The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss

April 10, 2011 at 12:31 (Book Reviews, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Fiction, Mediocre Books) (, , , , , )


Due care should be taken when reading this book. It is a marked departure from the first book of the series, in style, content, substance and feel. Most positively, Rothfuss continues his able characterisation of Kvothe and the manifold denizens of his vivid world; he manages to avoid repeating himself unduly (which is no mean feat, considering these books’ lengths!) and builds substantially on his other creations. Whereas he had first gone to painstaking efforts to colour every jot and tittle of Tarbean and the University, and to lovingly explore his different incarnations of magic, here he demonstrates that, no: he had not yet written everything that could be written about these inventions, and he writes passionately enough to keep his storytelling fresh. Also weighing heavily in this book’s favour is a thankfully improved standard of copy-editing. No haphazard mistakes or clumsy phrasing to detract from a clever and sophisticated story.

Unfortunately, The Wise Man’s Fear has somewhat lost its reserve; its gentleness and the sense of propriety that lent its predacessor such grace and beauty. Needless prudery is one thing, but the extent to which Rothfuss feels it necessary to delve into more graphic aspects of his world ends up damaging something fundamental in his writing, and altering the whole flavour of the book. Additionally, where most of his creations still feel new and freshly original, the Daoism of his Ademre race is laid on with a rather too thick trowel, which is both distracting and eventually, feels somewhat arrogant.

Also missing is his remarkable ability to borrow the pen of Tolkien and write that rarest and most beautiful of the gems of fantasy: true legend. The Lay of Felurian might have begun to approach the majestic, had it not been a largely sordid romp. The ever-elusive quest for the Amyr and the stunningly-portrayed appearance of the Cthaeh certainly are the best taste of grand and proud writing, and are sadly relegated to background roles. Instead of these shimmering themes, the more prosaic and–dare it be said?–exhausted aspects of the story are drawn out to their uttermost extent: long, dull valleys between the occasional (far too occasional) shimmering peaks. Having promised much, Rothfuss delivers; but only in his expansion of what is already in place. There are very few sparks of revelation in The Wise Man’s Fear, and some of the fire of his writing appears to have dimmed.

Related review:
The Name of the Wind


  1. Redhead said,

    😦 I really liked Wise Man’s Fear. Liked it better than the first one, in fact. I didn’t mind the slow, meandering pace, and I know a lot people didn’t much care for that aspect. Kinda forced me to slow down, smell the roses, & pay attention to what was really going on.

  2. J. Holsworth Stevenson said,

    It wasn’t the meandering as such that was a problem, but the subjects upon which he decided to meander. The most tantalising and exciting topics (such as, as I mentioned, the Cthaeh and the Amyr, or the thrilling uses of Sympathy) were eschewed in favour of a preoccupation with a handful of–what seemed to me to be–more prosaic themes.

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