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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss This is the second book of Patrick Rothfuss' bestselling Kingkiller Chronicle series (yes, I am Captain Obvious). The first book The Name of the Wind (sneakily linking to my own review here) was a star-making immediate success for a first novel. This follow-up volume is arrived with a bang at #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list. However, huge commercial success does not necessarily mean the book is any good (no disrespect to Ms. Stephenie Meyer - well, maybe just a bit). This level of success warrant investigation by fantasy fans, though. So, what's the (Roth)fuss all about? Who does this chubby bearded whippersnapper think he is?

As a writer I think Rothfuss is extraordinarily gifted, he narrates his story so naturally it is as if it is his entire purpose in life. Even when the story drags (which happen a few times) his prose still pulls you along for the ride, discouraging bathroom breaks and other distractions. His prose is warm and evocative, his characterization is generally done with great care and attention. Where he stumbles a bit for me are his plot which have a tendency to meander, dragging me along routes I did not want to go, sometimes I agree with the direction he chose, sometimes not. I would not call this book a challenging read, the only challenge is in the length of the damn thing though a little patience should take care of that. This is more of a fun, accessible read.

This book continues the story of young Kvoth, again framed by the "Waystone Inn" present day story of the older, wiser version of the protagonist. It is a structure that works surprisingly well, the occasional Waystone Inn chapters function as interesting bookends when we come to the end of a significant subplot. The magic system is very well thought out, it is neither haphazard nor common place, the logic of it has a pseudo-science feel to it as if Rothfuss is influenced by works of [a:Arthur C. Clarke|7779|Arthur C. Clarke|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357191481p2/7779.jpg] or [a:Isaac Asimov|16667|Isaac Asimov|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1341965730p2/16667.jpg]. This helps greatly with the suspension of disbelief that I personally have a problem with when reading fantasy.

There are several long subplots in this volume, a term at The University, a period of service for a noble, a hunt for bandits, an encounter with a legendary fae (fairy), an apprenticeship with a legendary warriors community etc. Each subplot is quite long resulting in a 1000+ pages doorstopper of a book. As mentioned earlier I find some of the plot unnecessarily meandering, straying far from the main story arc of Kvoth's search for the mysterious beings who killed his parents. This is particularly true for the Felurian (sexy fae woman) subplot which seem to go on and on for no apparent reason. However, I find the other subplots quite entertaining, my favorite is the people and culture of Ademre. Kvoth's apprenticeship there reminds me of fun martial arts fantasy films like "Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain" or the better known "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". An excellent piece of worldbuilding and some wonderfully rendered characters in this part of the book.

Like all popular books, this one has many dissenters and much of the criticism is centered on the protagonist Kvoth himself. He is a bit too "Mary Sue", too damn good at everything (including sex!), annoying, cocky etc. I personally have no problem with the Rothfuss' characterization of his young hero. I don't feel the need to like the protagonist in the books I read, I enjoyed all seven Harry Potter books without ever becoming fond of the bland titular character after all. There numerous eccentric and interesting supporting characters to enjoy after all. The seemingly crazy Elodin, the devious Devi, the inarticulate Tempi etc. Also, Kvoth suffers from the same flaws as normal teenagers, overconfidence, rashness, ill-manner, disrespect etc. His enviable surfeit of talents does not seem to have served him very well, judging by his present day circumstances. The Innkeeper Kvoth is not a happy man.

The book as a whole is positively arcane!


Notes:
- I think 4.5 stars rating is about right (generously rounded up to 5 on the Goodreads system), the book is a little too fat and meandering for its own good.

- Kvoth summons the wind quite a few times in this book, I sometimes do that by consuming copious amount of baked beans.

- A lot of people (including myself) find the Kvoth & Denna relationship exasperating. Rothfuss has this to say:
"They are just teenagers. You never want to look like you don't know what you are doing when you are a teenager. So you make a much bigger ass of yourself than you ever could if you just have an open, honest conversation."
(Youtube interview)