The Wise Man’s Fear is the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss and aside from the alleged release date of Dance of Dragons (I’ll believe it when it’s in my hands!) was probably the most anticipated fantasy release of 2011. Patrick’s skilful use of a framed story let us know just how far Kvothe, the central character, had left to fall following the end of the first story. With the knowledge that he considers himself responsible for a continent-wide war it was inevitable that the scope of this next book had to expand beyond the University where the first book was principally set.
This is achieved with mixed success with the story feeling slightly more disjointed that the first book where the sections between trouper, urchin and student felt more cohesive. In that book not being told about much of Kvothe’s early years as a street urchin made perfect sense as part of the framed story and the sexual abuse alluded to. Here a section between the University and Severen is left without detail and only a brief summary of a series of extraordinary events which, without further details, feels somewhat contrived.
I did find Kvothe’s time in Severen a complete delight. Kvothe is such a likeable, intelligent character who is constantly having to worry and keep several plates spinning at once made it very difficult not to get hooked on this book. As the scope continued to expand there were several very entertaining sections and the weakest part of the series so far where Kvothe has a particularly fantastical sequence of events.
Despite enjoying the sections outside the university these parts remain the best with the strongest narrative drive, the most interesting side characters and the most intrigue. After the end of the last book the framing sessions for the story were made more tense and since their importance has been revealed were more enjoyable than in the first book.
Rothfuss’s mastery of story structure, narrative drive and likeable distinctive personalities continues in this second book. I was caught up in this story and almost missed my tube stop several times as a result. I can’t think of higher praise than that! The next book can’t come soon enough for me.