‘The Kingkiller Chronicle’ is re-read ready

Steele Giles, Staff Writer

“The Kingkiller Chronicle” is a planned trilogy of books, the first two being “The Name of the Wind” and “The Wise Man’s Fear,” while the third has yet to be released. They tell two stories about the same man: the first story we find is of Kvothe as an innkeeper in the middle of nowhere while the world goes to hell around him. The second story is Kvothe’s autobiography, as told by the man himself.

We first meet our hero as a child, raised by the gypsy-in-all-but-name Edema Ruh. He learns music and acting and all manner of handy skills from his extended family. This is where he gets his first taste of magic and of tragedy, as his family is killed by monsters from folktales – a cursed band known as the Chandrian.

From there, he learns how to survive on the streets of unforgiving cities, he talks his way into the premier university of the setting and learns that sometimes being clever is not as good as being smart.

“The Wise Man’s Fear” carries on from there, as he unsuccessfully studies with the master of naming at the university. A subplot from the first book, his tentative courtship of a girl as mysterious as he strives to be, leads Kvothe to some rash actions that force him to spend some time abroad.

In this time he really sets about laying the groundwork of the legends we catch the edges of in the frame tale – while hunting bandits in the forest, Kvothe killed 17 men with magic. While returning, he survived a night with Felurian, a fae seductress who drives men mad. The list goes on.

This series is easily one of my favorites, ever. Rothfuss drops the reader into a world that is fully developed and turns without the reader, or the plot, ever looking at it. This is unique enough to keep things interesting, but doesn’t succumb to the common pitfall of inventing an entirely new dictionary to do so. The new terms that are introduced tend to provide the context to work out their meaning without being explicitly laid out.

What really gives it depth are the stories. Every now and then, Kvothe’s story is stopped by another character telling a fairy tale or historical account. It lets the reader catch the edges of the mythology without diving into a mythology textbook. There’s enough in those stories to write a book on by themselves.

That said, the books do have their flaws. The biggest one is how impossibly good at everything Kvothe is. If it’s a technical skill, Kvothe will master it inside of a week. If it’s a person, Kvothe will be on friendly terms with them immediately. There’s really nothing that can be said to refute this.

What can be pointed out is that while his successes are dramatic, so are his failures. He’ll never make a mistake when he can utterly botch it. He’ll never fail to antagonize those he doesn’t befriend. His ability to rapidly master things makes him impatient when he can’t. His pride, while mostly justified, makes him prone to rash action when nettled.

Ordinarily, I avoid calling out a specific section of a book for any reason, but “The Wise Man’s Fear” contains one segment that bears warning: the time with Felurian. That stretch of the book (62 pages in my copy) contains exactly two important events, both close to the end. It carries on entirely too long to have so little actually happen.

For all that, the important question remains: is it good?

If you’re looking for a densely packed ball of stories, yes. This isn’t the kind of thing you pick up for light reading. You’re going to have to read it closely and repeatedly. I’ve read them both three times now and things are still blindsiding me. Definitely a good read, definitely has value for repeated readings, definitely not for the faint of heart.