The Wise Man’s Fear is the second book in Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. It continues the story of Kvothe (pronounced “Quothe”) the gifted Edema Ruh (kind of a gypsy) who is currently studying at the legendary University to become an arcanist (a scientist/magician kind of). The backdrop of the story is an old inn where the elder Kvothe is telling his life-story to a man known as Chronicler and Kvothe’s demon-friend, Bast. This outer, framing story is dipped into several times throughout the book. Both interwoven tales keep the reader engaged. The book is nearly 1000 pages long. As such, condensing the plot down into a manageable paragraph is nearly impossible, particularly since I was a slow reader on this one and have forgotten much of the first part of the book.
Anyway, Kvothe has one real romantic interest, a young wandering woman named Denna, who pops in and out throughout the story. The first part of the story consists of Kvothe always scraping for money. It’s kind of interesting: they tell writers to make sure your characters have a goal or desire to keep the tension going. Rothfuss used Kvothe’s lack of wealth for much of the story as means to keep the tension. I found that interesting and refreshing; it wasn’t just go and kill the bad guys. Anyway, Kvothe has run-ins with another student by the name of Ambrose which continues to escalate. Finally, he takes a semester off and goes to work for a powerful noble in a distant land. The culture described is unique and interesting, although essentially feudal. While there he does some mercenary work and winds up going to another distant land and learning about another culture (basically a martial arts style culture with very unusual beliefs regarding sex and reproduction). The story ends shortly after the point where Kvothe returns to the University for the next semester.
Strengths: the writing was good, the character development was good, and the tension was good. I enjoyed the story, though I did not read it as quickly as I would have liked. Weaknesses: in terms of literary structure and stuff, I could not find any weaknesses. I will remark, however, that if you are offended by sexual promiscuity, this book is not for you. There is not much of it in the first half of the book, but in the second half it is chock full of it. There is a culture that treats sex almost like a sport. They don’t believe that sex causes impregnation. They believe that children just grow as a woman naturally lives. Men do not contribute anything to the reproductive process. Children are fruits of womanhood, and that is all. As a result, everyone in the culture is having sex with everyone else. And, of course, for some reason they don’t suffer from STD’s. I would mark the book with a warning because of that: not appropriate for the very young.
Anyway, I still enjoyed the book and I’ll give Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear four stars out of five.
For those interested, you may read my review of the former book, The Name of the Wind, here.