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Review of THE WISE MAN’S FEAR


First some updates. This week’s Writing Excuses podcast episode features Sherrilyn Kenyon talking about how to make your readers fear for your characters. The newest WARBREAKER annotation is on a climactic moment in the Siri/Susebron relationship. And there’s a new batch of Twitter posts up, covering the past month.

Review of THE WISE MAN’S FEAR by Patrick Rothfuss

In case you haven’t heard, today is the release day of the long-awaited sequel to The Name of the Wind, a delightful debut fantasy novel by Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve had the privilege of reading the book, so I thought I’d post a heads-up here for those of you who read my blog, along with a review. (Of sorts.) Also, a reminder, I did an interview with Pat (and he kind of interviewed me back) for Amazon. You can read it at this link.

PART ONE: A REVIEW OF THE WISE MAN’S FEAR

All right, so the review of Wise Man’s Fear will focus on one question: Is it as good as the first?

The answer is . . . yes, and I feel that it’s quite a bit better. (That is saying a lot.)

There’s the review. I figure that those of you reading this blog will either:

  1. Have read Name of the Wind and liked it, so that review should be more than enough for you.
  2. Have read Name of the Wind and didn’t like it. If so, I respect your opinion, even though you’re obviously a crazy person.
  3. Haven’t yet read Name of the Wind, so giving you an extensive review of the second book would really just be a big confusing spoiler.

PART TWO: GO BUY IT

This is a very, very good book. If you liked the first, might I suggest that you go out and purchase yourself a copy this week? Pat may not mention it himself, but first-week sales are very helpful in giving a book good momentum. It will determine how long the book stays on shelves, how good its placement is in weeks to come, and how aggressively the sequel will be ordered by bookstores.

As I always state for my own books, if you’re not a hardcover buyer, don’t feel guilty not going out to get it—as authors, we like you to consume books as you prefer to consume them. Library, hardcover, ebook, paperback . . . your call. However, if you ARE intending to read Wise Man’s Fear in hardcover, buying it early rather than late is always a nice sign for the author. Also, I’ve got a selfish reason for wanting Pat to sell well. I’d very much like to have a nice, friendly rivalry going with the chap. The Way of Kings hit #7 on the New York Times list. If Pat can hit in the top five with this book, it will give me something to shoot for.

(Honestly, I’m hoping he hits #1. It’s well within the realm of possibility for this book, and he deserves it. It will help the entire genre if this book sells well, as it will prove that big epic fantasy books by newer authors are still viable, and will also prove that excellence will be rewarded by the readership.)

PART THREE: A LONGER REVIEW (KIND OF)

Okay, so, I’m off on a tangent again. Let’s bring this back into focus. I’m going to assume that some of you haven’t read Name of the Wind yet. I often suggest it to people; it’s become—alongside Tigana, Eye of the World, and Dragonsbane—one of my top recommendations for fantasy readers. Often, however, people ask why they should read the book. Why do I recommend it?

Because it’s awesome.

Why is it awesome?

This often stops me. Why IS Pat’s writing awesome?

Well, the books have an absolutely wonderful magic system. One part science, one part historical pseudoscience, one part magical wonder. It’s the type of magic system that I’m always delighted to read, and ranks among my favorites in fantasy literature. But that alone doesn’t describe why the books are awesome.

In many ways, Name of the Wind is like an old, familiar coat. A young man orphaned at a young age. Time spent on the streets living as a thief and a street rat. A wizards’ school. Those who have not liked the book have often complained about the familiar tropes. What I love about how Pat uses these tropes, however, is the realism he strives to impart.

I view this story like a Batman Begins-type realism reboot of many classic fantasy tropes. We get to hear the legends of Kvothe, then read the truth, and make the connections of how things spiraled from realistic to fantastic. The way Pat does this is genius. In some places, you can barely pick out the tropes he is using—after one sequence in Wise Man’s Fear, I found myself laughing uproariously as I realized the mythological foundation for the sequence. There are familiar tropes, but they’re taken and made so new and fresh that you have to peer through several layers of silk to see them for what they are. In other cases, there is delightful originality.

Those things, however, also fail to describe why the books are awesome.

Kvothe is a very compelling hero, very classical in that he’s widely accomplished yet marred by a single dominating flaw. (In this case, his temper.) He is witty, charming, and so wonderfully capable that he’s a delight to read about. (Particularly following much of the current fiction I’ve read, which seems to take the utmost pains to make certain I don’t like anyone I’m reading about.) He’s noble, yet brash, and is clever, but inexperienced. (Which makes him dense on occasion.) He lives.

But even that is not what truly makes these books awesome.

In the end, I think that if I distill why I’ve loved these books so much more than others, it’s because of this: They’re beautiful. Wise Man’s Fear is a BEAUTIFUL book to read. Masterful prose, a sense of cohesion to the storytelling, a wonderful sense of pacing . . . None of that is the reason for the awesomeness any more than a single dab of paint is the reason why a Monet is a thing of wonder. But if you step back to look and digest the piece as a whole—not thinking too much about the parts—you are left with a sense of awe.

There is a beauty to Pat’s writing that defies description. Perhaps if Kvothe were here, he could write an appropriate song that would capture it.

Brandon

p.s. As this is of note to many of those in my audience, I feel that I should mention that this book contains a fair bit more sex than the previous volume did. Pat avoids graphic details, but there are events in the latter half of the book that some readers may find discomforting.


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