The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I scored both books in this series from the free stuff pile at BristolCon.  I read the first volume, The Name of the Wind in about 8 days in December when I was having a traumatic life event.  It was exactly the sort of comfort reading that I needed.

I was going to move straight on to the second book but I keep back long, easy reads for transatlantic flights and as I had to make a trip across the pond at the beginning of February, I made myself wait.

These books are sort of but not quite the usual epic fantasy fare (which I keep saying is not my thing, but it’s really on a case by case basis).  Kvothe is a preternaturally clever and musically gifted orphan who has blagged his way into university but has to resort to all manner of shenanigans to keep his tuition paid and live.  Every time it looks like he might get ahead, his lack of knowledge of social norms lands him in hot water and he has to start from scratch.  The world of the story, loosely analogous to late medieval/early modern Europe,  is well realised – harsh and grim but not unremittingly so, and there is also warmth and wonder.

I was less blown away than I was by the first book.  I still love all the characters and Rothfuss’ style is such that I get carried away and just keep turning the pages.  I had worried that I might get tired of Kvothe – another 1000 pages is a lot – but that wasn’t the case.

Most of this book takes place away from the university, where things have finally became untenable and Kvothe is told to take some time away and a position at a foreign court is found for him.  That part of the book, while less interesting to me than the university parts (mainly because I like all the other university characters too), grew on me.  However, there’s a long passage where Kvothe meets a fairy queen on the road at night and she falls in love with him and there’s a long, long passage about their adventures in Faerie.  At the end of it is something that is obviously going to come back and bite him in the butt in book 3, but otherwise I found that section pretty tedious.  There is another long chunk where Kvothe lives amongst world-famous mercenaries learning their martial art (which is, naturally, normally forbidden to foreigners) that was also less than thrilling.

Speaking of book 3, there are rumours on the internet that it’s coming out about the same time as the next GRR Martin book, i.e. just this side of never, which is frustrating.

Even though I loved this book less than the first volume, I will be buying the third book the day it comes out, and not just because I am the kind of nerd who needs to know what happens next.  I still love the world and the characters.  It’s a world I can lose myself in, the very definition of effective escapist fiction.

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