21 March, 2011

Review: The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man’s Fear [US][UK] is the second installment in author Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles and my most anticipated read in 2011. With The Name of the Wind, Rothfuss introduced readers to our favorite young adventurer Kovthe, and now, more than 3 years later, we get a little more of his story.

Ever more apparent is the contrast between the narrator and subject. Young Kovthe is strikingly dissimilar to the broken old Kovthe. And readers are given strikingly few hints as to how the first will become the latter. The dichotomy brings on a strong sense of foreboding that leaves you wondering if the next page will hold the tragic event that transforms energetic youth into complacent resignation. And for all that, the events that unfold in The Wise Man’s Fear are surprisingly upbeat. Hero, lover, knower of the arcane, the novel is a journey of self-discovery in which Kovthe embarks on the path to adulthood.

Much like the wind, the narrative flow of the novel tends to skip about somewhat, leaving readers guessing as to where our young adventurer will be blown to next. The merit of the side quests aside, I find this a rather appealing divergence from the linearity of The Name of the Wind.

On the backburner throughout most of the novel, sadly, is Kovthe’s main quest. That of wreaking vengeance on the Chandrian for the brutal murder of his family. Few useful discoveries are made and what little is learned seems of no practical value. Knowing, or at the very least inferring, that the Chandrian are still alive during the telling of his tale, readers are left to wonder whether that particular plot line will be satisfactorily resolved in the trilogy. I, for one, do not doubt that a second trilogy is in the works!

All that nitpicking aside, The Wise Man’s Fear is a rare and remarkable addition to the fantasy pantheon, and a more than worthy successor to The Name of the Wind. Mr. Rothfuss, my hat goes off to you, your big beard, and steady hand for penning such a delightful work.

Predictions and Possibilities

Few and far between are the series that I ponder after the fact, seeking to uncover truth or hints thereof. The Wheel of Time is one of those, A Song of Ice and Fire another. While the detail in the Kingkiller Chronicles are perhaps not as… detailed, I nonetheless find myself ruminating on the possibilities, connections, and contradictions.

First, as I have hinted above, I don’t think the Chandrian will be definitively dealt with in the next novel. I don’t think they can be, given the space allowed and the general tempo of Mr. Rothfuss’s narrative. What I do know, is that when they are dealt with, these elements will come into play.

The Lockless/Lackless Box
The 7 things that stand before the entrance of the Lockless door
The 7 steel clasps on Kovthe’s lute case?!

Perhaps not coincidentally, the number 7 comes up often throughout the novel, when you least expect it. Seven friends. Seven words whispered into Denna’s ear, ect. Are all these numbers somehow leading back to the Chandrian, or are they pure coincidence? Were the Chandrian the original ‘namers’, able to read the name of all things? Is Kovthe now on that same path, in the company of his six friends?

Fantasy is generally about someone becoming something. A king, a wizard, an assassin. Small beginnings to lofty endings. I guess the question is, what is Kovthe becoming?

Any guesses?


redhead said...

" Is Kovthe now on that same path, in the company of his six friends? "

dude, that gave me chills.

I adored The Wise Man's Fear. I've offically entered fangirl-land, Rothfuss can do no wrong in my book. So perhaps everything I say about him shold be taken with a grain of salt.

One of my favorite overarching things about this series is that Rothfuss takes the tried and true fantasy tropes and hero quest thing and flips it all on it's head. I just love that.

Bryce L. said...

I can't wait to read this, but I'm also debating putting it off as long as I can what with there "possibly" being another wait. :)