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The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Book Name: The Wise Man's Fear
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher(s): Gollancz (UK) DAW Books (US)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: March 1, 2011

March 1, 2011 marked the release date of perhaps the most anticipated fantasy novel of our generation. Voted by the majority of our users above the likes of A Dance with Dragons and The Crippled God – Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear was met with unprecedented enthusiasm by fantasy fans throughout the world.

The Wise Man’s Fear was set to continue one of the most intriguing stories in the genre to date. This is the story of Kvothe – the fallen hero. What makes Kvothe’s story different from the hundreds of other ‘becoming hero’ stories is that we are told the ending of his story at the very beginning of the first book. We are told that Kvothe has rescued princesses, he has burned down towns, he has spent the night with faeries, he has tread paths in the dark that many are too afraid to even speak of and oh yeah – he has spoken to Gods…you could say he has lived a pretty exciting life.

So, what does our hero do now you might ask?

Well…he…he runs an inn.

Now, you may be thinking…Ok…Ok…that’s his cover. What does he really do!?

But no, seriously, he REALLY runs an inn.

I know, kinda sad right?

So why are we reading a book about a guy who runs an inn? Well, because he wants to tell us his story. We hear from other characters stories about him, but he – this man who has lived the life of a hero – is willing to tell us the story from his point of view. And that – that is what makes it so damned exciting. We know what people say about Kvothe, we know they say he is this badass who did all this stuff, but Kvothe is going to tell us the truth and we want to know how on earth he managed all these amazing feats. We also want to know how a man who has accomplished all this amazing stuff can seemingly be happy working behind the bar of an inn and display almost no traits of the hero that features within the tales we are told by other characters.

So that is why we waited. But what did we wait for? Well…

Kvothe is simply Kvothe in the early part of the novel. He seems unchanged for the first 300 pages of the novel. In fact had it not been Patrick Rothfuss writing this novel, then I may complain about the fact not a huge amount actually happens. Kvothe is still at the university and embarrassing his fellow students with his incredible intellect at such a young age.

I think that with a 4-year wait for a book, Rothfuss felt a responsibility to reset the scene and remind us who Kvothe was. Rothfuss does this well enough though, because although not a lot happens there are a lot of enjoyable scenes – a number of which had me laughing out loud, especially the interaction between Kvothe and Auri.

Without too many spoilers here, Kvothe leaves the university for a period during the book. He heads off to find his way, so to speak, and it is from here that things begin to change. Patrick Rothfuss describes these changes in an interview as “the journey of a child becoming a young man.” During this journey Kvothe experiences sex for the first time and we also find out a bit about how he acquires his legendary combat skills. From pages 400 to 800 the Kvothe we experience is a mature one…an almost unrecognisable one. In many ways he is colder, scarier and as things progress we really do see him establish those roots as a hero as opposed to a noteworthy student.

I guess you want to know now: Did the most anticipated fantasy novel since just about ever live up to the hype!? The answer is simply: DAMNED RIGHT!

Rothfuss writes like nobody else on this planet. The poetic nature of his writing is so beautiful that you can’t help but tumble through the pages. I would quite happily tell you that there is no other man on this planet who could make a near 1000 word novel feel short. There are points in the novel that literally take your breath away. The world that Rothfuss builds is vivid and from hearing the music to seeing the sights…the first person works even better than in his last book.

In fact, you will probably get so into this novel that you will feel you know Kvothe in real life. In my mind right now, Kvothe could walk into my office and I would be quite ready to converse with him. Not only could I converse with him, but I would know what to talk about, what not to talk about, how I would expect him to react, how he would move…it’s a scary type of closeness I feel to Kvothe. In fact it almost saddens me I won’t hear his voice again for another 3/4/5 years….*sigh*

Back to the point I made earlier. I must admit that I am a little concerned about how minimally we have progressed through Kvothe’s tale. That does not mean that the book was boring. What I mean is that this book is a trilogy and it feels as if there is a lot more to come. More questions were asked in this book than were answered from the first book, and that means we have two books worth of questions left outstanding. Some of them huge questions such as ‘who killed Kvothe’s parents?’ and ‘why?’ Or ‘what is Bast?’ and ‘Who is Auri?’ But also minor questions like ‘What the heck happened to Elodin?’ or ‘Why is the sword in the inn so important?’ and tons more besides. In fact… watch this space because I’m compiling a list of questions left so far unanswered in the series and I’m already on over 20 and that’s nowhere near finished.

I guess the problem behind this fact is that we have only really moved a year or so. Rothfuss has promised beyond any shadow of a doubt that this series will be completed as three books. Again…I’m worried about that. There is only a few things that would make this possible:

1. The next book will be HUGE. I’m talking 1500-2000 pages HUGE.
2. The next book will skip a number of years.
3. The next book will be far vaguer.
4. In the next book a huge amount of threads will intertwine.

Patrick Rothfuss is literally leaving the legacy of this series in the hands of the final novel. Its success or failure hinges on how he ties everything together. With all the threads left loose right now it is going to take perhaps the most skilful writer in the genre to do this. The good news is that The Wise Man’s Fear is evidence that Rothfuss is exactly this.

I’d class this as probably the best book I’ve ever read and I’ve read a fair few books within this genre (and beyond too I guess!). The Name of the Wind blew people away. Rothfuss as a debut author should not have been able to create the kind of storm that occurred with the release of The Name of the Wind in 2006, but evidently he did! Upon creating that storm people naturally thought that there was no way he could possibly follow it and do it again…something had to give. But no, Rothfuss has taken The Name of the Wind, built upon every single beautiful aspect of it and made what I would consider the perfect book.



  1. the_hound says:

    “March 1st 2011 marked the release date of perhaps the most anticipated fantasy novel of our generation” hyperbole much? 😛

    A Dance With Dragons, the final volume of a Wheel of Time. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, were all pretty hotly or will be pretty hotly anticipated!

    Good points about why it took 400pages for Kvothe to leave the University and about just how much rests on the final book, and your enthusiasm is very catchy!

  2. sjhigbee says:

    I really enjoyed reading your passionate and interesting review. I loved The Name of the Wind and had it down as one of the best books of the year – but after reading this, I’ll try and get hold of Wise Man’s Fear as soon poss. Many thanks!

  3. Khaldun says:

    In the following interview, the interviewer states that “At this point, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that Kvothe’s slow-cook progress is intentional,” to which Rothfuss replies, “I’m a fan of books that are almost languorous in their storytelling. That is a little bit lost sometimes in the modern media that we have.”

    I haven’t finished the book yet, and the pacing does feel a bit slow, but it is a slowness I have been able to deal with so far. I’m excited to see how it ends, and where he goes in the third novel in the trilogy. I can’t help but feel at the point I’m at right now, just after the Felurian episode, that it’s going to require an absolutely crazy third novel to tie up all the loose ends.

    Still, I’ve enjoyed the reading so far, and hopefully I can steal a few minutes here and there in the next few weeks to finish it. Thanks for the interesting review 🙂

    I do also have to say I agree with your comment that “Rothfuss writes like nobody else on this planet. The poetic nature of his writing is so beautiful that you can’t help but tumble through the pages.”
    I still prefer GRRM at this point, but my god does Rothfuss write beautifully.

  4. Sean says:

    I’ve been trying to get on with my life, reading other books playing some games. But now my mind is pulled straight back to the book that has left all other books feeling bland to me. Urm, thankyou just what I needed to be reminded that I wont get to read the next book for 3 to 4 years. Man I can’t wait though.

    I guess I have the re-reads to keep me going and threads like this that keep me thinking through the plots.

    I would be happy if Patrick Rothfuss just released a schedule planner of Kvothe’s day at the university. I could easily spend three long 2000 page books following his antics and relationships. School has never seemed so appealing.

    Once again, great article.

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