The Wise Man's Fear follows on from the authors incredible debut "The Name of the Wind" which is currently one of the most memorable, most enjoyable fantasy novels I have ever read - I seriously recommend you read that first.
Picking up where the last novel finished we once again follow the journey of the legendary Kvothe Kingkiller - the mightiest magician of his age, through exile, political intrigue, courtship, adventure, love and of course magic.
I have been waiting to read this book ever since I finished The Name of the Wind and it's been sitting on one of my bookshelves since it was released back in March. I've even gone as far as avoiding any reviews just in case they give anything away and boy was it worth the wait!
There is a special kind of magic to Rothfuss' prose, an elegant and occasionally beautiful sense of style that has a real auditory aesthetic while the care and attention that has been lavished flavours the notes of the music and results in a harmonious rhythm. Created here is what could quite easily be called fulfillment literature (and it appears some people are) - escapism, but you could ultimately say that about any fiction and here it is both tempered and brought to earth with Kvothe's struggles with poverty, racism, youthful naiveté and his seemingly effortless ability to make enemies at the drop of a hat.
The use of poverty as a literary device is something that you don't often see in fantasy literature beyond the hero of humble beginnings and not only has Rothfuss used this to colour the character of Kvothe but also remind us of this debilitating and time consuming social condition. While most of the Name of the Wind was spent in the University, in The Wise Man's Fear we see our intrepid hero venture into other parts of the world, learning a different array of skills and life experience while making more friends and enemies in the process. There is also a subtle undertone towards the end of the novel that eludes to a darker, more dangerous journey ahead - something that manages to raise the hopes yet again for the forthcoming third volume in the series.
The character of Kvothe is masterfully portrayed, a flawed hero with a brilliant mind and incredible magical prowess who is often forced into making difficult choices with little experience to draw from. By his own admission he is no saint and often makes bad decisions and poor choices. Here we also see him begin to grow as a person and learn about some of his latent abilities and it's not just Kvothe who grows, the other major characters (and some minor) also develop and change as the story unfolds (Devi and Elodin being my favorite). Along with the author's writing ability and imagination, it's this tightly focused journey of the central protagonist that helps to make this series different, a slant on the hero's journey that concentrated solely on the hero and not on epic world changing events.
While the book is pretty big at over 1000 pages the skill of the author and subsequent engagement of the reader means that it doesn't seem that long (except for the actual physical size of the thing).This is also helped by short and well paced chapters and an almost episodic structure to the novel, essentially divided into sections that represent different parts of the overall story, broken up by sporadic returns to the present - as with the first volume the story is narrated by Kvothe as he tells the Chronicler in the form of an unreliable narrator (by Kvothe's own admission). There are however a couple of places where the story get's a little bogged down, and the romance / exploration of Kvothe's first sexual encounter is probably the weakest point in the book with some of the euphemisms sounding more like Robert Jordan's combat forms from the Wheel of Time.
Overall I found The Wise Man's Fear every bit as good as The Name of the Wind, it's such an incredibly involving and emotive series that has become one of my favourite fantasy tales of all time, simply unmissable.
Written on 06 July 2011 by Antony Jones.
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