I finally finished reading Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two — not because it was difficult to read, which it wasn’t, but because my life has been difficult. The good news is that it was well worth the wait.
This is the sequel to the superb The Name of the Wind, the first installment in the trilogy. It is written mainly in first person as the young man Kvothe recounts his life’s story to a scholar who has searched for Kvothe for that very purpose. Occasional interludes in the “present day” are written in third person as the story switches from history to the the current events that surround this story-telling, and thus the “Second Day” in the sub-title, as this volume is Kvothe’s second day of dictating to the chronicler.
The story is set in a fairly typical fantasy world, in that it is populated mainly by humans mostly living at a level somewhere akin to our late medieval or early Renaissance period. Naturally, there are various forms of magic, and the story initially continues to follow Kvothe as a precocious teenager at the main university of magical learning; but don’t even think of confusing this with Harry Potter — not that some comparison and contrast wouldn’t be interesting.
Rothfuss’s writing continues to flow beautifully and engages the reader quite nicely. Just when I was starting to get tired with the time being spent at the University and Kvothe’s ongoing feud with the obnoxious nobel’s son Ambrose, Rothfuss wisely broke away from that story line and sent Kvothe off on a very eventful journey across a good chunk of his world. A few interesting revelations occur, and Kvothe gains more information and training in skills both amorous and martial (not “marital”), and all in all was an enjoyable experience to share.
My main gripe with the series and seemingly more so in this book is simply that Kvothe is too capable in too many different things. He is a superb singer and even better lute player. He is very smart and very good at memorizing things, allowing him to be one of the youngest boys to ever be admitted to the University. He has extremely strong innate abilities in certain types of magic well beyond most students. He is also a trained and very good actor. Then in this volume during his journey he gets “trained” in sex and sensuality by a mystical “Fae” woman, and after that heads off to the mountains to get trained in martial arts by a society that specializes in ways of training and philosophizing similar to several Oriental martial orders, and of course he learns their ways and language much more quickly than anyone would have imagined.
Presumably this is all going to lead to something truly momentous in the third installment, and maybe some revelation that explains why he is in the 99.99th percentile of so many diverse skills. Maybe he’s the avatar of some god or the direct descendent of some almost defunct line of supermen? Whatever the case, I sometimes found it both tough to swallow that he could be so great at so many things, plus it made it difficult for me to countenance his poor judgement in other areas of his life, even though he was just a teenager. I guess maybe I would prefer it if he were a little bit more normal and had to work a little harder to accomplish things — not that he didn’t work very hard at certain things, but it still had a lot to do with his talents. After all, that’s what made The Lord of the Rings so compelling: the story was centered around a Hobbit with no exotic or superhuman ability, just a strong character and a sense of duty and love.
But I’m nit-picking here (again). It really was an enjoyable book, and while I can’t say it was as good as the first, I can say it was pretty darned close and definitely should be enjoyed by anyone who liked The Name of the Wind, a solid 4 out of 5 stars for me.