Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

What to say about this sequel to the impressive start of this series The Name of the Wind?  Much of my critique is pretty grumbly and negative.  But when all is said and done, I really enjoyed it so maybe the notable flaws in the book don't add up to much in the end?

The Wise Man's Fear continues the story of Kvothe an exceptionally talented young man who has, by the time of the books telling, reached legendary status.  He studies at the University, pines after Denna, plays his lute, and goes on many adventures.  The book covers roughly a little more than a year of his early life (16-17 years old)and framed as a single day of dictation by Kvothe to a biographer called Chronicler.  I'll point out that I listened to the audio version, and even subtracting the modern-day interludes it is over 40 hours of recordings.  So 1) definitely not dictated within a single day and 2) poor Chronicler! 

And the bloated length of the book is the crux of my grumpiness with it. There are easily 3 books  - 3 very different books - thrown together here.  Patrick Rothfuss obviously has an incredible imagination and is overflowing with story ideas and vignettes and its like he can't stop himself from jamming them all in there.  At times it feels like there's more tangent then plot.  Ostensibly we are building up to the current moment and the intrigues and conflicts happening in Kvothe's present day but that ultimate story feels so far far away that the book suffers from a lack of focus. The Chandrian pop up on a regular basis but if they are as important to this story as the reader is led to believe they should really be more omnipresent.  It's just a meandering tale of this guy who is quickly becoming someone the reader can no longer sympathize with or relate to.

And that is another problem this book starts to struggle with.  Kvothe is an extraordinary man - he's a hero.  How do you write a hero that is still relate-able to us schlubs? I don't have any idea and I think Rothfuss manages just barely to keep Kvothe likeable but it is just barely.  He lost me when he had Kvothe lose his virginity and gain his initial experience as a lover with a fey seductress who's whole purpose is to give men mind-blowing sex.  This whole section had me grinding my teeth.  And I really could not stand the Adem.  At first it was interesting, this idea of a completely foreign culture who expresses emotions with hand gestures and I really tried to go with it but in the end it just did NOT work for me.  We again have some kind of male fantasy, amazonian kingdom where the women are strong and powerful and are also really into having tons of no-strings- attached sex.  And this is because they don't think sex has anything to do with making children. WHAT??!! I'm pretty sure animals know on some level that males and females are necessary for procreation so don't even try to tell me that this uber-civilization where women hold the power is that completely without any logic.

So now that I have just vented all of that let me wander on back to the point.  Patrick Rothfuss is an amazing storyteller and in the end I really enjoyed 38-ish of the 45 hours of the audio.  But I would have fewer frothing rages about his books if he stopped throwing every stray thought and the kitchen sink into them.  I would really like to know why Kvothe has a fey student who is a little shifty, why there are strange creatures out of legend appearing and wreaking havoc and how Kvothe ended up owning an Inn in a podunk town to begin with  - I am dying to sink my teeth into these things.  This is all to the credit of  how awesome this series of books is and to the authors talent.  But can we pretty please get there before the next ice age?

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