Sunday, September 4, 2011

Book review: "The Wise Man's Fear"

As usual, I got a book and couldn't stop until was finished, which means that this last one I was operating on 5-6 hours of sleep. Thankfully, the book is done now and it's weekend, so I can catch up with my sleeping.

"The Wise Man's Fear" is a second book of "The Kingkiller Chronicle", written by Patrick Rothfuss. First part, "The Name of the Wind", received in my opinion, slightly undeserved attention and praises. To be clear, I really like this book; it is really fun to read and it was obviously very well-liked by large and diverse audiences. On the other hand, I can find several books on my shelves only that are fun to read as much as tNotW: e.g. "Magician" by Raymond E. Feist, "The Lies of Locke Lamora" by Scott Lynch, "The Blade Itself" by Joe Abercrombie. All these are examples of really great books, with slightly poorer sequels, that in the end didn't leave much impact on general fantasy (well, except Feist, but not because he's so good, but because he doesn't want to stop). Judging by several reviews and comments I have read since the publishing of tNotW in 2007, you would expect this to be a new "Lord of the Rings" or "A Song of Ice and Fire". As I said, tNotW, and "The Kingkiller Chronicle" series by extension, is an enjoyable and good, but on completely different level compare to aforementioned. But let's not allow this to ruin the book for us...

Event in "The Wise Man's Fear" continue directly after those in its prequel. In the present (of the book), this means that we follow Kvothe, Chronicles and Bast in the inn, doing several chores and less important deeds, but mainly telling, writing and listening of the Kvothe's story during the second day. In the past, or better say, in Kvothe's story, he continues his education on the University, his musical performances in neighboring town of Imre, and also several his more or less shady or less regular activities (searching for the Chandrians and the Amyr, feuding with noble-born and pretentious Ambrose Jakis, hanging with Denna, and so on). This part takes first third of the book (with almost 1000 pages, tWMF is much longer than tNotW) and it is my favorite part of the book (at least in this reading). I just like the University as a setting and I was glad to see him return there at the end of this book, too. There are no much new characters or concepts here, but everything is explored in more details. We finally see the Archives in more details and up close, and it's good. We also learn more about Elodin, and it crazy as one would expect. The feud with Ambore escalates and reflects on other people, too. There was also some intense action, similar to the closing parts of tNotW.

After the first third, Kvothe finally sees some of the wide world (but in better circumstances than before). He ends in Vintas, as romantic-adviser for a man richer that some kings. This part is also good: mingling with unsuspecting noble class, opposing conspiracies and learning more about the world. This part is somewhat abruptly changed to woodland military excursion. This is the place where I realized that Kvothe reminds me of Miles Vorkosigan in "The Warrior's Apprentice". They are both young guys in their late teens, ending in control of some military unit and pulling it with only their cockiness and cleverness. After that we have our first lengthy encounter with magic, when Kvothe ends in fairly land. Then follows a part of the book that I didn't really like, the training with Ademi mercenaries... It IS nicely written, stressing out the differences between cultures, but for some reason I didn't fall for it.

The ending of the book provides us with several conclusions of plots started previously. We see how Kvothe first became famous and how this fame showed its ugly sides for the first time. Also, it is hard to again become a regular pupil that every teacher can boss around, when for short time ago you held an ear of powerful people. This is also where things are becoming dark, which is confirmed by Kvothe in present, when he breaks his story for the second day, leaving the dark parts for tomorrow.

tWMF continues the biographic style started in first part. It is still good book, with the same style, but in some parts in not as good as the original. First, there are several parts of setting and plot that came as total surprise. This is usually good, but I expect such things to have some foreshadowing. It doesn't have to be obvious in first reading, but reader should be able to find the backing for it, otherwise it feels like the writer only later decided to include it in the book. This is in my opinion the worst flaw of "The Sword of Truth" series; on the other hand, Jordan foreshadows events in later books of WoT marvelously. Second, there were some bad decisions with pacing. In several places (most obvious were the trial and the trip to Vintas) events were practically skipped and this felt like cheating.

On the other hand, I like those several stories that were told: the story, inside a story, inside a story, inside a book... Worldbuilding was exceptional as in previous book, revealing new elements of setting, but not giving all details, leaving reader to question for more. Reading for very fun and there is much humor in it.

Looks like Rothfuss was listening for reader's feedback very closely. One of often objection was lack of important female characters in tNotW. In tWMF this is remedied with several female characters with much more presence. Also, there is much sex in this book, comparing to previous where there was none. But it is not explicit, more implied.

For conclusion, let's say that Patrick Rothfuss tried a bit more ambitious book with this one. He failed in some parts, but succeeding in most, so "The Wise Man's Fear" is almost good as "The Name of The Wind". Those who liked the first part will like this one also. It reminds open whether the last part of the trilogy will be able to achieve everything promised (since I don't see how he will be able to put all this fame and notoriety into one book), but my hopes are high.

P.S. It looks like waiting for "The Doors of Stone" will be a long one....

No comments:

Post a Comment