Patrick Rothfuss: Wise Man’s Fear
Following on from The Name of the Wind, Wise Mans Fear is Rothfuss’ second novel, and that is what makes me angry. The Name of the Wind was a fantastic debut, if a little quiet action wise. Here, Rothfuss has stepped up his game even further. His characterization continues as nuanced as ever, and the humour has been amped up a little bit too, but what truly impresses here is Rothfuss’ style. It is mature, subtle and eminently readable. Many authors work their whole lives and rarely achieve the clarity of style and description that Rothfuss has attained in his second book. It’s maddeningly good.
That said, the book isn’t without some flaws, and in the interest of not merely gushing in this review, I’ll point up my issue’s.
By the end of The Name of the Wind, whilst definitely invested in the fiction, I was starting to tire a little of the plot. Kvothe seemed to be constantly struggling for money for his tuition, and his long running feud with Ambrose was, whilst entertaining, not exactly the stuff of epics. I was worried that Wise Man’s Fear would simply continue this pattern, and the first few opening chapters do indeed continue in the same vein. However, Kvothe is forced to leave the city and get out in the world and have some actual adventures and play the hero on a larger stage. This is good, excellent in fact. My only gripe (and it is a minor one, to be honest) is that the book shifts scenes rather rapidly and drastically. For a series that relies on detail and following Kvothe so closely, I think the transitions between locations are rather underwritten. One minute Kvothe is here, the next there. The links always make perfect sense but they feel glossed over, as if Rothfuss needs his character in *this* place at *this* time for his story to work, and how he gets there is of little importance. I suppose it makes sense in relation to the framing narrative, but it does force the reader to start accepting the odd rather sudden dislocation when it could have been pulled off a little more gracefully.
That, however, is pretty much my only problem with this book. Towards the end, the focus does shift back to the more familiar settings, but Kvothe’s position has changed enough from that at the beginning that I was eager to read about it again. Not only that, but the framing narrative has, whilst remaining rather quiet and non-detrimental to the main thrust of the narrative, become involved, fascinating, and dark.
Plot arcs aside, this book is without a doubt the most entertaining thing I have read in the last year, or possibly the last two. It’s a huge tome, and whilst the plot is not as world-spanning and downright epic as some of, say, George Martin’s stuff, it is considerably better written, and the reader, instead of becoming bored, becomes invested and entertained by Kvothe’s day to day struggle. This says a lot for the sheer quality of Rothfuss’ craft. However, what really jolted me out from my complacency was the section where Kvothe meets the Fae Felurian. Her speech is subtle, and it took me a short while to realise what the character was doing. This echo’s with the name of Kvothe’s sword and, along with a few nicely slipped in comments from Chronicler, betrays Rothfuss’ deep interest in the details of the language that he wields with such a light touch.
Whilst there may not be much ‘depth’ to the book in the form of subtexts and meaning, it doesn’t suffer one jot for it. Whilst it could never be classed as literature, it is definitely at the top end of the genre scale for literacy. It is pure, unashamed entertainment, but brilliantly written entertainment. If Rothfuss keeps turning out work of this quality, he has a dazzling career ahead of him, but if he keeps getting better then he could be a bigger breakout star than R.R. Martin currently is, and bloody good luck to him I say.