I find that, for the most part, Rothfuss’ books tend to be polarizing. You either love or you hate them. But for this particular installment in the Kingkiller Chronicles, I find that I am torn. There were certainly aspects that I enjoyed, but others that I question.
The aspect of Kvothe being an unreliable narrator is one of the points in which I am most torn. I love the plot device. I love that Kvothe isn’t altogether trustworthy in telling his own story. BUT, it also is often used as an excuse to write some unsettling things.
For instance, Kvothe (being only 16 years old) is by two thirds of the way through the book a sudden “sex god” whom all the women want to bed. Now, part of this is in Kvothe wanting to butter himself up in his own story, which is interesting and clever as far as telling the story goes. But this also presents many blatant sexist comments.
This wouldn’t be an issue if Rothfuss or older Kvothe who is telling the story, explained that it was wrong or wasn’t altogether right. But this is never stated.
Direct quote from the book exempflies this:
”Each woman is like an instrument, waiting to be learned, and finely played, to have at least her own true music made.”
Sooo women are musical instruments to be played at your leisure? Umm. How about NO. And I get that Kvothe sees everything in musical metaphors. So it makes sense to his character, but at the same time where is it that it is stated that this kind of statement is inexcusable?
Another example of this is when someone Kvothe is close to is discovered by the main character himself to have experienced consistent physical (and perhaps sexual) abuse. Kvothe yells at said person about how it isn’t right and that they need to get out of the situation. Which, though I have no experience of being in a physically abusive relationship, I know that fixing it is not done by yelling at the victim to get out of it. Yes, I was just as frustrated as Kvothe with how the character could see what was wrong and wouldn’t leave, but Kvothe’s reaction is unsettling. Now again, this wouldn’t be an issue if Rothfuss for older Kvothe telling the story made mention that it wasn’t right, and that Kvothe was human as we all are. But such a thing is never stated. It’s just left there.
Also, how is it that Kvothe is only sixteen but actually seems so much older? I think the primary reason for this is in the fact that older Kvothe is telling the story and thus makes his younger self seem older and more mature than he actually is. But like…it’s also illogical in a lot of ways. No sixteen year old guy is considered a sex god by literally every girl from every culture that he encounters. The even more illogical aspects is that Kvothe, in his unreliable narration, could be making all of this up or at the very least, exaggerating it. But it seems out of character for this seeming intelligent man to speak of something as illogical as him being a sixteen year old sex god. And okay, say that Kvothe is special. But for me, nah. Cut the crap.
This story seemed to take many unnecessary detours. Now, first off, I should say that most people who love Kvothe and his narrative love it because he is human and his story is of…well, his life. And though life does often times, take detours, I find personally that there is an overall picture to one’s journey. Within this book, the main focus, that of finding the Chandrian, seems lost in the many detours to other plots, people, and places that Kvothe takes. Though some of these other plots are interesting, they don’t seem to build into the overall picture or the grand scheme of the story. Could be that I am wrong. It is quite possible, actually. Seeing how the third book isn’t out yet and may bring all loose ends tied together.
My last issue was with how Tempi was dealt with. If you don’t know who Tempi is yet, all I will say is that I ADORED him and was disappointed with the fact that he became irrelevant to the point and just…vanished from the page and was replaced by “strong, brave” women who are used only as sex symbols. Like, if you’re going to kick a character out a of a story, do it for a real reason please??? And he does come back but only briefly.
Okay, that’s enough of my ranting. There were some aspects that I truly enjoyed.
The way in which Rothfuss tells us of Kvothe’s ongoing struggle with poverty and money, is both sobering and enlightening. It is something I enjoyed in both this installment and in the first book. Even though the outcome is nearly always the same (that in which Kvothe is saved from the worst,) the stakes are set each time in which I am actually afraid for Kvothe’s welfare.
Kvothe is truly an engaging character. The reason I kept reading was because his voice was so absorbing. If it weren’t for the fact that this story is told in first person from Kvothe’s pov, the story would be as dull as a piece of stale bread and be drained of all of its color. This story is character driven. It makes the otherwise dull plot points interesting and exciting.
The world building and magical aspects continue to amaze me in ways where Rothfuss inputs fresh ideas and aspects otherwise unseen in my previous reading experiences. The hand dialect of the Adem and their perception of verbal speaking to be intimate, the use of magic in a more scientific, physical sense, and so on.
There were other characters apart from Kvothe that I found colorful, hilarious, interesting, and beautiful such as Will and Sim, Ambrose (because I hate him with a passion which is good when the author means you to), and Bast. Oh dear Bast. Bless thee.
For what it’s worth, I give this book 4 stars. I would consider this one to be more on the “problematic favorites” wavelength. Yes, I’ll read the last book when it comes out. (When it does come out. Which will be in like…6 years or something.) And I would 100% recommend this to fantasy lovers and those wanting to bridge their reading tastes between YA fantasy and adult fantasy.