Pat Rothfuss' The Kingkiller Chronicle [spoilers] - the rambling review of an undecided reader

Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Silvion Night, Sep 30, 2015.

  1. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    I just finished the Wise Man's Fear, book 2 of the Kingkiller Chronicle (book 1 being the Name of the Wind). I don't think I've ever been this torn about a fantasy series. I absolutely hated some aspects of it, while I also loved some parts. I'll start with dissecting the parts I particularly disliked. Subsequently I'll share my thoughts on the stuff I did like. At the end I'll give the series as a whole a rating on the scale of 1 to 10.

    What I disliked:

    Let's start with the main characters.

    Kvothe
    In in all my years of reading fantasy he is perhaps the least likable protagonist I've ever stumbled across. Regal is an obnoxious fool? Sure. Joffrey is an masochistic brat? That goes without saying. Thomas Covenant is a lecherous rapist? You got it! But Kvothe steals the cake. Seriously, he is worse than the aforementioned psychopaths. "Why?", you may ask. Here's why:

    Kvothe is invincible. His fighting prowess is almost unrivaled. Kvothe is the smartest man alive. Kvothe is one of the strongest wizards ever. Kvothe is lucky. He's handsome (beautiful even). He sings and plays the lute so well that people swoon or start crying from the beauty of it. Kvothe has a super magic cloak which he got after seducing a feary (who is often called the bane of mortal men. Men go crazy from the mere sight of her. Of course not Kvothe). Kvothe's banter is unrivaled. What I guess I'm trying to say here is that Kvothe fits the 'Most Interesting Guy in the World' trope fairly well, which in my opinion makes him totally uninteresting as a character. His omnipotence makes him as boring as Superman. It feels like all the setbacks Kvothe experiences in the story bare just placed there so that Kvothe can find an ingenious way to overcome them. As a result I never felt myself rooting for Kvothe. I just hoped he got his head smashed in, but him being the narrator of the story, that was a vain hope from the get go. It made for frustrating reading, I can assure you of that.

    Denna
    My dislike of Denna is such that at certain chapters where she made an appearance I just stopped reading for a while. Instead I would bang my head against the wall (or the bus window, depending on where I was at that point). This has never happened to me before. I like her even less than Nyneave, Egwene and Elayne combined. She's a class-A snooty bitch. Also, Kvothe just keeps randomly bumping in to her, even in cities of well over 100.000 inhabitants (Tarbean and Severen). I mean, what the hell Pat? Where's the freaking logic in that? Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but that doesn't make any sense even in your fantasy world.

    All other female characters
    Badly written. One dimensional. Either written as snooty harpies or swooning damsels in distress. The only exception is Vashet (the Ademre woman) and of course Kvothe ends up having sex with her anyways, because why not? He's the most interesting man in the world and conveniently the Ademre have a totally insane custom of just banging when they feel the physical urge (I'm not kidding. In the book our dear Kvothe gets a boner during a fight with Vashet, she sees it and pulls him into the bushes whereafter she 'takes care of business'). What the hell is up with that anyway? I guess Patrick just cooked that up to fulfill his own nerdy sexual fantasies.

    Bast
    Is he gay or fae? Or both? Does it matter? Yes! In book 1 the relationship between 'Reshi' (bleeergh) and Bast irritated me no end. Bast acts like my old aunty Nellie who lives some blocks away from my house. Whenever she bumps in to me she admonishes me for not wearing proper warm clothes, or she warns me that the pollen are extra heavy in the air when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing in from the east. You know the type of aunt. Bast acts like Nellie. Or like my gay barber Johan who shaves my head every 4 weeks on Saturday and who can't help but cup a feel every now and again. I don't mind. It's okay. We're both secure in our sexual preferences. The thing is that Bast and Kvothe are not. Mr Rothfuss, please make up your mind about the relationship between Kvothe and Bast. Are they gay? Fine, out with it then! If not, please write them more realistically. At the moment Bast's attitude towards Kvothe is just ridiculous. Also, I disliked Bast's unreasonable rages. Now and then he would just go crazy and threaten to kill Chronicler. No reason or rationale, the guy just goes berserk from time to time. Maybe it's all the pent up sexual frustration. Be that as it may; fuck that faun.
     
    • Funny Funny x 2
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015
  2. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    cont.

    Patrick's weird writing style

    The poems in this series suck balls. The songs are even worse. No rhyme or reason to them. Did I mention that Kvothe and Denna sometimes speak in rhyme? No seriously. I'm getting aggressive all over again. Let me insert a picture of a puppy here to ease the tension.

    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
    [​IMG]

    Where were we? Oh right, the writing style. Every other page or so Kvothe says something along the line of "I could say I wasn't proud of what I did blablabla. I could say that, but that wouldn't be the truth. The truth is..." After the tenth time I read a similar passage I was a bit fed up with it. Unfortunately I can point to at least 20 of these kind of lines. Another thing that irritated me was how Kvothe constantly refers to his Edema Ruh ancestry. "No one could say I'm a bad liar. I can lie with the best. Isn't that what being an actor is all about? And the Ruh are the best actors in the world." "Of course I kept a straight face. I'm Ruh through and through. We can play any part." "She said she was a good musician. But she had never heard a Ruh play before." Okay, I get it. No need to reiterate this every other chapter or so.

    Sex
    Sometimes these books read like some nerdy guy's sexual fantasies written down on paper. What's the deal with Felurian? Those chapters were among the most embarrassing I've ever read in a fantasy book. Totally unrealistic and unnecessarily whimsical.

    The Story
    Kvothe studies at the university, excels in almost everything he sets his mind to, goes on vacation for a while during which he becomes a proficient warrior (at one point killing 9 persons single-handedly), returns, is hailed by everyone as the biggest hero since Taborlin the Great and continues his studies. What about the Chandrian? And the Amyr? No progress made on that account. Two freaking books and no progress on the real story whatsoever!? That's right folks.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015
  3. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    cont.

    The World
    The world seems vast and mysterious at times, but also empty. Where are the mythical creatures (we see 1 dragon somewhere near the end of book 1)? Where are the exotic cultures (we catch a glimpse of the Ademre at least, but not of any others). I love how Jordan, Martin, Eriksen and Tolkien describe cultures, races and peoples. What are they wearing? What are their customs? What kind of food do they eat? None of that in the Kingkiller Chronicle. It's a bland world. It's a shame really, because it could have been so much better.

    Well now. Glad I got that of my chest. Now on to the good parts. Are you still with me? Good.

    The Magic system
    The two magic systems (the "real" magic of Naming and the "soft" magic/science of Sympathy/Sygaldry/Alchemy) are interesting and well thought out. Naming is mysterious and not clearly defined by rules, whereas sympathy, sygaldry and alchemy are the complete opposite and have more or less scientific explanations (kind of like the magic system in Mistborn, but without the Deus Ex Machina aspect). I think using these two magic systems, which are on the opposite side of the "magic spectrum" is daring, but it has turned out very well in my opinion.

    The University
    I love the university. It has a Harry Potter-like feel to it that brings me back to my younger years. The Archives somehow feel real and I would give my left testicle to be allowed in in order to roam the dark hallways of this majestic library. The Fishery sounds interesting and the idea of spending days there making magical equipment such as sympathy lamps seems very appealing to me. Also, the caverns beneath the University are mysterious and cool. I'd love to spend some hours there in the company of Auri.

    Auri
    Aah, Auri. Maybe the only female character I really liked. She seems somehow based on Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter), just like the University is reminiscent of Hogwarts. Hmm, coincidence? I don't know.

    The prose
    Occasionally the prose was simply beautiful (at other times it was terrible, but as we're in the "what I liked" section now I shall not mention any examples). Rothfuss has a way with words, which is occasionally displayed when he writes a touching paragraph or two.

    That's about it. You (yes you, valiant reader. Are you still there? Probably no one is probably reading this swath of text... No one? Well, almost no one. You're still there. I love you for it. We Ruh never spurn an attentive audience) may have noticed that the "stuff I hated" section is significantly bigger than the "stuff I liked" section. This may give you the impression that I would rate this book very negatively. However, this is not the case. It's always easier (and more fun) to complain than to heap praise (at least in my opinion). However, I don't really understand what all the hype is about. In my opinion this series is nowhere near as good as for example LOTR, ASoIaF, MBoTF, the Farseer books and First Law (I'll adjust my top 25 tomorrow and send an updated rating to @Derk of Derkholm ). All in all I have to say that despite it's many shortcomings it wasn't a bad read per se. My overall grade for the two books would be a 6.5/10.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015
  4. moonspawn

    moonspawn Journeyed there and back again

    I read Name of Wind 2 and a half years ago and I thought it was okay. If I were to re-read it I think I would dislike it much more now than I would then. I'm really glad I never read Wise Man's Fear; it sounds totally nonsensical. Rothfuss is a good prose writer and certain aspects of his world are interesting but as far as characterization and plot is concerned he's terrible. Also the story within a story within stories is kind of interesting but I'm not sure he does a great job of doing even that.
     
  5. ofer

    ofer Journeyed there and back again

    @Silvion Night In retrospect, I agree with some of the issues you addressed - mainly about Kvothe (too annoyingly perfect), Denna (just too annoying at times, although I didn't find her unrealistic - I met people like that) and the sex thing (Really, what was the deal with Felurian?).

    On the other hand, I disagree on some of the others - didn't have any problem with the world and didn't care at all what different cultures were eating or wearing ; Didn't think that the writing style was weird (although, admittedly, I usually don't bother with poems in fantasy and skip them so I couldn't care less) ; Wasn't annoyed by the other female characters (certainly not like on Wheel of Time) ; And completely disagree about Bast - I thought he was a cool character and that the mystery about him, about his origins and his relationship with Kvothe just adds to the story and doesn't detracts from it. The Kvothe - Bast relationship felt, if anything, like a mentor - pupil one.

    The only problem I had with the books at the time I was reading them is that at some point during the second book, I grew tired of the endless Kvothe - Ambrose rivalry. I felt that Rothfuss exhausted this particular story-line and wanted him to get on with it.

    But the bottom line is that despite of the few minor issues I had with the books, I really liked both. I read them both together and finished them in under 2 weeks, which considering the length of them is impressive. I literally couldn't put them down. I thought both the writing and the pacing were excellent and that the story, although not the most ground-breaking, was interesting and well thought-out.

    Now if only Rothfuss would stop competing with Martin for the title of the world's slowest writer. ;)
     
  6. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    There's a lot of points I agree with in all of these posts, as well as many I disagree with, particularly in Silvion's. There's too many contentious points to address, so I'm not going to bother at all.

    Some things I'm thinking right now:
    1) Denna sucks. She needs to die in a spectacular fashion. My suggestion: Kvothe walks in on her getting double teamed by Master Hemme and Ambrose. Kvothe sees red and goes super-saiyan Namer on all 3 of them. Bast is in the corner jerking off, which is I guess how he and Kvothe meet and how he's seen Denna before.
    2) There's a lot of cleverness hidden throughout the first two books, clues to be found that answer major questions. But if you wait 5 years between books, people are very likely to have that shit spoiled by google. Everybody knows who Jon Snow's parents are, and everybody knows who Kvothe's mother was.
    3) There were some fantastic scenes in the second book, even if the whole thing wasn't perfect. The scene with the Ruh-impersonators was pretty great, for example.

    and 4) Sorry, I've been drinking.
     
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  7. Derk of Derkholm

    Derk of Derkholm Journeyed there and back again

    It kind of shows.

    Others who commented in this thread, however, did not disclose it (although I suspect it, as well) :p
     
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    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. João Ribeiro

    João Ribeiro Journeyed there and back again

    Funny typo or kind of racist joke? Take your pick :)

    Anyway, back to the books. I liked Name of the Wind more than Wise Man's Fear mostly because I thinj WMF gets a bit lost in the romantic plots a bit.

    All in all the complaints about Kvothe being too perfect will just serve as a counter-point to the event that leads him to isolate himself at the Inn. The all too perfect makes the all too big mistake.

    But my biggest complaint is how long it's taking Rothfuss to put out volume 3. I might have to reread NotW and WMF just to pick up on the story details.

    I guess I'm not the only one :)
     
  9. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    Argh, missed that one. I typed that whole post in a considerable rage. Definitely not meant it as a racist joke. :)
     
  10. João Ribeiro

    João Ribeiro Journeyed there and back again

    I figured that much, which made it funny.

    By the way, are you considering the investment in book 3 whenever it comes out or are you done with the series?
     
  11. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    Thanks for all your kind replies. I’ve just awoken from a peaceful slumber and all the rage I felt yesterday after finishing the series has evaporated during the night (I wasn’t druk though when I typed these posts @Derk of Delholm J). I don’t feel differently about the books now that I’ve calmed down a bit. However, after some reflection I think I’ve found the underlying fundamental reasons of why I dislike this series. I’ll try to explain these points first (and more succinctly than in my OP I hope) and after that I will address some of the remarks from other posters in this thread (be they drunk or sober).

    I think the underlying reasons of why I didn’t like this series are threefold. Firstly, the book goes against some ingrained cultural sensibilities. Secondly, the book is (mainly) written from the first person perspective. Thirdly, I dislike Kvothe. These three points are intertwined. I’ll elucidate on each of them.

    Boasting and thinking to well of yourself is a major faux pas here in the Netherlands. We’ve got tons of sayings about this topic.

    - Having too high a hat on.
    - When you act normally you’re acting crazy enough.
    - You shouldn’t walk next to your shoes.
    - High trees catch a lot of wind.
    - Don’t stick your head out to high out of the grass.

    I can name about ten more examples. The gist of it is that even if you’ve got a certain skill, it’s not done to brag about it or even mention it too often. If you mention it, you should downplay it. You can’t just tell someone “I am brilliant” or “I’m the best musician in town”. Other people can say that about you., but it is considered bad manners to say that about yourself. If you mention your brilliance to someone, that person would almost certainly dislike it. I think this might be the main reason for why I don’t like Kvothe. He does this constantly. I don’t mind the fact that he has certain skills (and as Lyra pointed out he’s also lacking in certain areas), it’s that our hero constantly reminds the reader of it. Constantly.

    The fact that the book is written from first person perspective exacerbates this. As a reader you get to read (almost) all Kvothe’s thoughts, without them being filtered. With me, these first two points combined led to point 3:

    I dislike Kvothe. He comes across as arrogant, pompous, self-righteous (he’s almost never in the wrong according to himself even though sometimes he clearly is), vain and petty. Link that to his wide set of skills and his constant bragging about them just makes him come across as an unlikeable fellow. I don’t want to read about an insufferable know-it-all who excels in everything he does. I want to read about a protagonist with real struggles. Not struggles that seem to be placed in his way as rungs which can be used to reach the top of the ladder.
     
  12. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    Now, let's address some replies.

    My main gripe is the fact that being super resourceful (like Kvothe is) is a boring "superpower". I never said it's unexplained. I can see why he is so smart. That's not the point though. It's boring. He is super smart and therefore he can do almost anything.

    See the previous reply.

    The characters occupy niches. Devi is great at Sympathy. Puppet is a masterful scholar. Fela is a Namer. Ambrose is good at alchemy. Kvothe excells in multiple fields. He's a great sygaldrist, sympathist and Namer (in the bud, but he's slowly getting there).

    You miss the point. I don't care that he occasionally mentions he's good at something because he's Edema Ruh. I get that. But you don't have to repeat the same fact over and over and over again, which is what happens, especially in book 2. At a certain point I could tell from the way the story was developing exactly when Kvothe would make reference to the fact that all Ruh are great actors. I'm not an idiot. I knew that fact after the third time I read it.

    The scenes which involved Kvothe and Bast were awkwardly written in my opinion. I would be the last to object to anyone being gay or not. It's just that Kvothe and Bast are separately pictured as great womanizers, but when they're together Bast suddenly acts very strangely. Bast alone is a dangerous psychopath (see his private dealings with Chronicler and the two soldiers at the end of book 2), but when he's with his Reshi he turns into an over-protective weirdo. I just think the relationship could've been much more interesting if they'd acted like mentor and pupil (maybe a bit like Kvothe and Abenthy, which was a way better written relationship).


    The Ademre were nicely done, I already said that. The ring tradition was also good. In fact, all the things you mentioned here (including the Ylish knot writing system) were interesting tidbits. But that's what they were: tidbits. Too little and too far apart. The whole world just felt empty. I would've loved to learn more about Yll or the Modegan empire. What are the Small Kingdoms? What are the Caeldish like (apart from the fact that they are dark skinned money lenders and grow magnificent beards). What about the lands across the Stormwal? What's the Commonwealth? I'm irritated because the things that we are shown are really cool. I just wished they would be more fleshed out.

    You raise some good points. I'm glad you enjoyed the books. I don't know, they just rubbed me the wrong way on too many occasions. In general my fantasy taste closely resembles the tastes of most other forum members. In this particular case I guess I'm the deviant.

    I'm definitely going to read the third book. It's not unusual that later installments vindicate earlier installments (in my opinion First Law 2 and 3 vindicated book 1, which didn't have much of a story). Also, note my rating. It's 6.5. Not all that bad, despite my many gripes with this series.
     
  13. Derk of Derkholm

    Derk of Derkholm Journeyed there and back again

    Well, @Silvion Night , all I can say is ...

    ... Don't read the "Gentlemen Bastard" sequence!

    If Kvothe is already unbearable to you, then I guess that Locke Lamora will be even less to your taste.
    That is one book that I would have thrown disgustedly into a corner for that very reason, had it not been an electronic book on my beloved Kindle, but a paper one.

    Best regards,
    Andy
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  14. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    Argh, I had planned on reading that as my next fantasy series after I finish my current non-fiction book. Thanks for the warning though.
     
  15. Derk of Derkholm

    Derk of Derkholm Journeyed there and back again

    So, your righteously vented anger (and rating correction) has pushed Kvothe from spot 5 to 7 in our little ranking list... will update it shortly! ;)
     
  16. MattKnott

    MattKnott Knows the real name of Lower Corte

    I'm not a fan of Rothfuss so I won't be reading this but it sounds like the problem is the characters perfection insulates them from bad things happening. Everyone spends their time talking about how great they are and because it's first person narrative it's all exacerbated.

    Locke isn't like that, his arrogance causes him to seriously screw up and people hate him and love him at the same time. The series got rough after the first book, but I'd not class Silvion's issues as Locke Problems.
     
  17. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    I'm very glad to hear that. I will definitely let you guys know what I thought of the Gentleman Bastards series.
     
  18. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    I don't dislike the fact that he is competent per se. I just dislike the fact that his competence seems to have no boundaries and the fact that he brags about it incessantly. The first makes for uninteresting reading, the second makes me dislike him.

    I take it you mean subjective instead of objective?

    Of course my complaints are subjective. Every review is. In part it is irrational. Rationally speaking the fact that he's a prodigy can be explained. However, reason can't explain away feelings. You can rationalize all my complaints, but that doesn't make them any less valid. I dislike the fact that Kvothe is a prodigy who can solve any problem because he's super smart. To me it makes for uninteresting reading. You don't mind this or even like Kvothe because of this. It's all subjective.
     
  19. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    Ah, clear. Well, I can't help but finding fault with it. Sim's reaction to Kvothe's music seems rather silly to me and I really didn't like it (but I can understand if someone else would feel that way about music). Same goes for Kvothe's 'have I mentioned I'm Ruh yet today' mentality (good one. That turn of phrase had me giggling). I think it all can be attributed to the following (and I quote the Dude): "Yeah, well, that's just like, your opinion, man."
     
    • Like Like x 1
  20. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    Sorry for my previous post. I've taken on a severe hangover as penance.

    Hi Matt, did you mean that you read the first one but not the second? Otherwise, what do you mean you're not a fan of Rothfuss? I wouldn't say that Kvothe's perfection insulates him from anything. The story structure does that, because we know he lives through everything, but we would expect that either way. In book 2, we see present day Kvothe get the snot beaten out of him in his inn, he gets pwned at sympathy by a little girl, a butterfly-eating tree-dweller makes him cry like a baby, etc. If anything differed between book 1 and book 2, it was how often Kvothe came up short.

    I'm frankly surprised how many people here weren't thrilled by the books. Most people who read these books love them. Is this a problem of overly-sophisticated fantasy palates? I see plenty of positive reviews here on YA books like Red Rising and Half a King, which aren't written any better than this.
     

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