The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2) by Patrick Rothfuss Rothdas book review RSS
5.0 Stars

(I originally wrote this as a reply to a metafilter thread which was bashing on Rofuss, but decided against posting it. But I couldn't just delete it entirely, could I? So I am including my response here, since it touches on some of the things I liked about the series.)

Well, as a filthy Rothfuss lover, here is *my* opinion. :)

The books are more nuanced than you give them credit for! For instance, notice how the books begin and end with Kvothe in a depressive, near suicidal fugue. Notice how the world around him is also kind of terrible. It doesn't match what you would expect from a retired Scaramouchean hero, right? Harry Potter didn't end with Harry managing the night shift at a gas station and contemplating the meaninglessness of further existence. Ok, so the next question is why are things so bad? And the short answer is "Kvothe". At the end of Book I, he stops a dragon analog that is rampaging through a town. Heroic, right? Well, kind of, but Kvothe was also responsible for the dragon going on a rampage in the first place. Throughout Book I, Kvothe shows up the royal Draco Malfoy analog, and they become locked in a steadily escalating vendetta that Kvothe keeps narrowly winning. Great, right? Well, the indications are that Draco will end up inheriting the throne, Kvothe will end up killing him, and that death directly leads to the Civil War that is wracking the country. So again, maybe not that great. If it's a choice between killing a noble and precipitating a war, or just biting your tongue & eating royal shit, the latter option really is the better one. And that same type of choice plays out over and over again at different scales through out the books. But Kvothe can never back down; he always has to have the final word, he has to try and be the hero and play outside the normal rules. And you can see how he would develop that sort of psychology. Because of his intellectual talents he can usually get away with breaking the normal rules of his society, right up until he can't and people start being hurt.

Most criticisms of the books focus on how Kvothe is this giant Mary Sue, but I think the book actually presents him as more of a tragic figure. He has immense gifts (that he amplifies with prolific cheating, and amplifies again by being his own story teller), but those same gifts eventually lead to bad ends. Note that this is mirrored in the back stories he collects about the Banes that he is chasing. Note that this is basically what all his instructors are telling him over and over. Note that this theme is made entirely explicit when he is cursed by the GOD of evil trees to have absolutely everything in his life turn to shit in the worst possible way despite his heroic intentions.

Anyway! I could see not liking the novels, that's fine, there are plenty of other aspects to criticize. But Rothfuss is doing something besides a Harry Potter re-tread, and he put up *giant* signposts at the very start of the novel to indicate as much. So it always burns my goats to see people criticizing the books on the grounds of Harry Potter or Mary Sue.

Edit: Ok, I was triggered yet *again* by another metafilter discussion of the book. And again, here is the reply that I thought better of.

rustcrumb, I think you are being wrong on the internet and now I am going to explain why. :)

Kvothe does get cursed by a literal God so that each of his actions will come to the absolute worst possible end. I think that counts as manipulating Kvothe so that he will defeat himself.

And even that curse is only making explicit what had been a theme through out the two books. Kvothe defeats a dragon rampaging through a village, but Kvothe was the one who drew the dragon to the village. Kvothe winning/surviving the next round of his vendetta with Draco Malfoy, but it is a vendetta only because Kvothe could never eat the smallest amount of humble pie. Kvothe winning/surviving the next round of his vendetta with Professor Snape, but it is a vendetta only because Kvothe could never eat the smallest amount of humble pie. Kvothe throwing himself off a building and shattering his bones because of his supreme self-confidence. Kvothe getting in trouble with the Librarian, or the Shop class professor, since Kvothe thinks his gifts make him above the normal rules. Really, 80% of the story is Kvothe creating problems for himself and other people.

I think what Rothfuss is going for isn't so much a Marty-Stu as it is a tragic story, about a person with great gifts but also with fatal flaws that undermine those gifts. I think Rothfuss billboards this with the start and end of every book, where Kvothe is in a suicidal-depressive-fugue and everything around him has gone to complete shit. I think there are also plenty of smaller sign posts along the way, in the tales about the Bane/Forsaken characters who also had great gifts and fatal flaws.