Wednesday, 17 August 2016

REVIEW: The Wise Man's Fear

There's a tendency when reading a series to rate the books against each other rather than against the world. I've seen it done to my own books: I loved XXXX of Thorns but it wasn't as good as YYYY of Thorns ... so 4*.

I didn't enjoy The Wise Man's Fear as much as I enjoyed The Name of the Wind. I didn't enjoy A Dance With Dragons as much as I enjoyed A Game of Thrones. But I'm giving them ALL 5* because compared to most books I read ... they're noticeably better. I won't 4* this book to make my point that it's (for me) not as good as its predecessor ... I'll make that point here. With words.

Readers often get 'confused' between the journey, the destination, and the story. When the reader thinks the story lies at the end of the journey, and the writer thinks the story IS the journey, it can cause tensions between them.

Reading TWMF part of me was always wanting to get back to 'the thing' where 'the thing' was where my knee-jerk tells me the story lies, i.e. making solid progress at the university in order to tackle the Chandrian. And that really doesn't happen in this very long book. In fact so little happens in that direction that I wonder if Rothfuss might not wholly evade that issue. Certainly if he's to conclude the story in three books it seems that a drastic up-ing of focus and pace (or a 10,000 page book) would be required to deal with Heliax and friends.

So, let's put to one side the fact that if you think the story is about revenge on the Chandrian then basically nothing happened, and note instead that all the 'side' adventuring was fun to read and very well written.

Kvothe continues to be brilliant at everything. The fact that on one page late on we discover he's not genius level at mathematics hardly balances that he picks up a difficult new language, makes startling progress at marshal arts, and impresses a sex fairy with his sexing, even though it's his first time.

If you let go of your destination desires this is an enjoyable book with great prose. The story meanders, seemingly with out direction. In fact a big chunk of it is about Kvothe and friends meandering without direction, hunting bandits in a vast wood. The aim doesn't feel particularly important (protecting tax collectors in a distant land), the meat of it doesn't feel very exciting (they wander for a LONG time), and much of it feels pretty random (the sex fairy encounter comes out of nowhere) ... but even so, I plain enjoyed reading it, we get our little band group dynamics, we get story telling around the camp fire ... and each told story is a fun bit of fiction in itself... It all sounds a bit dull when I lay it out, but the deliciousness (like the devil) is in the detail, and I kept coming back for more.

In the end we're back at the university and bugger all has been accomplished. On a basic level we're pretty much where we started, and left wondering how this story is going to move forward. But on an entirely different level, I've consumed a 1000 page book in an unheard of (for me) two weeks and enjoyed pretty much every minute of it. 

So five stars.

I now, at long last, join the end of a lengthy queue of people agitating for book 3.

You can go 'like' my review on Goodreads if you like.


  1. "I now, at long last, join the end of a lengthy queue of people agitating for book 3."

    Welcome! It's a fun crowd. The best is watching Pat show up at conventions and troll the crowd by pretending he is going to reveal something from #3. It's like 99% laughter and 1% crying uncontrollably on the inside.

  2. While I do enjoy the journey in the books I still did not enjoy the first of this series. The problem for me was that there was a promise. In the very first few pages, there's a promise, that Kvothe is this this this and that. And this is his story.
    After two books Kvothe is almost none of that yet. And the way he is going about achieving all those is not by being clever. It's by being awesome because he tried.

    The prose is all good. But the promise of the first few pages wasn't kept. For me at least. For people who enjoy it, I couldn't be happier. I certainly know the joys of enjoying a book :)