I am 750 pages into Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear--over 200 pages to go still--and I can't recall the last time a book has made me more resentful. Why resentful? Because, I am sorry to say, it is boring the crap out of me, and has been doing so for nearly all its 750 pages so far, and yet I can't not finish now. And so it is the obligation that I resent. The obligation to finish a book I am thoroughly not enjoying, and yet have committed so much time to already (in addition to the outstanding first book in the series before this, The Name of the Wind), that to put it down now without finishing would just feel like even more of a waste of my time than its been already. If I'm going to waste my time, in other words, I at least want to be a completist about it.
My reaction to this book is bumming me out. And if it wasn't for reading like-minded reviews elsewhere, I'd wonder if maybe something was wrong with me. Because the first book, The Name of the Wind, was just so damn good--one of the best fantasy books I've read in a long, long time. It was just the story he told, and the way he told it, but the writing itself, which was just so clearly a cut above the standard stuff of this genre. (Though there are some amazing fantasy writers out there---my favorite, which is a cheat, because he's as much a comic writer and satirist as "fantasy writer," is Terry Pratchett, but that's a topic for another post.)
Rothfuss just has a great way with words, and when you marry it, as in the first book, to a great story with great momentum and suspense and mystery, it makes for marvelous entertainment. The saving grace in The Wise Man's Fear is that Rothfuss still writes great sentences. He has a poet's ear for description and cadence, which, when everything else is going wrong, still helps carry me along without wanting to blow my brains out.
Not much of a recommendation, I know. The problem with this book is everything but the individual sentences. I don't even know where to start. Well, okay we can start at the beginning, or more specifically, the book's first 300 pages, which feels to me like nothing but a total, unnecessary rehash of the first book. ( I'm trying to avoid specifics, because I don't want to give away any spoilers, not that I think you need to bother.) It's one thing, in a trilogy, to start off where the previous book concluded. It's another to go on for hundreds of pages without doing anything to advance the plot beyond where we were a few years ago. Yes, we know Kvothe is poor, and brilliant, and in love with Denna, and is awesome at the lute, and is the greatest student at the University in a billion years, but, good god, man, we knew that already and have been waiting for years now for you to tell us something we didn't know.
Once Kvothe does finally move on--which, if I had edited the book, would have happened about 250 pages earlier--it hardly gets better. While the Name of the Wind drives along on the strength of a gripping storyline, Wise Man's Fear feels episodic, and disjointed, with "set pieces" stuck together with masking tape. First he goes here, then he goes here, then he has amazing sex because he's so good at having sex even immortal faerie queens can't believe it, then he goes here, and then he goes here, without ever seeming to get one step closer to the essential mystery that opens the first book: The murder of his parents, for one, and how he becomes the guy we know he is to become in the book's present-time sequences. And when every episodic, barely interesting event seems to have "look how awesome I was!" as its point, it just makes it that much more intolerable. When I finished Name of the Wind, I felt like I could have listened to Kvothe's stories for a number of books. Now I just kinda want to kick his ass.
But, who knows. It's the middle book. The story is not done yet. Maybe, in retrospect, all this rambling braggadocio will mean something in the context of the larger work. Maybe the third book will be so satisfying it will help this book seem better. And, hey, I'm not even done with this yet. Maybe, in the 200 pages I still have to go, Rothfuss will tie all the pieces together in a way that will make me feel ashamed and embarrassed that I ranted here prematurely. (In which case I'll have to post again to apologize.)
And I am ranting because I've so rarely been this disappointed by the followup to a book that I loved. Because I'm a slow reader, I almost never read books twice, but I loved The Name of the Wind so much that this one I did read twice--and enjoyed it even more the second time. But now, I'm counting the pages for every chapter. It feels like being back in college. "Okay, if I just read 10 more pages, then I can reward myself with something fun." And this is why I'm so resentful. This is supposed to be my leisure reading. This is supposed to be fun. But it feels like a slog. I'm looking at the stack of books sitting by my nightstand, waiting to be read, and I am resentful that I can't get to them yet, because of this interminably boring book.
Most of all, I'm resentful because I want to believe. I want to love it. I still think he is fantastic writer for the most part. And I know I'll still be buying the third book on Day One. But, for the love of Gandalf, please let that third book be a better read than this one. I need my entertainment to entertain me, not make me a bitter, ranty blogger.