Review: The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

Magic is elusive.  It contains mystery, it is hard to explain, yet it is also recognizable. In Patrick Rothfuss‘s, The Name of the Wind, the magic was apparent.  The novel was fantasy, but it was also original.  It didn’t fall into the traps of so many poorly written fantasy novels as illustrated in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.  The story was intriguing, the writing was above average, and the main character, Kvothe, was interesting.  The Name of the Wind is a wonderful book.  As I said though, magic is elusive, and upon reading The Wise Man’s Fear, it’s clear that Rothfuss has lost it.

If the first novel had not been so good, this would not be a problem.  The writing is not as careful nor as creative.  Sections that should be summarized fill 60-200 pages. Sections that should be expanded are summarized. Instead of the overall narrative progressing, the reader is forced to follow vignettes (I can’t think of a proper term) that are tedious, boring, and do little in terms of plot.

The interesting parts of this series are the Chandrain (sort of like Tolkien’s ringwraiths), the Amyr (sort of like the Templars), and how/why Kvothe is now the innkeeper in a backwater town, hiding out, and seemingly powerless.  These are the interesting parts and nothing was added to them.  Instead, we see Kvothe learn how to become a masterful warrior (cliche), outsmart and have sex with a fairy/demigod of sexuality (tedious), stumble through his relationship with Denna (repetitive), struggle at university (repetitive), and earn enough money to escape poverty.  While these stories may be part of the fabric of who Kvothe is, they do little in the novel.  Rothfuss seems in love with the character, but unable to navigate time and structure.  It seems like he could have packaged these stories as a collection and sold them separately, instead of trying to force them into The Wise Man’s Fear.

Whether or not Rothfuss is able to rediscover his magic, and learn the name of storytelling is an open question.  After reading The Wise Man’s Fear, I have my doubts and will not be reading the third book.  He called it once, can he call it again?  Perhaps, he needs Elodin to guide his way.

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