Sadly not as good as its predecessor. The first half of “Wise Man’s Fear” sees Kvothe at the University dealing with the same problems and same enemies as he encountered in the last half of “Name of the Wind.” He eventually goes off and has a string of adventures, but then returns to the University and nothing has really changed except he has some money now. Kind of a wasted novel in that respect – you could probably go straight from the 1st to the 3rd novel (when it comes out) of this series and not really miss anything major. But that is too harsh. Rothfuss writes as smooth as butter; 1000 pages pass very quickly and (generally) enjoyably.
Kvothe’s fatal flaw is unchanged from “Name of the Wind” : pride. He takes insults (generally regarding his Edema Ruh [gypsy] heritage) way too personally and loses his temper too often; also he is not humble enough to ask his friends for financial assistance even though they would undoubtedly help. (Of course, without the fatal flaw there wouldn’t be very many interesting things to write about Kvothe. But his immature behavior still frustrates me sometimes.)
When Kvothe travels away from the University, there is a mutiny, a shipwreck, and a struggle for survival in a foreign city. But all that is skipped over. I thought it was a funny decision by the author – sounds like it could have been exciting stuff! After Kvothe gets to the Maer things are interesting … but then he is sent off on a string of “sidequests” – track and kill some bandits; get seduced by Felurian, a Rusalka/mermaid type creature of the Fae realm; learn Ketan from the mysterious Adem (this was the most tedious part of the book…they are very cookie-cutter; reminded me of the Wheel of Time’s Aiel); rescue two kidnapped girls from Edema Ruh impersonators. Each of these episodes is rather self-contained and they don’t seem to have any bearing on the main story. They are interesting (a little too much gratuitous sex with Felurian and the Adem…) but kind of left me scratching my head since they aren’t tied together well at all and Kvothe progresses very little towards his ultimate goal of learning about the Chandrian and the Amyr.
An interesting idea was the Cthaeth, a tree or entity that lives in the Fae realm that is evil through and through. It can see all possible paths of the future and, since it is evil, will tell you whatever will yield the worst possible future. You can’t even go by the strategy of doing the opposite of what it tells you to do, because undoubtedly it already knew you would do that and compensates accordingly.
Unsolved mysteries: Why was Caedicus trying to poison the Maer? What’s in the Lackless box? Who is Denna, really, and who is her patron (a Chandrian, I bet)? What is Auri – is she Fae? How is Bast related to Kvothe? After the Felurian dalliance, I wondered if he might be Kvothe’s son…