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I am becoming skeptical about Patrick Rothfuss (spoilers for about half of Wise Man's Fool) Cannoli Send a noteboard - 26/07/2012 12:24:39 AM
Based on being exposed to his name a lot on the internet, I read "Name of the Wind" a while ago. I thought it was okay, not a badly done version of the whole Hogwarts trope, a bit annoying in the way that any fantasy series featuring a musician main character is, but it seemed worth following the rest of the series. Well, I finally got "Wise Man's Fool," and I am sort of becoming annoyed. In the first place, it's doing the same thing as SoI&F with regard to the Big Evil Threat - marginalizing it and putting it on the back burner while devoting all of its time to what would be the preamble and background stuff in other fantasy series. If WoT or Tolkein did the same thing with its Big Evil Threat, the first five books or so would have been all about Morgase's Succession & the Aiel War & Thom's gleeman career. The LotR would have been a farming treatise set in the Shire, with all the intricate details of the disagreements between the Bagginses and the Sackville-Bagginses and the Brandybucks and all the rest would be as thoroughly portrayed as the Elves' family trees in the Silmarilon.

So far, each book has the narrator, AFTER a storied career and his retirement to own an inn in a small town, telling his backstory to a traveler who learns his true identity as a legendary hero. In between the details of how a gypsy kid decided to go to their world's equivalent of the Unseen University, the Big Evil Threat emerges to threaten the villagers and only the esoteric knowledge of the retired hero saves them (though without them realizing it), so presumably this life story the hero is dictating will have some relevance to the present day threat.

I no longer have any confidence in that. Well into book 2, and the hero is STILL at school, with tons of pages devoted to his muscial career and problems with this school's equivalent of Ethel Hallow/Draco Malfoy/Faolain and the requisite hostile faculty member (i.e. Morgan/Snape/the Bursar [Moving pictures version]/Elaida) despite the general goodwill of McGonagle/Sheriam equivalents. I keep plowing through, waiting for something interesting to happen (not much in the way of character development, as the narrating protagonist remains an insufferable douchebag, which is only redeemed by his hindsight awareness of this trait, but with still no clues as to how he will grow into the narrator's character, which is remarkably undeveloped, now that I think about it).

Then it happens that Kvothe, the protagonist, takes a semester off. Okay, this has potential for adventures and stuff, right? Well, first we have the tiresome details of his getting a hold on his student loans from his loanshark, who is a pretty, youthful woman, which seems to be set up to stun you with the constrast with the expected tropes of that profession. And she's witty and clever and spunky, but she's also RUTHLESS because of her HARD LIFE. And even though she seems like like Kvothe, SHE WON'T HESITATE TO DO WHAT SHE HAS TO if he fails to repay the loan. Because she's had a HARD LIFE, you see. The problem with this genre, hell, with all popular entertainment, that the tropes have been around for so long and are so recognizable that iverting and subverting them has practically become cliched. But it seems plain that the author is very invested in this moneylender chick so we have a scene where Kvothe, newly flush from his brilliant invention, has to explain to the moneylender why he has to stay in hock to her, rather than pay her off. See, he's going to need the money when he arrives at his destination for his sabbatical.

Following that, he has a great deal of adventures on his boat trip to the place where he will be taking his semester abroad. Want to know more about his encounters with shipwreck and pirates and whatnot? So do I. You get about as much details of those events as you get of St. Paul's similar adventures in his Epistles. Which is to say, they are mentioned in a single paragraph and on to the other stuff the author is more interested in talking about.

As a result of these things too exciting to describe in a novel apparently more about a college student who moonlights as a bar muscian, he is broke when he arrives at his location, forcing him to PAWN HIS INSTRUMENT. Oh noes! As if we did not see that coming when he had spent pages of an earlier chapter going into maudlin details about how a muscian's instrument is his life! So it is fairly plain now that the author was just giving us the earlier scene with the money lender in order to try to justify keeping his hero shackled to this so-fascinating-and-unique character, when any sane person would seize on any opportunity to evade such a debt or connection. The reasons he so desperately needs money? Turns out it was really easy to get by without it and he has what he came for and his instrument out of hock in a week. So much for the urgency of his needing funds to justify his scene, and continued relationship with the moneylender.

As for the purposes of his sabbatical, upon his arrival as a court musician for some not-a-king, who the author goes out of his way, again and again, to tell us how powerful and influential this not-a-king is (meaning at some point I have not yet read, given Kvothe's tendency to Increase Suspense and cock things up, when threatened with Not-a-King's displeasure, we are going to grasp exactly how tenuous the situation is, which Kvothe will then escape with ease), Kvothe quickly wins favor by CURING THE RULER OF A MYSTERIOUS AILMENT along with EXPOSING THE TRUSTED TRAITOR in his court.

It is at this point that I left off (more or less; the last thing I read was his overhearing a conversation where a would-be love-interest briefs a farm girl on the ins and outs of successful prostitution, causing DISILLUSIONMENT in Kvothe and really seeming more like an excuse for Rothfuss to show off his knowledge of the details of how the medieval-setting underworld works). Between the skipping over actual fight/danger/action scenes, in order to put the character through cliched experiences which seem intended to force the plot, and the increasingly transparent set-ups and nuts-and-bolts showing off the author's knowledge about how his societies would function. Some things I can forgive an author showing off, like Jordan and Martin love to do with the histories of their worlds and family connections and extensive backstories and minutiae like silk-washing and smith-craft and whatnot. The nuts and bolts of imaginary societies, con-artists' tricks and minutiae of made-up social games and etiquette...these things feel like self-indulgence, the author showing off parlor tricks [I know how bar employees scam customers! I know techniques of con artists! ] as opposed to compositions [look at this imaginary country I made up and how their society ended up the way it has! ], and a lot of times, given how Rothfuss twists events to set up the protagonist, it seems like these elaborate schemes of social hierarchy are mere excuses to fast-track Kvothe into improbable positions. We don't know much about the geopolitical and economic background which give the not-a-king's realm its special status, but we get all sorts of details about the system of using different metal rings as calling cards. Again, it seems like he's just trying to set up fake rules for the protagonist to exploit a loophole and gain access or power or whatnot in an accelerated time frame.

All in all, this feels like a very interesting world, with a great character and a rich past present and future for both character and world, and they are told in a very engaging style, but we don't have any proof of how interesting it is, because the author isn't interested in telling us about the world, the cool part of the character's life or the big fantasy elements, preferring to focus on his teenage school days in interminable detail, and stuffed full of stock characters like the Rich Bully, the faithful Sidekicks, the Underworld Denizen With A Heart of Gold, the Mysterious & Eccentric Feral Girl-Child with Strange Abilities (a poor man's River Tam), the Hostile Teacher, the Wise & Normal Mentor, the Hard-to-Please Teacher who will eventually be Won Over when the protagonist Shows His Worth, and of course, the Erratic and Seemingly Insane But Actually Profoundly Insightful Professor of the one subject the protagonist wants to learn the most. :banghead:
“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” GK Chesteron
Inde muagdhe Aes Sedai misain ye!
Deus Vult!
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I am becoming skeptical about Patrick Rothfuss (spoilers for about half of Wise Man's Fool) - 26/07/2012 12:24:39 AM 2563 Views
Just to note ... - 26/07/2012 03:20:11 AM 1116 Views
So... - 26/07/2012 05:01:44 AM 1040 Views
Re: So... - 26/07/2012 05:26:10 AM 1157 Views
Very astute. I was highly disappointed with the book *NM* - 26/07/2012 03:40:55 AM 537 Views
I can't defend the book, all the issues you raise are correct. - 26/07/2012 02:42:54 PM 1034 Views
Every thing you say about the overly troped story is true, - 26/07/2012 03:06:45 PM 1061 Views
Good points, as everyone else said. - 26/07/2012 06:48:12 PM 1025 Views
Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the second half. (minor spoilers) - 29/07/2012 04:56:53 AM 1072 Views
I'm making my way through The Name of the Wind reread on - 29/07/2012 12:24:26 PM 909 Views
I quit reading at the half way point of book two also. - 29/07/2012 02:34:22 PM 1076 Views
The twisting of tropes is much deeper, I beleive. - 30/07/2012 06:25:56 AM 1141 Views
The series' overall quality is dependant on Book 3. - 30/07/2012 09:50:26 AM 952 Views
Started re-reading because of your review - 30/07/2012 08:22:54 PM 897 Views
Try looking up the Tor blog site re-read, for reals. - 30/07/2012 10:52:01 PM 939 Views
Even if that were true he could still have cut the beginning by 3/4 - 31/07/2012 03:09:40 AM 1142 Views
I dunno, go read some Hemingway then? - 31/07/2012 04:06:59 AM 982 Views
I don't see the problem. - 02/08/2012 09:42:15 PM 993 Views

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