The Wise Man’s Fear is Patrick Rothfuss‘s second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. It follows the mage Kvothe becoming the magical equivalent of an upperclassman in mage school and being forced to take something of a hybrid gap-year/spring break. He travels, has adventures, learns the pleasures and dangers of the opposite sex, and learns that outside of school, adulting can be pretty complicated. This isn’t the part of the story where Kvothe gets to skate on his talents and friendships. This is a story of exploration, experimentation, and growth, told from a quite possibly unreliable narrator — one who has admitted to lies and hyperbole throughout his story. The focus of this book is on society and social relationships; while magic is a part of Kvothe’s life, it plays second fiddle to personal growth and the foibles of youth.
This is also a story told from the point of view of the main character, Kvothe, who is a human. As a human he is an imperfect being, reporting his history to Chronicler. While he says what he’s telling is the truth, Kvothe also repeatedly promises stories that never come, also admitting to embellishing things here and leaving things out there. He’s giving the reader the story as he wishes it to be presented, taking it from the hands of gossips and second or third-hand witnesses and trying to take control of it. Because of this, this story and its predecessor (The Name of the Wind) can make a good example of creating magical realism; applying what one knows, human behavior, and how we tell stories and present ourselves into the fictional landscape.
This story is one that takes a while to read (Kindle says it takes an average of 16 hours), and it does well with repeated reading. It is long, and careful reading takes time. If you tend to read quickly and want something you’ll be able to enjoy for a while instead of breeze through, this is the book for you.
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