A story within a story, The Wise Man’s Fear continues to not only unravel more of musician and arcanist Kvothe’s past but shed more light on the world around him. The second book in The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, Wise Man’s Fear picks up where the first book, The Name of the Wind, left off. With three days to share the only true account of his life, the legendary Kvothe spends the second day revealing more of his past and his adventures.
As with the first book, Wise Man’s Fear begins at the inn with Kvothe, his friend Bast, and the Chronicler, a man set on recording the only true version of Kvothe’s life. Up until now, there have only been rumors and legends. No one has officially recorded the whole truth.
From there, readers are transported back into Kvothe’s past. Back to his days at the University where he studied arcane arts, history, and how to name things. To his days traveling to new countries and learning from different cultures. And to how some of the now famous legends truly began.
When Last We Left Our Hero
At the end of The Name of the Wind, we have already spent what seems like an eternity with Kvothe. From his beginnings as a child traveling with his family and performing troupe, to the loss of his murdered family, to his agonizing ordeal with homelessness, Kvothe has come a long way already.
When he finally gets to the University, to both study and learn more about the illusive Chandrian who murdered his family, he finds a new set of difficulties. As his story continues in The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe must learn patience, humility, and restraint. Being clever, quick-witted, and talented has gotten him far, but to a point.
When an opportunity presents itself for Kvothe to leave the University, temporarily, he encounters even more strange customs, laws, and people. In applying familiar talents with new arcane skills, he develops a following as a legend. Did Kvothe really call down lightning? Did he really travel to the fae world? Is he really responsible for saving two women from a group of bandits?
A Character-Centered Story
A tome in its own right, The Wise Man’s Fear, along with its predecessor The Name of the Wind, can be intimidating reads to look at. If you’re looking for a quick read, this isn’t it. However, the time needed to explore the world Rothfuss has created is well worth it.
The Kingkiller Chronicles are mainly character-driven stories. And it works. While other stories focus on a ticking clock or fast-paced action sequences to drive a story, this one is content to simply follow Kvothe where he will.
As such, the pace may be slower than we’re used to as readers. When content is constantly consumed quickly and in short bursts, it can be difficult to slow down. But honestly, speed reading or skimming Rothfuss would be a huge disservice to yourself. Take your time. Stew in it. Let the story simmer and come to a boil on its own.
While a long read, everything that happens has a purpose. You may think the chapters of characters telling stories to one another aren’t necessary, but they are. They build and expand upon the lore of the world. And all lore is based at least some part in truth. By spending so much time in Kvothe’s head, the reader gets a deeper sense of how the character feels when faced with both difficulties and successes. Take your time.
The Exploration Of New Worlds & Cultures
What Wise Man’s Fear does that the first book didn’t get into as much is explore other cultures in Rothfuss’s world. A great deal of time is spent interacting with new people, some with different verbal and body languages, and traveling beyond the University.
It’s a pleasure to see Kvothe’s interest in understanding and gaining knowledge doesn’t begin and end at the University. His shared empathy for these other cultures, one in particular, is a brilliant example of what can happen when we stop being quick to judge and strive to listen instead.
Final Thoughts on The Wise Man’s Fear
Overall the sequel in the Kingkiller Chronicles measures up to its predecessor and does a fantastic job of leading us on more of Kvothes adventures. While it is a massive undertaking, at 1,100 pages mass paperback, it’s a journey everyone should take at least once.
And there’s plenty of time to get started. Unfortunately, The Wise Man’s Fear released about seven years ago and the final book of the trilogy has yet to be published. And it doesn’t look like it’s coming out any time soon.
So pick up a copy, or start over from the beginning. You have time. Enjoy it.