This is the second book of the now famous ‘Kingkiller Chornicles’ by Patrick Rothfuss, and was published in 2011.
This book is long.
I’m saying this because first of all, this book is over a thousand pages. It’s literally a long book. Second of all, both the writing style and the way the book is organized, not to mention the slow speed at which the main plot seems to be progressing, makes the book feel long.
In this book Kvothe is still telling the story of his life to the Chronicler, and apart from a couple of brief interludes most of the book is taken up by the narrative.
The narrative itself can be broken into three parts.
The first part focuses on Kvothe’s adventures at the university. This part is filled with typical university drama only in a fantasy setting, with a dash of magic thrown in. Kvothe is now firmly established in the university, and has his share of friends and enemies. He continues to prove himself a clever young man, but he’s not as clever as he thinks he is. And this almost gets him burned more than once. He’s a curious mix of immoral and kindhearted. A good boy forced by his circumstances to become street smart and cunning. But he still seems to retain some of the decency and kindheartedness instilled into him in his boyhood. But for all his cunning and redeeming qualities he seems to be headed for self destruction, because we see how he keeps pushing his luck and live dangerously, we can see from the readers point of view that it’s only a matter of time before he walks into a situation he can’t get out of, and the state we find him at the beginning of the chronicle only reinforces this. His highest priorities at this stage are not avenging himself upon the dark lord who killed his parents, but making sure his tuition isn’t short. And maybe getting a date. He does get around to looking for clues in the universities (giant) library, but he doesn’t make much progress.
The second part has Kvothe leave the university and get involed in court intrigue, and it has all the court intrigue staples, such as poisoning, courting noble ladies, winning favor with the king (Maer) etc. It is fun to read, as Kvothe bluffs and gambles his way through the Maer’s court to royal favor and plays royal wingman (Yes, he helps the king woo his girl) but it feels like a sub plot that will not count for much later on.
The last part has Kvothe leave the court and go on a journey with battles and fantastic magical creatures encountered along the route. Also here for the first time we see the true magical elements of the world he lives in. This is very much like the journey most fantasy novel protagonists go on. He learns swordplay, fights in a battle (sort of), and meets the fae. This is also where Rothfuss jumpstarts the main plot again, quite out of the blue. And even then it was a very very brief part of the story.
The narrative can almost be divided into three separate little stories. As I said above this style of organizing makes the story feel long. This wouldn’t be a problem if the plot itself didn’t progress at a snails pace. For all the detail crammed into the book, for all the mini plots Rothfuss starts and wraps up, the main plot advanced maybe half a step.
All that said, I did love the narrative style used by Rothfuss during this book. It reminds us that this is not a story about a young man’s fight against a thousand year old dark lord, this is a story about the life of Kovthe, and while we might find the details of the hunt for said dark lord much more interesting, Kvothe is more worried about making tuition, and hey it’s his life. This style of writing does make the character more real, fleshed out.
This is a book you need to immerse your self in. You need to read slowly and identify with the character (This is a bit hard because Kvothe comes off as an ass as times). Then this book becomes very enjoyable. You also need to have read the first book in the series to follow the story of this one.
For all my critiquing, I liked this book a lot, just not as much as the first one. Maybe Rothfuss set the standard a little high with the first book.
I would recommend this book to any lover of fantasy, who wants a good character focused story they can immerse themselves in.