Monday, 7 March 2011

Inspiration (and The Wise Man's Fear Review)

First up: I’m back from my boozy weekend in Cardiff. I had a great time, in which I learned a great deal and stole an awful lot of stories that will one day worm their way into my fiction. I saw a woman I was crazy about for a long time, and about whom I’ve already placed in a novel, and seeing her bought that stagnant novel back to the forefront of my mind, and gave me the ending I so desperately lacked. So thanks for that.

On the train back, and during the rest of Sunday evening, I finished Patrick Rothfuss’s epic new novel, The Wise Man’s Fear, which I review spoiler-free below. I took a brief visit to Blackwell’s in Oxford where I picked up the Elizabeth Taylor novel my friend enthused about, and new book of essays from Orhan Pamuk. Nothing like a Nobel Laureate to get the brain stimulated.

Oh, and I finished the teenage science-fiction pilot I’ve been working on, and that was posted off to the BBC’s Writersroom this afternoon. Now I face an agonising few months waiting to see if they like not only the script but my writing style: I would like nothing more than to join the writing team on some big BBC show. So here’s fingers and toes crossed – I’d appreciate it if you could so the same.

Onto the review:

The Wise Man’s Fear (2011)

Patrick Rothfuss

Gollancz, 1008pp

Patrick Rothfuss burst onto the fantasy writing scene in 2007 with The Name of the Wind (which I previously reviewed on my blog) which was the first part of a trilogy that he had already completed. Since that novels publication, it has been a long wait for fans of the trilogy for this second volume, The Wise Man’s Fear.

Picking up where that first volume ended, we are reintroduced to the hero Kvothe. He is narrating his story to a figure known as The Chronicler, in the inn that he now run. The first volume saw his tale leading up to the end of his first year at university (aged just sixteen) – this volume takes us through to the age of seventeen, and another year at university, with a couple of side trips to mix with royalty, track down bandits and have sweet sensual sex with a fairy.

Rothfuss’s writing has always been quite spare – he gets to the story, quickly, without resorting to endless description or unnecessary world-building (a common problem with fantasy literature). In this the sparsely written prose makes the dramatic moments stand out in sharp contrast: the darkness is certainly creeping in at the edges of Kvothe’s tale, and by the end we know that darker things are to come. Never has a thousand page novel passed by so quickly.

There will be a lot of people that have yet to read The Wise Man’s Fear – or have come close to finishing it yet (it not been out a week yet) – so I will restrict myself from talking much more about it right now. Nevertheless, I will say that The Wise Man’s Fear plays up all the strengths of Rothfuss’s writing: a cliché here, but if you loved his first novel, you really are going to love this one. It is that rare thing, a better sequel. But I warn you: you will be left agonisingly waiting for the third volume which I guess we won’t see until 2015 if the gap between volume one and two is anything to go by. If Patrick Rothfuss needs the time to energise his novel, and make it the best he can, then the wait is worth it.

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