After the jaw-dropping, life-devouring debut novel that is The Name of the Wind, comes The Wise Man’s Fear, the second in Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. At 600+ pages the first in the series was a proper, epic fantasy-length novel, but it pales in comparison with The Wise Man’s Fear which runs to 992 pages in hardback (paperback is 1000+). Make no mistake, this book is huge. It’s not only its physical size either, but also its scope; the increased wordcount allows Rothfuss to broaden the horizons of his story, exploring more of his world and starting to fill in some more of the blank spaces on the map.
While we won’t know for certain until the next novel is released, it’s expected that the Kingkiller Chronicles are going to be a trilogy, each book covering one of the three days that Kvothe claimed it would take to tell his full story. Where The Name of the Wind showed us his earliest years, the route he took to the University and his first few months as a student of the Arcanum, here we start with him now established on his path, and watch as his reputation grows and begins to solidify into what will become legend. In a sense it’s more of the same; structured in the same way as he relates past events to his attentive audience, the feel of the book is similar to its predecessor and for large chunks it reads as a straight continuation of the story. It begins to differ when Kvothe is put into different situations outside of what he has come to see as his path, beginning to take more responsibility for himself and have a wider awareness of his place in the world.
It’s interesting to see Rothfuss stretch the story and the characters out, clearly opening up new threads in the story that will gradually come together and tie up into some form of conclusion. After all, if this is to be a trilogy there would appear to be a considerable amount of ground to be covered before we reach the ‘present time’ of when Kvothe is hidden in plain sight as a simple innkeeper. Quite how he’s going to do that in one more book remains to be seen, but there is plenty of forward motion here as well as some interesting little hints of what’s to come during the present day scenes in the inn. If there’s a criticism to be had of the book though it’s that a little of the charm and character is lost during the sections where Kvothe is out and about in the world, reminding the reader of how fresh and interesting the story feels when it’s rooted in the University. That’s not to say that the scenes elsewhere are slow or poorly-written, rather that they edge a fraction closer to generic fantasy, compared to the phenomenal standard set elsewhere.
There can be no doubt that Rothfuss is an absolute master storyteller and worldbuilder. Following The Name of the Wind must have been daunting, but he’s created another gem of a book with his follow up, one that continues to draw the reader into his world to the detriment of anything else going on around them. It may be some time before the third novel, but barring an absolute disaster it’s bound to be worth the wait.