I had enjoyed The Name Of The Wind. It was refreshing within the fantasy genre. I didn’t think it quite deserved the incandescent – which seems to be my word of the week! – praise that it had received. But I liked it.
Part 2 of The Kingkiller Chronicle, The Wise Man’s Fear, heaps more of the same at you. In fact, the first 300 or do pages are nearly identical to the last 300 or so pages of The Name Of The Wind: Kvothe is at University, he excels in everything, he is really poor, Ambrose hates him.
Again we have three distinct parts to the narrative: Kvothe in University; Kvothe in Vint; Kvothe with the Ademre. Again, in each part, Rothfuss presents the same pattern: Kvothe is really poor and alone but through hard work, luck, music, genius or charm he survives, makes a handful of friends and a couple of enemies.
Whenever Kvothe is moderately comfortable, Rothfuss pulls it away from under his feet to make him start again! A case in point is the way he leaves University. Kvothe has managed to create a reasonably tight circle of friends – Sim, Fela, Devi, Wil – with whom he is able to laugh, prank and get petty revenges on his arch-enemy Ambrose. It’s all becoming a little Harry Potter ish… and within the space of a dozen pages he is criminally tried, persuaded to leave the University for a year and shipped off to some palace a thousand miles away; he is given money and clothes for the voyage but loses them in a storm and fight with pirates, arriving with nothing.
And Rothfuss – presumably for the sake of pace – does not show us either the trial or the pirates. I like trials and pirates.
And exactly the same thing happens in Vint: he becomes a favourite of the Maer – basically a King – as broadly a medical and amorous adviser and then is shoved off to fight bandits in the wood. I mean, there are many people who could fight bandits in this book but I wouldn’t give the job to some chap who had done little more than write a few love letters for me!
And no sooner has he won the grudging admiration and trust of his band of outlaw-hunters than he leaves them all behind to go to the edges of the world to the Ademre.
Oh and, in between killing out laws and going to the Ademre, oh my god, he goes and cavorts with Felurian, a mythical, legendary immortal sex-fairy. I have no objection to sex fairies. Not even to sex fairies who kill their mortal lovers. I mean, Diana and Actaeon is one of my favourite myths! But, please, Rothfuss! It must take a special skill to make a year’s cavorting with the faerie queen of sex quite so boring! I getthe desire to make it seem dreamlike in the world of the fae but not to the point of sending your reader to sleep!
But this is my biggest gripe: Kvothe never changes.
He claims to learn but never changes. After his sojourn with the fairies, he finds his way back to the human world, walks into the closest pub and carries on as if nothing happened. The only thing he seems to have learned is a range of sexual techniques.
Even worse, after months learning the discipline and control of the Ketan – which is basically a series of movements for a secret martial art which for months he practises and repeats two or three times a day – he leaves the Ademre and it is only mentioned again once. He returns to University and everything continues as it did at the start of the book 1000 pages earlier.
The impression I get of this book is that Rothfuss has spent years on snippets, fragments and portions of the book – possibly even starting and rejecting three or four different books – and has now stitched them together roughly like one if my granny’s knitted blankets! This was a grumble I had with the first book and it has become a massive bug bear with the second. There is little development of character and minimal coherence between sections.