This is the second book in the Kingkiller chronicles, the first being “The Name of the Wind”. Kvothe’s adventures continue …and I learned in this book it’s not pronounced “Ka-Vo-Thee”, the e is silent.
I loved Name of the Wind, I remember I couldn’t put the book down. Now, while this book is still incredible, it’s taking me forever because I sit it down after only a few pages. I’m having the same problem I had with “Bladerunner/Do androids dream of electric sheep” …I can sum up Bladerunner in one sentence “man kills androids to afford goat”. The first 400 (give or take) pages of The Wise man’s fear can be summed up as “Kvothe does increasingly stupid things to afford school tuition”. Granted, it’s a 1000 page book, but it was relatively boring to get through the first bit.
Let me reel it back in for a minute. The story continues with Kote, Kvothe’s modern persona, telling his story to a Chronicler. The way the story is told is interesting because it has the “Interview with a Vampire” vibe of the main story stopping because of things like customers coming in. I will always remember in Interview when the story stopped because the tape on the recording device had run out and Louis stopped the story to mention it. I have always found that method of writing quite interesting, it lets the author time jump without having to do “flashbacks” or just straight up confusing the reader. This method gives the reader a cue so our brains can immediately go “oh okay, we are here now!” and skip the momentary “wtf is going on?”. Plus, the story is in Kvothe’s point of view, while the other is not because it is also following the chronicler and Bast, Kote’s companion. Diana Gabaldon did this method too when she started introducing other people’s points of view, once again, training the readers brains that alternate perspectives = alternate voice. And it would be a real shame to miss anything with Bast, he is a mass of chaos and an absolute delight. As for the story Kote is telling, he’s still at the Archanist school, excelling at this, playing his lute every night at the bar he gets room and board in for a bit of extra money, making stupid decisions that end up pushing him further into dismay, courting a wonderful flighty girl named Denna, and cultivating the hatred of another student – Ambrose.
This rivalry kind of carries the main story, Ambrose belongs to a rich and powerful family who has all the money and power available to him to ruin Kvothes life …Kvothe has …his wit. Seems like an uneven battle, but never underestimate any creative and driven mind. While his attempts to get at Ambrose don’t always work, he makes sure he can’t be traced back to the event. Ambrose is the same, but while Kvothe covers his tracks, Ambrose hires people. Hire people to stab Kvothe in an alleyway? Check. Buy a bar and have the new “owner” refuse to let Kvothe play there? Check. Pay a distraught woman to slip poison into Kvothe’s drink? Check. Spread rumors so he can’t get a Patron? Check. And finally, the break the monotony of “Kvothe raises money for school”, spread rumors about malfeasance (the dangerous use of magic) and drag Kvothe to court.
In the first 400 pages Kvothe does his school work, tries to find a Patron (basically, person who pays you to do a certain task, kind of a boss but more personal), and does his best to find out more about the Chandrian. Unfortunately, he has exhausted the library at the school, and without a Patron, can’t get into the religious libraries or large personal libraries of other nobles. With a Patron he could get a letter of reference, especially if his Patron is high ranking enough, and every library everywhere would be open to him.
After the court case, where Kvothe is found innocent (guilty would have been a death penalty) several people (friends and teachers) recommend he take a semester or so off school to let the controversy calm down. Even Ambrose took time away, even though nothing could be traced back to him, logically everyone knew he was somehow involved.
While wandering the district, a friend who was looking for a Patron for Kvothe found a prospect – a rich man (equivalent to a King) is looking for a clever youth to live with him and help him. Only catch, is it’s in Severen, while rich and beautiful, is a little backwater in its view of “magic”. Once there, Kvothe has to navigate and entire new set of rules, both personal, cultural, and in dealing with Nobility. From stopping a plot to kill his Patron, to helping him woo a suitor. Kvothe’s story does not stop there.
Out of the school the story does pick up, I will give it that, its just trying to get past the school stuff.
The book is incredibly well written, fun, and for the most part fast paced. While the 1000pages might be daunting, if you are looking for good fantasy without too many dungeons or dragons, this is it. Yes, this book is about magic, but Rothfuss’ approach to it makes it almost scientific, so no throwing fireballs here.