Most helpful critical review
48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on 30 April 2011
Minor spoilers due to inferences.
While I enjoyed Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear I can't help but be concerned about the delivery of this second installment. Kvothe's time at the University mires the story in the same old ground. That aspect has a very Harry Potter feel which I don't believe justified its quantity in this installment. That ground was thoroughly covered in Book 1. The routine has become tiresome and lacks excitement. And even though Rothfuss eventually flings Kvothe out into the world the structure of the story lacks any emotional high point. Rothfuss' dialogue has flare and he doesn't lack for style but massive stretches of this volume are flat and unwholesome. Even when he eventually completes the various minor arcs laced throughout the book after the massive stretches of monotony I was left feeling only vaguely satisfied.
Rothfuss seems to have sacrificed the main plot in favour of building up Kvothe's character and legend in tandem. The only problem with this endearing venture is that Kvothe's self-styled legend is largely undeserving leaving the feats he does manage to accomplish out of scale with his fame. Leaving his prowess woefully inadequate to the task he is so determined to complete. This is Day 2/3 of the tale after all and I was hoping for something a little more progressive and a little less self-centred. There is a moment in the middle of the drudgery (which I won't describe) where I thought, "Yes! This is where it takes off!", however the moment fades and after mere paragraphs it's back to business as usual. Sympathy, Naming and world building take a backseat here.
The sexuality in this novel is probably the main issue for me. Not because I'm a prude but because of the sheer scope with which it envelopes this installment and its highly contrived delivery. Hundreds of pages are devoted to erotica and Kvothe is incongruously transformed into some sort of sex god whom consecutive women swoon over. Rothfuss has at times over the last two books used Kvothe "the innkeeper" to break the pretense of the story with some sarcastic comment about expected fairy tale endings and clichés to the events he recounts. I found this highly amusing because the unfolding of Kvothe's sexual awakening is TRULY cliché both in the manner that it was delivered and just the overall idea to even include it in its current form. Contrived, puerile, disappointing and unbelievable. Not only does it not move the story along in a suitable fashion Kvothes character became unreal to me during his dalliances. As if I was suddenly reading about an entirely different person. It's nauseating how a character can undergo such a radical characteristic change in the span of a single page and stay that way for chapter upon insipid chapter where virtually nothing beneficial is done with the story.
I know we live in a world of regurgitated thought and a truly original idea is hard to come by but Rothfuss' mercenary Adem just seemed a little too close to Jordon's Aiel for comfort. Barbarians/Wetlanders, Red Armour-Lethani/Cadin'sor, Aiel Polygamy/Adem multiple sexual partners. Adem displaced from homeland/Aiel displaced from homeland. Adem superior warriors/Aiel superior warriors. Also in conjunction with this the sword forms in the Wheel of Time compared to the Adem ketan and combat stances. On its own it wouldn't mean anything but given the multiple similarities its worth stating the uncanny likeness. I can forgive the Narnia-ishness of the Fae Realm and the Harry Potter styled University but the aforementioned similarities are a little jarring. I hate to be presumptuous but I presume Rothfuss has actually read The Wheel of Time. (just for the record, not a total WoT fanboy)
Kvothe and Denna's little game was charming at first but the blades edge is now dull and in need of a good whetstone. The overall idea was clever and romantic in Book 1 yes, but with the developments in this installment most notably, the complete revelation of Denna's profession (if it wasn't already obvious), and with Kvothe's contrived dalliances the innocence of the whole thing has sort of been corrupted. Where once I was rooting for them I no longer care. You can only use suspense as a tool for so long before the moment passes and is lost.
I mean it's book 2 of 3 of the supposedly legendary Kvothe's exploits. How much can Rothfuss possibly fit in the third volume if it's business as usual? When you look at both volumes there isn't much of a complete story arc fleshed out at all. Where are the bad guys? I respect the fact that Rothfuss doesn't seem to want to create the run of the mill fantasy story full of typical clichés but eventually Kvothe has to be formed into a protaginist worthy of stepping toe to toe with powerful foes. It lacks that epic feel. It's more of a brooding character study at the moment."Kvothe broods in location A about Chandrian. Kvothe broods in location B about not having his lute. Kvothe broods in location C about Denna" and NOTHING GETS DONE. Three Days to tell the tale? Three weeks seems a little more likely at this pace.
I hate to be this critical despite my obvious disappointment with The Wise Man's Fear because it does have all the key ingredients to become a fine story. I actually couldn't put both these books down until I read cover to cover. I really wouldn't mind if Rothfuss took these 3 books to just lay the ground work if he is even planning on advancing the story beyond Day 3 which I assume and hope he must be. In that way it might have a certain sweet elegance and overall structure which the individual books seem to lack. Much depends on book 3.