, the sense of wonder, the dialog, the humor, Rothfuss's prosaic writing style... it was the little things that I loved most. Overall I didn't think too much of the book. Taken on its own, it was fine. It just didn't seem to add up to much in the end, and the narrative kept tripping over itself so much that it never was able to maintain any momentum after the first half of the book or so. Disappointing.
on March 24, 2011
...I can't give this book 4 stars. I'm keeping the $30 first edition of it because it matches my first edition of The Name of the Wind and I have desperate hopes that the third (and possibly fourth or fifth) books will redeem this funky middle one.
I am an original Rothfuss fan. I bought The Name of the Wind when it was in its FIRST HARDCOVER PRINTING and then proceeded to preach the Gospel of Rothfuss to everyone who would listen. The book is really beautiful and subtle and brilliant. I was thrilled at the thought of more of Kvothe's story in the Wise Man's Fear.
I can't tell you how painful it's been for me to admit to myself and to others that WMF was not worth the wait. Even now, I just wince to write it here. I feel so loyal to the author and the overall story. But it's just the truth. I had to admit that:
***HERE BE SPOILERS!***
1. Denna is still the most obnoxious character to ever walk the pages of English literature.
2. I don't like Kvothe as much now that I've read TWMF. That could be part of the master plan. After all, what 16 year old is really at his full character potential? What 16 year old ISN'T an obnoxious prig? I have hopes that he will improve.
3. But, the thing is, he SHOULD HAVE IMPROVED IN THIS 1000 PAGES. Or at least learned something from his adventures. Another reviewer pointed out perfectly that after spending months mastering his body language and emotional responses with Tempi's people, he still goes back to Imre with NO self-restraint. However, he's still 16. I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.
4. If Ambrose is the King he kills in the end to start the war (seeing as how Ambrose is 13th in line for the throne and 4 people in that line were killed during the course of the novel) I'll be desperately disappointed. His scuffles with Ambrose, while life-threatening, are still so twee. I was so annoyed that I was constantly reminded of Draco Malfoy in this book. Never in the first one, but this one was painful. Ambrose is the pet student of the teacher who hates Kvothe. Ambrose is really rich. Blah blah blah. UGH!
5. This book has no arc. :( There isn't a climax. There isn't suspense. There were a few exciting moments including the fight to clear the bandit encampment and then his moments with the Cthae. Honestly, I don't even CARE that the Cthae is completely Deus Ex Machina at this point. I was just happy to LEARN SOMETHING NEW. I actually felt a little thrill during those (way too few) pages where Kvothe learns those precious facts about the Chandrian. And when he ran away in terror I wanted to scream "You PANSY! Get back here so we can learn some more stuff!!! You're sure not learning it!"
6. I described this book to other people as 5 separate novels with a short story and a few interludes. Not a good structure if you want to keep me engaged.
7. Women are still kind of lame in this book. Right? They're all sex-crazed and serve to teach Kvothe how to add another superlative to his list. "Over-Sexed-est 16 Year Old in All the Land." Devi and Fela work for me, but the fact that all the women put up with Kvothe's amazing amount of crap is rather disappointing. And how nice that Kvothe was able to 'name' Felurian and subdue her. Awesome. The only woman with some kind of power (and of course, it's the sexy booby kind) gets subdued. Just what I wanted.
8. The most heart-breaking thing about this read is that I don't care about Kvothe very much any more. Not just because he's turned into a Casanova and a moral-less dufus, but just because he hasn't changed at all in the ways that matter...in the ways that he might need to change for him to really be able to MEAN something down the line. And that is really a tragedy for me. :(
I will buy the third book because I have to have a matched set. I'll even look forward to it because Pat really is a beautiful writer with a wickedly awesome sense of humor. I just can't recommend the middle book to anyone, and that stings.
on March 5, 2011
I really liked 'Name of the Wind' (like, I guess, most people reviewing this book so soon after publication).
Is this as good? No. Rothfuss is a fine writer so this is still pretty damn readable, and it's even more epic and sprawling than the first so you can disappear into his world for even longer. But it's nowhere near as tight as the first novel. 'Name of the Wind' felt meticulously planned, with every incidental little detail part of the wider story. In "Wise Man's Fear" there's a LOT of detail, a huge chunk of which seems meaningless.
Early in the book the main character constructs an elaborate device which protects him from arrows and crossbow bolts. We learn exactly how this works in great detail - and then never hear about it again. We meet a mysterious librarian, who then vanishes from the book. Later a malevolent Arcanist attempts to assassinate a powerful noble, is foiled and then disappears until the end of the book when we're told he's been killed by someone else. We never find out why he tried to murder the noble. The book is filled with odd little dead ends: the hero decides to flee from a school where he's held semi-prisoner, organises his escape, explains various complicated details of his plan and then decides not to escape.
What makes this even more frustrating are the parts of the story that scream for more detail. The hero meets the most dangerous, evil creature in all of existence - he randomly stumbles upon it while out for a walk - and the book implies that this is the most significant event in his entire life. That gets about two pages. Just for comparison, searching through the woods for some bandits gets about two hundred pages.
Like I said, Rothfuss is a good writer. So the hundred-page digressions are entertaining and fun to read - but it is basically just a shaggy dog story, which is disappointing since "Name of the Wind" delivered so much more.
on March 6, 2011
I have been waiting for years for this book. I love Patrick Rothfuss - I loved his first book, I love his blog, I love hearing him speak in person, I love his charity work... I'm just a huge fan all around.
That said, I was disappointed by this book. It was a good book - but not nearly the quality of The Name of the Wind.
As others have mentioned, the story just isn't as tight as NOTW. The "worst" part of NOTW was the trip to Trebon to and the killing of the draccus, if only because it seemed to drag on far too long. Each of the segments of this book have a smiliar quality to them. The University segment was long, but that moved along at a good clip. The time in Vintas dragged, as did the hunt for the bandits. The time with Felurian also seemed to drag on and on... and then, the time with the Adem. The part that made each of those segments difficult to chew on was the fact that Kvothe did not progress as a character. At the end of WMF, he knows how to make love and he is a decent swordsmen (not nearly as good as the legendary people who trained him). That's all that could be accomplished in 1,000 pages? Really?
If this was to be a 4-5 book series, I could buy this as a decent book two. I can't fathom how the series will end with one more book. Either Kvothe isn't as cool as the NOTW made him seem, or book three is going to get about 85% of the series' action in it. Too much of the story remains untold.
This is not to say the book isn't a pleasure to read - Rothfuss' skill as a wordsmith ensures that the story remains interesting (or I probably would have put the book down). Perhaps the buildup to WMF was too great - perhaps I cared a little too much about a literary character. However, I can honestly say I was disappointed - it reminded me of my disappointment at reading A Feast for Crows by George RR Martin a few years back - a good book, but a letdown after A Storm of Swords.
Let's hope Pat Rothfuss and Kvothe recapture the magic in Doors of Stone (or whatever the title ends up being).
on March 22, 2011
I agree with other reviewers who have given this book mediocre reviews. It's clear from "The Name of the Wind" that there is something important in Kvothe's backstory that involves the Chandrian and the death of a king. But we barely get a whiff of these events in this book. It seems like there was just a lot of filler to get us to the third book, where all the critical events will be told.
A lot of the blame for this can be laid on the side-trip that Kvothe (and Rothfuss) take into the land of the Adem. It fills a lot of pages, but does nothing to advance the storyline. Kvothe's motive for going to this place were contrived to begin with. This section is also the silliest part of the story, by far. I really liked "The Name of the Wind" because in his treament of the details of sympathy and naming, Rothfuss was giving us something that is believable and familiar, but breaks with how a lot of (bad) fantasy treats magic. But the whole asian-martial arts analogue that Rothfuss provides with the Adem is straight-up Dungeons & Dragons nonsense. Very cheesy. The pages that were wasted on describing the meditation and unarmed combat that Kvothe learns were formulaic and dull. Also, isn't it enough that Kvothe is brilliant, cunning, has an amazing memory, the best musician in the world, an amazing lover, and can work magic? Does he have to gain quasi-mystical martial arts skills as well?
I'm writing my first review because I wanted to like this book so much, but was ultimately let down.
on March 18, 2011
What a disappointing year this has been already. First Joe Abercrombie released Heroes...I love his other books but this was a real snooze and it was very confined, like being trapped in a small room. Now, the eagerly awaited Wise Man's Fear FINALLY comes out and it seems like this book was written by a different person. The pacing is plodding at times and jumpy at others, almost manic. The sense of time in the book is harder to understand than Ozzie Osbourne. Unsatisfying segues to the next "adventure" leave you feeling disappointed at the lack of imagination. Parts of the book seem very Piers Anthony in quality..that is to say, you will like them if you are 13 and just discovering girls, otherwise it is just a lot of curve of hip and swell of breast rehash. Several of the situations/dialogues are poorly written and you are literally expelled from the world that you were immersed in(the blow up between Kvothe and Denna was particularly bad). This book could have been and should have been so much more. I hate to say it, but I feel like we are going from a trilogy into a long and plodding "Wheel of Time" death spiral. Rothfuss has the chops to make a great book and this is readable. It just doesn't do justice to the first book or the characters.
on March 6, 2011
Before buying this book, I re-read The Name of the Wind so that the story would be fresh in my mind. I was eagerly awaiting the sequel. After finishing it, it left me with mixed feelings...
I won't spoil too much in this review, but I just want to point out the main flaw with this book: nothing happens. The general feel reminded me of book 8-10 of The Wheel of Time, and that's not a good thing. Like Jordan, Rothfuss is a good storyteller, so the whole book is still decently entertaining. However, the story pacing is wrong. Having read Rothfuss' blog and how he painstakingly edited down the size of the book over the years, I was surprised at the end result.
The first quarter of the book describes a single term at the University, where nothing major happens. Just some more bickering between Kvothe and Ambrose. There is a bandit hunt that could have been cut down to half the size (really, we didn't need to hear details like the supply runs rotations). It's especially jarring, since they end up finding their quarries with a Deus Ex Machina anyway, so the whole description of the search felt a bit pointless. The time spent with Felurian should have been cut down as well. The Adem were slightly more interesting, but I got the feeling that everything went a bit too easily for Kvothe.
All in all a decent read, but like another previewer mentions, if you completely skip this book before reading part three you probably won't be too lost. Kvothe learned about sex, a bit of fighting and he got a new cloak. When you can resume a whole book in a single 14 words sentence without forgetting anything important, there's a problem. There's a little bit more groundwork laid down about the main storyline, but precious few of it.
That said, it's still a good read if you enjoyed the first book. You just aren't likely to be blown away with anything in the second volume.
on May 9, 2011
The Wise Man's Fear is an entertaining read, but somewhat disappointing when compared with The Name of the Wind. The first part of the book takes place at the university, with a refrain of greatest hits from book one: mooning over Denna, worrying about tuition, serenading Auri on the roof, making stuff in the Fishery, pissing on Ambrose, researching those pesky Chandrian, etc. This is all fine, but other than the lessons with Elodin, it feels like a rehash of book one. The Denna scenes in particular become cloying and repetitive. Oh, and current-day Kvothe still interrupts the story every so often so he can stew and mope and polish some bottles before getting on with it.
I enjoyed Kvothe's clever machinations in Vintas with the Maer, and wanted much more of that. But too soon, the story veers off into three minor (almost self-contained) subplots, which are okay, but longish and unmemorable. I won't complain too much about the groan-inducing silliness of Felurian because Patrick Rothfuss was after all only 13 when he first published this bit in Letters to Penthouse: IV; we've all been there. (I'm not objecting to the sex; I'm objecting to the fact that this is bad sex that does nothing for the characters or story -- in fact, it damages both.)
So The Wise Man's Fear isn't a single, cohesive story, it's a collection of events, which would be fine if the different pieces were all engaging, but it's hit and miss. Personally, I don't care that much about plot. As long as interesting characters are doing interesting things in desperate situations, I'm happy. Just keep it interesting. In book one, Kvothe brought me to tears when he learned to play the lute and struggled to survive in Tarbean. And the events at university were so fast-paced and brilliant I couldn't put the book down. Although there are plenty of good moments in Wise Man's Fear, nothing comes close to the beauty and exuberance of the first book.
And as Kvothe transforms from mischievous prodigy to loutish lothario, I found myself losing interest in him. His final, offhand, out-of-the-blue act of malice toward Ambrose was the last straw for me. I'll be cheering for Ambrose in book three.
N.B.: I've been reading through the reviews and notice that many people love Devi and dislike Denna. An interesting question is how Devi would respond to Kvothe if he spoke to her the way he speaks to Denna. My guess is she'd vomit on his shoes and set his blood sample alight. The problem is that Kvothe and Denna are star-crossed lovers and therefore not allowed to speak sensibly to one another. It's all flowers in midnight gardens for these two, with the occasional spat thrown in to drag their story out for several thousand pages. Shakespeare could be florid too, but he had the good sense to give us just one balcony scene.