Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wise Man's Fear

I have finished reading Wise Man's Fear.

  This review is going to be VERY full of spoilers. You are warned.

Young Kvothe by fattylumpkin50
I anticipated Wise Man's Fear to be the 2nd act of trilogy- the Empire Strikes Back of sorts- where the protagonists find their struggle or are left in a bad way. I don't think it can be compared like that. This is not at all cinematic like that.

The book as a whole feels like a series of episodes. It could easily have been chopped into three separate books. Maybe four. It has over 150 chapters with several interludes where the story jumps from a present day to flashback.

Like the first book- The Name of the Wind, the foundational plot continues as an innkeeper dictates his biography to a chronicler who scribes it all down on paper and the innkeeper's mysterious student/assistant. Both books are written in 3rd person until the innkeeper tells the story for the chronicler wherein the book shifts into 1st person narrative. While Name of the Wind is the tale told on the first day and the events around that act, Wise Man's Fear naturally follows the events before and after the tale told on day two (of three). Peppered throughout both books the narrative is interrupted by the events in and around the now older Kvothe's inn painting a darker and more grim reality than that of the biography.

At the University. Very much like the 2nd half of the first book, it was nice to be back at the university. There is a great scene of Kvothe performing for the crowd at the Eolin Tavern establishing him as a bit of a rock star. Again, we are watching Kvothe trying to juggle his limited finances. I found the conflict with Devi some of the most interesting parts of the first half of the book. She seems to have become a much more interesting character. Not sure what it is, but that Devi has become one of my favorite characters in this series. More antagonism with Ambrose. The scene where the gang plots to get the ring back was classic and had a real comfortable feel to it- an 'everyone's here' thing going on. And Devi was included! Kvothes classes with Master Elodin were great as always. Another interesting character developing nicely is the ghostly waif- Auri who lives in the 'underthing' of the University.

Bast by fattylumpkin50 
In Severen. Events that make it best for Kvothe to leave the school for a term or so were played out nicely, if not a bit sudden. I found it jarring, but a pleasant turn of events. Here Rothfuss develops the series' setting a lot, fleshing out the neighboring lands with a lot of original creativity. Kvothe lives in luxury and we learn the ways of the noble class. The dynamics of Kvothe's relationship with Stapes was wonderful. And the verbal sparing with the Mayor is enjoyable. I really liked the rings and all the political nonsense.

Then we get to some good old fashioned fantasy adventuring when Kvothe is picked to lead the mercenaries. Adventure party and all. Here we are introduced to my other favorite character in the series- Tempi. Tempi gives us a good deal of intricate humor. There is also a love story here that is observed externally by Kvothe for once. This 'episode' is some of the best plot in the book as it contains the most action as the party methodically searches vast forests for tax steeling bandits. We see the outside world's opinion and fears of the arcana. Over the course of time the characters spend together, they become close and even fond of each other- right a long with the reader. Its around this time that the book has a very strange turn. Kvothe loses himself in the Fae.

The Fae. Perhaps the hardest part of the book to keep up with because it's the most abstract the series has ever gotten. I sometimes wondered if this really was happening, are you really taking us this way, Pat? The tone of the book changes here as our protagonist is suddenly introduced to sex. A lot of sex. Kvothe is a whore. All of a sudden there was more sex in this book than I don't even know what! Also, up until this part the series has maintained a very solid sense of realism to a degree. Here there is a lot... a LOT of fantasy. There are elements of the Silmarillion-like fantasy. Eventually we make it back out to the real world.

Briefly, Kvothe is with the mercenary party again. When the book moves on from this group, Kvothe is sorrowful with us as we don't see them again (except Tempi while Kvothe follows him home to Ademre).

Name of the Wind People by Sir-Heartsalot - Tempi, Kvothe, Elodin, Cinder, and Haliax
Ademre. It is in this strange country that our protagonist takes his spiritual journey. Ademre is more civilized than the rest of the world in their own view, but this makes them quite alien from anything familiar. This episode is very kung-fu without almost any Asian cinema tropes. Like a pendulum swinging, from the fae to the very hard realism. An interesting contrast, perhaps. Kvothe learns the ways of forbidden martial arts. Very cool stuff. Not Bruce Lee/Karate Kid at all.

Back at the University. All is well. Established security. The character is changed in wealth. This is a big change since his poverty drove so much plot before. Kvothe's party was kind of cool. The gang's all here thing again. I'm scared its for perhaps they're all together for the last time.... we'll have to see.

Lastly, like most of my literature input these days, I 'read' Wise Man's Fear mostly on my commutes to and from work, etc, via audiobook. Voice talent Nick Podehl returns to read for us, this guy is top of the line quality. There are many different cultures featured in this series and Podehl uses a variety of accents for each culture. And then he maintains that same accent for different characters of the same culture. It was amazing and enhanced my enjoyment of the book a great deal.

Wise Man's Fear debuted on the New York Times at # 1. Read this book. It is masterful fantasy storytelling. I believe these will be pretty big some day.
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