Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Back in 2007, I was walking around completely disillusioned with the fantasy genre. The conventions that I loved as a wild-eyed teen were becoming tired and predictable. I could not suffer through one more coming of age story about a naive farm boy who is orphaned by murdering trolls, given a magic Gee-Gaw by the King of the Elves and saves the world from nameless and vague evil forces. Just when I thought I had outgrown this stuff, The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss landed in my lap, courtesy of my father who is normally quite allergic to books with pictures of dragons on them. It was book one of The Kingkiller Chronicle and the quality of the writing, the depth of the characters and the fresh reboot of the familiar Tolkien landscape blew my mind. This wasn't just a fantasy novel. This was literature.

Here we are four years later and I have just finished the dreaded "middle book" of the trilogy. The one in the middle always gets a bad rap. Questions are posed, yet few are answered. Characters develop, but not fully. Bad things happen and the good guys don't always win. We nerds call this "The Empire Strikes Back conundrum". The author has to advance the story, yet he still has to hold most of his cards close to the vest to keep readers invested for the big finale. It is not an easy thing to do. So with that in mind, I must say this: Mr. Rothfuss, my hat is off to you sir. The Wise Man's Fear is a brilliantly crafted piece of The Kingkiller Chronicle puzzle.

This is the story of Kvothe the Bloodless, a legendary adventurer who has hung up his sword and cast himself into self-imposed, witness protection-style exile as an innkeeper named Kote. Songs, stories and epic poems have been written about his deeds but Kvothe wants to set the record straight by recounting the gritty reality of his life to a scribe named Chronicler. We see how legends are made, and how at the heart of legends there often sits a tragic and wounded man who desires neither praise nor adoration. It deftly touches on issues of racism, cultural and ethnic divides and the power of human potential. All of this heavy stuff is well rounded with a snappy sense of humor and some of the funniest dialogue I've read since Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett teamed up to write Good Omens.

This hefty tome clocked in at just under 1000 pages, and after turning the last one I wished there were 1000 more. I just hope I don't have to wait another four years to read the conclusion. If Mr. Rothfuss wasn't so busy being accessible to his fans, signing their books, posting and replying to his blog and just generally being an all around great guy, it might not take so long. So I guess there is my one complaint. Now you can't call me an obsessed fanboy or whatever. 

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