The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day Two: The Wise Man’s Fear

As always with my book reviews, the following is filled with spoilers. Please read ”The Wise Man’s Fear” first if you haven’t. (And if you haven’t read the first part of the series, check out ”The Name of the Wind”.)

I previously wrote about ”The Name of the Wind”, the first book of the Kingkiller Chronicle fantasy series by Patrick Rothfuss. ”The Wise Man’s Fear” is the second part of the trilogy, and the third and final is yet to be released. The trilogy is structured as a continuous story stretching over the entire life of Kvothe, a legendary arcanist, and is probably best seen as one long book stretching over three volumes, around 800 – 1 000 pages each.

I’m trying to keep this short. The Kingkiller Chronicle is one of the best fantasy stories I have ever read. It’s definitely up there among The Dark Tower and The Lord of the Rings. It is amazing in that it tells a beautiful story much more honestly than any other I have ever read. Kvothe is far from a perfect creature, and the story is both about him earning a reputation and him consciously creating it by spreading rumours about himself. It’s about rumours, politics and interpersonal drama, at the same time as it is an epic fantasy story about a man growing up and becoming a great thinker and fighter. The background story, of Kvothe in the future telling back his own story to be written down, is unique and brings a special flavour to the books.

I do think, however, that the trilogy as a whole could have been separated into more books. The first two books don’t have any clear cut-off points, but merely ends in the vein of ”well, that’s enough for today.” I could easily see the books separated into three each, with more interesting cut-offs. The story, and especially this second book which is longer than the first, includes many separate stories. The book overall reminds me of classics like Homer’s ”The Odyssey” in how it tells a long series of shorter stories all tying together in the longer story. We see Kvothe travelling around, meeting legendary creatures and persons and performing legendary feats. Many parts actually work – though not as good – as solitary stories.

The title of the book, ”The Wise Man’s Fear”, is a quote from the previous book – ”there are three things all men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.” In this book, we finally see the latter of the three, done perfectly. ”The Wise Man’s Fear” is at times much, much darker than ”The Name of the Wind”, a reflection of Kvothe growing up, growing more powerful and taking things into his own hands. There is a section of a battle in which Kvothe uses the body of an enemy to perform magic, and at the end of it he is covered in blood, and sees the mess of a body before him – a scene which had me stop reading for several minutes, trying to understand what I had read. Towards the end of the book, Kvothe coldly slays nine travelling musician for the horrible crimes they had done. Some part of me stops and think if I like this new Kvothe, or if he is turning into a horrible beast.

It is beautiful.

However, I did find some sections of ”The Wise Man’s Fear” to be slightly too long. The mid-section in which Kvothe works for Maer Alveron is too long for my choosing, and actually had me stop reading for a while before I returned in interest for what happened next. But that’s a relatively minor point in it all.

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