The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
994 pages (43 hours)
Listened Sept 5 – Oct 8, 2017
I’m so torn over this book.
I’ve never gone back and forth between ‘I hate this’ and ‘I like this’ so often while reading something before. There are parts of this book that I absolutely loathed. Other parts I found pretty decent. At no point was I ‘loving it’ but there are definitely parts that somewhat redeem that awfulness that was the middle of this book.
I warn you now, this is going to go into detail about events and character development. Major spoilers ahead.
Reading The Wise Man’s Fear is like eating a jelly donut full of peanuts. You get the smooth, lovely donut – the setting – but then every second chew, you hit your poor little tooth on a peanut – Kvothe – as he performs yet another completely ridiculous act. It throws off the jive of the donut. It makes you less likely to enjoy the soft, chewy gooyiness of the donut because you constantly hit little Kvothe-peanuts and get them stuck in your teeth.
That being said, I really really like the world this book it set in. The overall plot points are really good, the side characters are great, the lore is awesome. If it wasn’t for the main character, this book would seriously be a 5-star read for me.
But Kvothe just has to put his foot in everything, doesn’t he. He’s magically good at everything, including getting on my nerves.
rant about celebrate Kvothe being Kvothe, I bring you the following:
The (mostly) comprehensive list of things that Kvothe is ridiculously, unbelievably good at:
- Music! Kvothe is an expert musician. He earned his pipes at a musician’s guild after trying only one time because he had two years of practice with a broken instrument. Of course, those who have been playing for decades have nowhere near his skill because of this.
- Sympathy. The magic system in this world, sympathy, is super difficult to learn and even harder to master. But alas, as a twelve-year-old, Kvothe got instruction for a couple months from an arcanist that was travelling with him. Therefore three years later after being on the streets and not practicing at all, he was miles ahead of his 18-20 year old peers who were trying to get into the university as well. He even got paid for it!
- The Heart of Stone. Associated with sympathy, it allows a user to divide their mind into sections to maintain different focuses at once. Kvothe, the darling, can do four, five, even six divisions while the average arcanist can do maybe three. Four if they’re really skilled. Of course, he could do this after only a year in the university. His professors are likely tenured, but that’s no comparison to Kvothe’s mighty experience.
- Being a douchebag. And I’m not talking being an asshole character, no. He’s actually got a decent heart (one of the few positive things going for him that didn’t annoy me to bits). But the douchebag bit comes from being around Denna. Denna herself isn’t an awful character. She’s not great by any standards, but she’s (more) realistic than Kvothe is. But when he’s around her, he gets this damn smugness. Denna constantly has men around her, dating her, yada yada. They never last long, but Kvothe is constantly there. And while he’s obviously in love with the girl, he won’t make a move. Instead, he watches these men come and go and then gets smug because “he’s known her longer” He’ll outlast them. I’m not even kidding. That’s a direct quote. The friendzone only exists if you effing put yourself there, man.
- Skimming over things that I would have found interesting. Namely the court hearing and the shipwreck. Seriously, those were some prime opportunities for character development, and instead you just go ‘that happened and it’s over. Not gonna give you any possibility to learn that I’m not entirely a butt nugget, sorry’.
- Sex. Yep, you heard it. For the entire first book and about half of the second, Kvothe dropped the line ‘had no experience with women’ about fifty damn times. Flirted at? No experience. Winked at? Lol I have no idea what I’m doing. But suddenly he sees a Fae, jumps her, sleeps with her and then admits to her that he had never done that before. And you know what she says? Do you know what the sex-goddess-fae-that-seduces-men-to-their-doom-for-hundreds-of-years-fae SAYS? She says ‘LOL I DON’T BELIEVE YOU. YOU WERE WAY TOO GOOD AT THE SEX FOR THAT TO BE THE FIRST SEX’.
- Sex. Yep. You heard it again. And also smoldering, apparently. Because as soon as he finishes his sexy sexiness with the sexy sex fae of sex, he returns to the human world and tells the humans what happened. And then you know what happens? All the women in the room effing swoon because he looks like he knows his way around a woman and then they decide they need to prove that human women can be just as sexily-sexed as fae. Commence more sex. Goodness gracious. I’m all for people doing what they want with their bodies, but like… these women were like we can’t let a fae beat us. This single human’s opinion matters way too much for us not to jump his bones. Yeesh.
- Getting away with stuff. In the middle of being with the sexy-sex fae, Kvothe ventures away and finds the Cthaeh. It’s this creature that lives in a tree, knows the future and is constantly guarded because of it. It can influence world-wide events through subtle manipuation. Therefore, it’s constantly watched and any who come near it are killed to prevent any of its schemes from coming to fruition. Except that one time that Kvothe found it. ALSO, the whole ‘Any who are drawn in by the sexy-sex-fae never return. They’re doomed.’ Except Kvothe.
- Memorizing stuff. At one point, Kvothe gets a sword. And not just any sword, he gets the Harry-Potter-wand-equivalent of swords (weird, huh. I was so totally shocked) and has to memorize its 3000-year history. How long do his teachers, the ones who have been doing this their whole lives expect him to take? Just shy of a week. How long days he take? A day and a half.
I feel like I can’t write this list anymore. It’s making me too irritated, haha. Along with Kvothe’s amazing feats there were a handful of situations he found himself in that magically solved themselves because he’s just so good at what he does, which is everything. He was taught to fight a secret fighting style that nobody outside the culture is to know. Totally was accepted into the group. Repeatedly bullied and was bullied by a rival. Neither one of them permanently harmed. Had to learn a new language. Did it in two weeks. Went out to kill five men, totally killed 20-something without issue. The list goes on.
So, shortly after deciding that there was no redeeming this guy, I went on the internet to see if I was alone in feeling this way. Luckily, I’m not, but I did read some interesting theories regarding his blatant Mary-Sue-ness:
1. Kvothe is a badly-written Mary Sue. This is one theory. This is the one that has the most evidence, but at the same time, the rest of the book is written so well. I kind of find it hard to believe that Rothfuss took such a nosedive by accident. He has to know what he’s doing, here. He has to know that his main character makes me want to punch a brick.
2. Since the book is told from Kvothe’s POV, he’s exaggerating to make himself seem cool. Maybe these events didn’t happen exactly how he’s saying. Maybe he’s an unreliable narrator… if that’s the case, he’s still a douchebag that is so insecure that he feels the need to embellish everything he’s done in his life to make himself seem neat.
3. This is the one I hope is happening: Kvothe, in present day, still has not defeated the Chandrian and his making himself seem foolish in his story so people don’t read it later and endanger themselves. Since the third book isn’t out yet, this is pure speculation. But with the skill of writing in the rest of the book, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case. Evidence to this comes from present-day creepies running around killing people. I’m thinking that Kvothe never does defeat his foe and now he’s trying to make himself sound like an idiot so nobody else follows in his tracks. I hope this is what’s happening, so so badly. Another add-on theory for this is that the Cthaeh actually is manipulating him into telling his story like a ding-dong. I feel like him running into the creature once and everyone freaking the eff out about it except him is too convenient. The Chandrian and the Cthaeh. They have to be making him act like a dolt. It has to be them. Right? RIGHT?! D:
Because if it’s not… gah. Just yuck.
That being said, I did mention Kvothe had his good parts. He’s never attacked or been lecherous towards a woman, even when under the influence of drugs or had obvious advantage over them. Why are you mentioning this Emily, you say? Shouldn’t this be expected behavior of a human? You’d think so, wouldn’t you. But I’ve read too many novels where abusive or deviant non-consensual behavior has been romanticized for some unknown reason. It was nice to read a fantasy novel without any of it, for once. Gosh, when this is the only good thing about a character I can come up with, that he meets the ‘normal human’ standards, I think that says a lot about social norms and common book content, no?
He’s also good to his friends. Though honestly that’s about all he’s got going for him, at least in my opinion.
So overall: I really liked the plot, the world, the lore and the side characters. Kvothe can jump off a cliff.
Will I read book three? …Effing probably. I need to know if my theory is correct. Dammit Rothfuss, you make me crazy but I still wanna read your book. Dammit dammit Dammit. I guess that’s what make a good writer. Grr.
Overall Rating: 2.75/5 stars