Spoilers ahead for both books, you’ve been warned.
So it took me about 9 days of listening to get through both audiobooks (The Name of the Wind @ 27 hours 58 minutes and The Wise Man’s Fear @42 hours 59 minutes), and those 9 days were pretty good. A great story by Rothfuss and great characters. In particular, I liked that the story is being told by Kvothe to the Chronicler, and in that way we are told the story. I also like that that the story breaks for interludes that serve to show the that rest of the world is teetering on the edge of chaos and how regular people deal with that chaos.
I’d like to mention that the world and history that Rothfuss builds is quite good as well, there are many countries and cultures as well as a rich history that adds entertaining details to the world. I enjoyed Kvothe’s travel to Ademre and a good look into how Adem culture and heritage works. Another detail I liked is the heritage of Kvothe himself, Edema Ruh, and he is constantly at odds with how people treat him or his heritage. His people have a long history of being persecuted and face constant discrimination being seen a ravel that lie, cheat and steal from everyone. Ironically, Kvothe refers himself to a liar as well as stealing and cheating when it’s necessary or “deserved” which he hates when these terms are used to describe his people/heritage.
Kvothe is also a tangle of characteristics that make him sometimes be at odds with himself or at odds with his friends or at odds with his on again off again love interest Denna. He is constantly conflicted about his actions or intentions or his own views. A prime example is his own experiences with the university and in comparison with Denna and her patron:
Kvothe was whipped 2x as punishment for his actions while at the university and Denna’s patron beats her but they both stay and take it because they both think it’s worth it for the knowledge they are getting in return. Kvothe realizes this later in the Wise Man’s fear but before that he had trouble understanding why Denna would stay with her patron, he then gets a measure of understanding about Denna’s resolve to stay with her patron.
Another good example is Kvothe’s encounter with the false Edema Ruh troupe and his views on the knowledge gained by the infamous Duke of Gibea, who performed many inhumane procedures on people to gain a better understanding of the human body and various treatments:
He stalks, kills, tortures, and desecrates the bodies of the false Ruh but cannot come to grips with it or see himself justified in doing what he did despite saving 2 girls from being kidnapped and raped multiple times per night. He feels that he was not justified in his actions and was in shock until he speaks to the local healer about his actions being for the greater good. Kvothe felt remorse at his actions despite saving the lives of 2 girls. In contrast, he had no issue with the questionable/dubious practices of the Duke of Gibea who advanced general medical knowledge years ahead but did by killing a great amount of people. Kvothe had no issues with the knowledge gained despite the cost.
The much-lauded magic system (at least on reddit) is pretty good and very thoroughly detailed. I’m not one that requires or prefers to have fantasy explained or “made sense of.” For example, I do not need or want a detailed example of why or how dragons breath fire, it’s a dragon, dragon’s breath fire simple as that. However, Rothfuss has a good framework for his magic system with many facets, and it’s detailed enough that I appreciate it despite not needing it or wanted it explained. I am at odds with some in the fantasy genre who scoff at things for being “too fantastical” such as the very wierd split in the A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones audience who criticized the show heavily for having one of the children of the forest throw some fireballs at risen skeletons despite the show having fucking dragons/undead as well as a character being resurrected multiple times. It’s a weird quirk that many have, that fantasy has to be grounded in some kind of reality or be very detailed in its explanation about how things work or it’s completely ridiculous and worthy of harsh criticism.
My particular favorites are the Artificing and very under used Alchemy. I enjoyed those aspects because it’s similar to the Dresden Files, artificing is similar to the various charms and other gear Harry constructs to fight demons, fae, criminals and the supernatural. Alchemy is very similar although less utilized in Kingkiller Chronicles.
The story is very well done, especially the realization of Kvothe that the university is just like everywhere else in the world, that people are dicks and will fuck you over for any reason and that is a struggle to live there just like it was on the streets of Tarbean. It also has a number of things told about someone else but a variation of it also happens to Kvothe. An example is Kvothe’s reputation grows by his actions in and out the university and some of those also similar to other heroes in tales he hears like Taborlin the Great, Kvothe called lightning down to defeat the bandits as well as “command” a box to open just like Taborlin did in a story he heard. The story also deals with fate and prophecy, Denna fears that “what is written can become true” while the Cthaeh that Kvothe has a long discussion with can see all possible futures/outcomes and active tries to steer someone to a great tragedy (the tale will always end in tears.) Yet both go on with their lives doing what they will and how they want. The story also provides an interesting contrast between Kvothe and Denna, both do what they need to survive and not care (that much) about what others think or feel about them but Kvothe has it a tiny bit easier than Denna because he’s male and has more opportunities than Denna had.
The Audiobook was well narrated and Nick Podehl does a good job providing a distinct voice for many characters.
Overall, it was definitely worth it and I am eagerly waiting on the final part of the trilogy.