The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicle #2)
August 11, 2016 9:01 AM - by Patrick Rothfuss - Subscribe

My name is Kvothe. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me... So begins the tale of a hero told from his own point of view—a story unequalled in fantasy literature.
posted by Fizz (27 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Okay, so the elephant in the room of WMF is the crazylong sex scene in the forest. I rolled my eyes at least a dozen times and slogged through it, and told myself a few times "He's narrating his own life story in a bar, so of course he fucked a goddess, whatever."

Other than that, this one was just as good as the first one, which is to say, pretty damn good. And in sufficiently different ways that I came away impressed at the breadth of Rothfuss's's storytelling skills.
posted by Etrigan at 10:08 AM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Etrigan, it was a bit eye-roll-worthy but I think it's all a part of Kvothe's own myth-making. My personal favorite part of this second book is when Tempe shows up and he basically learns how to be a ninja. That entire sequence makes the book for more.
posted by Fizz at 10:13 AM on August 11, 2016


Other than that, this one was just as good as the first one

I don't know that I can wave it away with "other than that", personally. Not to be all hipster, but I was a massive Rothfuss booster when Book #1 was still relatively unknown, and I was really looking forward to this one. After reading it ... kinda less so. Not only was "she's a murderous sex goddess who I fucked so good she let me live!" literally the least interesting answer possible to "who is that Fellurian character that he references that in-universe people know?", the book advanced the main plot so little that I basically noped out into "dead or done" territory by the end.

I hope I'm wrong, but my suspicion is that Rothfuss is going to be the next Martin (who was "the next Jordan") as far as "no no, really, just one more book...".
posted by tocts at 10:13 AM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


tocts, Felurian didn't let Kvothe live because he was good in the sack. She let him live because a) he apparently matched her in magical combat, b) the song he composed about her damned her with faint praise, on the basis that he has no other women to compare her to, so he can't honestly say she surpasses all other women.
posted by rustcrumb at 10:18 AM on August 11, 2016


I mean, I'm not going to dig in too deep on this, but it feels like a distinction without a difference? It was for me a supremely 'meh' resolution to something that could have been much more interesting and character-building, or at worst left as a mysterious reference. That 'meh' is probably compounded by the fact that I've seen it cited as a reason the book is OMG so good and like, well-written and really mature and stuff -- despite feeling, to me, like a profoundly immature (from a writer's perspective) way of handling sexual relationships in a novel.
posted by tocts at 10:32 AM on August 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't know that I can wave it away with "other than that", personally.

An absolutely fair feeling and one that I won't attempt to argue you away from.

I hope I'm wrong, but my suspicion is that Rothfuss is going to be the next Martin (who was "the next Jordan") as far as "no no, really, just one more book...".

He's already said that he isn't done with the world, but that Kvothe's story arc will finish with DoS. If the book after that doesn't sell, who knows...
posted by Etrigan at 10:41 AM on August 11, 2016


Okay, so the elephant in the room of WMF is the crazylong sex scene in the forest. I rolled my eyes at least a dozen times

Hehe, this comic is very appropriate for the discussion that we're having right now.
posted by Fizz at 10:44 AM on August 11, 2016


I think that it's worth pointing out that everything but the framing story is being told by K. I think it's clear that he's not a reliable narrator. And I think that some of the ickiness & Gary Stu sensibility can be attributed to his own skewed perceptions.
posted by Burgoo at 11:33 AM on August 11, 2016


I don't truck with the "unreliable narrator" excuse just yet -- without much in the way of pushback from Chronicler or Bast, Kvothe is being allowed to tell his story, warts and all. Maybe DoS will yank the rug out from under him some more.

Plus, it's Rothfuss who's writing the whole thing, and he's letting his hero spin this interminable yarn about how great he is in bed.
posted by Etrigan at 11:37 AM on August 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


As much as I liked these books, Kvothe is the Gary-ist Stu. He's omnicompetent except in a few things that are obviously unimportant. His only weakness is that he can't actually shut up about how great he is, so he attracts the ire of small minded jealous people who just can't cope with how amazingly wonderful he is at everything. The allies he does have are basically the best at what they do, so they are not threatened by Kvothe's astonishing awesomeness, instead they take him under their wing. He's occasionally devious, when he decides he needs a devious plan, but he rarely recognizes when he should just keep his mouth shut, hide his capabilities, gather information, and work through other people instead of taking all the credit and blame (and thus the Trouble) himself. Fortunately, no one around him is devious enough to manipulate him or otherwise get Kvothe to defeat himself.
posted by rustcrumb at 11:38 AM on August 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Everyone says he's an unreliable narrator because that makes some of the story's excesses understandable, but I don't think there's yet enough textual evidence that Rothfuss intends him to be unreliable.
posted by tofu_crouton at 4:11 PM on August 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I posted in the thread about the first book; we have independent confirmation of essentially one thing so far (Denna's appearance) and Bast more or less says that Kvothe is full of shit. In a nice way. So I'd say it's pretty clear he is unreliable and meant to be seen that way.
posted by Justinian at 1:40 AM on August 12, 2016


So, who do we think is the King that Kvothe ends up killing? My money is on... whassisname the student that Kvothe has the long and bloody feud with. We know he's something like 17th in line to the throne. Disastrous events could thin out the royal line drastically and end with him on the throne.

That's my theory anyway.
posted by Justinian at 1:43 AM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I spent the evening googling what evidence there is that Kvothe is unreliable and found Dan Hemmens' comments to this post very interesting.

I'd also point out that if Kvothe is really lying about all this then he's got *massively* inconsistent characterization. Everything we know about Kvothe-as-Kote from the framing story is that he's a broken-down wreck of a man, jaded and cynical, and he seems to derive no pleasure from recounting tales of his own glory (for example, he deliberately glosses over his swashbuckling adventures on the way to Vintas) - indeed Bast has to specifically instruct the Chronicler to lead him towards stories of his own daring and cleverness. Unless the third-person framing story is *also* being unreliably narrated, or Bast is *also* lying to us it simply doesn't make sense for Kvothe to be exaggerating his achievements when from everything we know of his mental state he should be downplaying them.

and further down the page:

Basically in the first book it is very clear that there are two Kvothes, the Kvothe of legend, and the real Kvothe who is far smaller and more human. This is part of why the unreliable narration argument doesn't work for me - the whole point of the books as far as I understood it was to compare the true story of Kvothe as he tells it himself with the legend of Kvothe as told by other people. If we assume Kvothe is lying as well, then that leaves us without an anchor. And if it turns out that the truth behind Kvothe's legend is just ... that he was a legend, that sort of undermines what I originally thought the point of the books was
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:33 AM on August 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I will say that this book has probably my single favorite villain in any piece of fiction ever - the Cthaeh, the tree-demon who can see the future and uses his knowledge to try and generate the worst outcomes possible. It's such a cool concept for a monster.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:30 AM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thank you Itaxpica! The neatness of the tree-of-evil completely made up for the sex-fairy-goddess for me. I love how Rothfuss gave it the three traditional components of divinity and assigned them new values (perfectly omniscient : 1, perfectly omnipotent : 0, perfectly good : -1). And it is a neat problem to think about, how you might best combat the tree's curse.

Also thank you to Justinian. Yes, Draco Malfoy seems like the King that gets killed. There's some sub-text that Draco's family is purposely helping him along the line of succession, e.g. hiring pirates to kill off prince-#7-in-line for the throne while he is on a sea voyage.
posted by Balna Watya at 8:13 AM on August 12, 2016


So, who do we think is the King that Kvothe ends up killing? My money is on... whassisname the student that Kvothe has the long and bloody feud with.

I'll be kinda disappointed if it's that straightforward, but I trust Rothfuss to make it more interesting than "first person Kvothe ever meets who he doesn't get along with becomes the Big Bad".
posted by Etrigan at 8:16 AM on August 12, 2016


And it is a neat problem to think about, how you might best combat the tree's curse.

Same way you'd have to combat mind-readers and the like; randomness. The Evil Tree can't influence you to make a specific decision if you roll dice to determine the outcome.

This is, needless to say, not an ideal way to go through life however.
posted by Justinian at 1:27 PM on August 12, 2016


The Evil Tree already knows what dice numbers are going to come up on each of your throws, and has arranged things so that your "random" actions will result in the worst possible outcomes. Can't stump the Evil Tree. :)
posted by Balna Watya at 3:53 PM on August 12, 2016


Can't stump the Evil Tree

wait i think i got an idea
posted by curious nu at 8:06 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


There is a big difference between lying and being an unreliable narrator.
posted by Nothing at 8:15 AM on August 15, 2016


Indeed, but as I commented in the other book thread almost moments ago, people expect an unreliable narrator to be deliberately/knowingly misleading. How many notable works have an unreliable narrator who is completely convinced that this tale they are telling is exactly as it happened? I'm not thinking of any but surely it's been done.

I can think of some where we're getting a story in third person omniscient that turns out to be incomplete; a certain M Night Shyamalan movie comes to mind - but not one where we're being told a story.
posted by phearlez at 9:19 AM on August 15, 2016


I tried. God knows I tried. I found Kvothe irritating in the first book; he's outright painful in this one. I gave up before the infamous sex scene.

I'm sort of done with traditional coming-of-age magic fantasy.

As much as I liked these books, Kvothe is the Gary-ist Stu. He's omnicompetent except in a few things that are obviously unimportant. His only weakness is that he can't actually shut up about how great he is, so he attracts the ire of small minded jealous people who just can't cope with how amazingly wonderful he is at everything.

Yes. Jesus. All women love him (platonically or otherwise); men exist in more shades, including "neutral obstruction" (crazy name teacher), "evil bastards" (Ambrose), or "buddies" (whoever the hell his buddies are, seriously).
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:48 AM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I loved it, though probably not as much as the first book, and largely because of the two weird sex filled romps to the Fae realm and the Ademre. In retrospect the Ademre is growing on me. Half of me thinks it should have been 50-100 pages shorter, but the other half thinks if it was people would just complain "there goes Gary Stu learning ninja shit immediately". The Fae stuff also seemed long and excessive, but also kinda feels like it'll be more important than most the book by the end of the series so who knows.

I thought the book was really funny! The first one I read after my wife, but this one I read first and I didn't notice how many times I laughed out loud and wanted to tell her about it and couldn't. I really enjoy reading it. It's fun when he comes back all awesome, and can't tell anyone but immediately Elodin sees he's enshaedn and also speaks enough Adem to hand gesture at him.

Also no one in here mentioned it but Meluan Lackless is Kvothe's aunt, right?
posted by DynamiteToast at 11:51 AM on January 9


Also no one in here mentioned it but Meluan Lackless is Kvothe's aunt, right?

There have certainly been enough clues dropped in that direction.
posted by Etrigan at 12:06 PM on January 9


Ooh interesting I'd not remembered Arliden's song. Thanks!
posted by DynamiteToast at 8:59 AM on January 10


we have independent confirmation of essentially one thing so far (Denna's appearance)

We have one character chime in that she wasn't perfectly beautiful, and multiple characters who are not Kvothe treat her in-story like she is beautiful. Sorry, that does not an unreliable narrator make.

I'm not the best person to participate in this fanfare discussion. I despise these books with all my soul. I hate each character, I hate the prose, I hate the nonexistent nonsensical plot, I loathe beyond description the patronizing, sexist, super male gaze treatment of women, and worst of all I can't stand how the books are feted as being great and wonderful and original (and feminist!!) when they are slightly below paolini in quality- but he at least had the excuse of being very young.

If anyone is up for making an anti-fanfare thread possibly on a different site, where we sip tea and hate this series, I am so up for it.
posted by Cozybee at 1:09 AM on May 3


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