The Wise Man's Fear
"There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man."
The second of three novels in The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss.
Kvothe, now a young man studying at the University, decides to take a few terms off and travel the world after a particularly eventful month leaves him on the outs with the Masters. Armed with a letter of introduction from a noble friend, Kvothe travels to Vintas, where he becomes embroiled in courtly politics, bandit attacks along the King's Road, a beguiling faerie enchantress, training from the legendary Adem mercenaries, and a troubling homecoming. All while trying to come to grips with his growing love for Denna, and trying to tease out information on the mysterious Chandrian, as well as the Amyr, a band of warriors who even the Chandrian still fear, despite the Amyr supposedly being disbanded hundreds of years ago...
See also The Name of the Wind
- Above the Influence: Kvothe states, "There are names for men who take advantage of women when they are vulnerable, but I shall never rightfully be called any of them."
- Arbitrary Skepticism: Kvothe at times. Sometimes he calls himself on it, as when he's complaining to Felurian that light acts like a wave, not thread, and then realizing how silly this is. Played straight with his reaction to the Lockless Box and the suggestion its sealed with magic, however. Its made pretty clear this is a mix of his university training and disdain for vintish superstition talking.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Most aristocrats are stuffy, elitist and selfish. Ambrose is a particular example, but Kvothe meets quite a number more like him. The Maer is selfish and used to getting his way. There are some aversions, such as Bredon and Simmon.
- Armor Is Useless: The Adem don't wear armor. It apparently would just slow down their perfect martial arts moves. Armor also doesn't seem to be much use against them.
- Arrogant Kung Fu Guy: Carceret is a female version.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
- Kvothe makes an impression in Vintas as follows.
I was one of those. I meddled with dark powers. I summoned demons. I ate the entire little cheese, including the rind.
- 'Oh perfect, a musician on top of everything else.' The Adem, part of whose hat is being The Stoic, consider musicians equivalent with prostitutes because they express their emotions. To a whole room. Again and again.
- Artistic License Martial Arts: The Adem mercenaries practice a martial art that is so powerful that 10-year-old girls can kick the snot out of men. The Adem also claim that being morally superior makes women better fighters.
- Attempted Rape: Implied rather strongly with Kvothe, in a flashback to his beggar-orphan days. He manages to fight them off, and the memory of it saves him from Felurian's mind control
- Berserk Button:
- Don't accuse Devi of Malfeasance without proof. It will end badly.
- Don't pretend to be Ruh and go around kidnapping and raping young girls. There won't be much left after Kvothe is done with you.
- Hurting, humiliating or belittling Kvothe when Bast is around is also a poor idea.
- Blue and Orange Morality: Felurian. Kvothe specifically notes that she's not evil, it's just her nature. The Fae overall seem to play by a different set of rules. Bast seems to understand basic human morality, though he occasionally chooses not to follow it.
- Book Ends: Bast reciting the "Elderberry" counting rhyme. At the beginning, it's to choose what bottles to pick for a mixed drink. At the end, it's to decide which of the soldiers to kill first, with which random implement about the camp. And, as before, the book begins and ends describing the silence of three parts.
- Brick Joke: In the first book, Elodin asks Kvothe, "Do you know the seven words that will make a woman love you?" Several examples pop up: "I need you to breathe for me," "I was just wondering why you're here," "I guess I'm doomed to die loveless," "You know, I could have carried you," and "For all that, she lacked your fire," showing that the right words are based on context, as does Naming.
- Call Back:
- When Vashet tells Kvothe, "I will admit, I've never had a student offer himself up for a vicious beating in order to prove he's worth my time," Kvothe replies, "This was nothing. Once I jumped off a roof." This is a reference to Elodin's test of recklessness in The Name of the Wind.
- In The Name of the Wind, Bast sneaked into Chronicler's room at night and opened a discussion with the line, "We need to talk." Mostly, Bast talked and Chronicler listened. In this book, it's Chronicler's turn.
- The Casanova: Subverted--Kvothe discovers that, even though All Women Are Lustful, their idea of what constitutes a working relationship involves more emotional commitment than he can offer.
- Cassandra Truth: Kote tries to convince one of his friends in the village not to head off to war by telling him the truth about who he is and why Chronicler is there. He is not believed. It's implied that some of the other things the boy has been told (his mother is sick and his girlfriend is pregnant) have also been dismissed.
- Chekhov's Gun: As in The Name of the Wind, exposition and important future plot points get mentioned in stories the characters tell.
- Closer to Earth: The Adem believe that women are morally superior to men and that only women can teach the Lethani because they understand it better and are better fighters because of it.
- Cool Old Guy: Bredon quickly befriends Kvothe by teaching him to play a strategy game and giving him advice on how to manuever through court politics. Bredon doesn't seem to care what other nobles think of him, and might even indulge in pagan orgies.
- Cool Sword:
- Besides "Folly" which is still hung on the wall of the Inn, Kvothe gets an ancient sword he calls "Caesura" during the story. Kvothe mentions they are not the same sword.
- When Kvothe makes up a story about Chronicler, he claims he has a sword of paper that can cut you from anywhere if he writes your name on it.
- Darker and Edgier: Than the first book. YMMV, but Kvothe kills a lot of people in this book, and in some pretty nasty ways. Also, a lot more sex.
- The Dreaded: The Cthaeh, a being that can see the future perfectly and is one of the most evil things in existence. It specializes in creating butterflies of doom by acting as a malicious oracle, telling visitors whatever truths will cause the most damage. And if that weren't enough, the flowers that surround it act as a panacea so there's always someone trying to talk to it. Bast says that he would rather fight all the Chandrian together than exchange ten words with Cthaeth. There is an ancient order of immortal Fae, wielding bows that can kill a man with perfect accuracy from half a mile off. Their only purpose is to make sure no one speaks to the Cthaeth, and no one even goes near anyone who went near it.
- Doorstopper: Parodied in this Goblins strip/ad for the book. It has one hundred and fifty two chapters, clocking in at nearly 1,000 pages.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: This book ends on a slightly brighter point of Kvothe's story, with him surrounded by friends, able to study freely at The university, and moderately wealthy for the first time in his life. However, Kvothe mentions that going forward a bit, things get darker real quick, so this is just a Hope Spot.
- Eccentric Mentor: Elodin. Finally.
- Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Tempi. Also Kvothe, just the other way around.
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex: The Adem. They have so much sex they never discovered its correlation with pregnancy.
- Failure Hero: Kvothe believes this about himself which is why he is hiding out as an innkeeper.
- The Fair Folk: Felurian, The Sithe, The Cthaeh, Bast...we hear about a few more, as well.
- Famed in Story: Partly due to his own efforts, Kvothe is becoming this by the end of the book.
- Fantastic Racism: Various ethnicities have stereotypes against each other. People think the Cealdim are obsessed with money, due to the abundance of Cealdish moneylenders and the strength of their currency. A lot of people hate the Edema Ruh, believing them to be thieves and kidnappers, which is actually untrue. Kvothe tells a story that portrays several nationalities by their stereotypes, then lionizes the Edema Ruh. It offends his audience.
- Fantastic Slurs: Ravel is a slur against the Edema Ruh. As Kvothe puts it, "its use makes light of the systematic slaughter of thousands of Ruh." Shim seems to be a slur against Cealdish people, as it denotes a low-value piece of their currency; Simmon mentions that Ambrose called Wilem this at one point.
- Fetish: Kvothe finds extremely erotic to see a woman playing an instrument.
- Foreshadowing: Full of this.
- The researching on the Adem and Denna's letter about meeting a mercenary lead up to Kvothe's training with them. Learning about playing a "beautiful game" of tak from Bredon hints at the philosophy of Lethani.
- An offhand reference to persecution of the Edema Ruh begins at the start and eventually culminates in the encounter with Lady Lackless.
- Bast's strange reaction to Kvothe being mugged is a sign that he paid the soldiers to rob the inn.
- "There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man." Kvothe runs afoul of all three.
- The rhyme regarding the rings worn by Kvothe can be considered this; he acquires rings of wood, bone, and iron (at least) in his travels.
- Read carefully the description of Meluan Lackless. Pay attention to her reason for hating the Edema Ruh. There will be a quiz later regarding a certain relative of Kvothe's.
- Genre Blindness: Rather perplexeingly, given how savvy he usually is, Kvothe does not realize that Elodin's inane and pointless requests are not designed to directly give answers, but to enable a person to find the answers themselves, until long after he has left the class. This directly ties back to his Fatal Flaw: impatience.
- Good People Have Good Sex: The Adem consider themselves to be on a higher moral level than "barbarians," and part of that is their total lack of sexual inhibitions. However, Felurian is completely amoral, and has terrific sex as well.
- Hard Light: The shaed Felurian makes for Kvothe uses shadow for cloth and light for thread.
- Horny Devils: Felurian magically causes men to be overwhelmingly attracted to her. She has sex with them until they go insane. Kvothe's memory of Attempted Rape saves him.
- Hot Amazon: Kvothe finds two Adem mercenaries quite attractive, and bones both of them.
- Hot for Teacher: Kvothe is turned on by grappling with his Lethani instructor so much that he gets a boner. Luckily, she takes care of it for him whenever he needs.
- Ho Yay: Tempi is implied to have something of a crush on Kvothe, based on what the reader learns about Adem culture combined with how he acts around him.
- I Know Your True Name:
- Kvothe gets the upper hand on Felurian this way.
- He fakes this with Dedan when he gets too unruly, as well.
- Intoxication Ensues: The "plum bob" alchemical concoction Kvothe is dosed with completely strips him of his inhibitions and moral grounding. When asked if he would consider murdering his mortal enemy in cold blood worse than stealing a pie, he asks whether it's a meat or fruit pie. When asked what would happen if he did kill Ambrose, he says, there will probably be a trial and people will buy him drinks. Someone had just bought him a drink for messing with Ambrose, but that was how he got plum-bobbed.
- Least Rhymable Word: Kvothe is interrupted in the middle of a song, right after he sings a line that ends in "silver." We never do find out what on earth he was planning to rhyme it with.
- Let's Get Dangerous: Two thugs stop in to rob Kote's inn. Kote attempts to fight them. He loses.
- Little Miss Badass: Kvothe is paired with a fighter of a comparable level of skill to his own. This turns out to be Celean, a little girl, no more than ten years old. She wins. Over and over again.
- Matriarchy: Adem society is a Patriarchy Flip. The Adem all believe that women are morally and physically superior to men. One female Adem says with some pity that men have absolutely nothing to contribute to the world.
- Magic A Is Magic A: Considering the way sympathy works, some of the audience wondered what's stopping you from using a person or a corpse as a mommet. The answer? Absolutely nothing. There's a reason they used to burn sympathists at the stake.
- Meaningful Name: In-world, names are very important to say the least. Many (possibly most) of the names in the story are inspired by words in various Real Life languages.
- Muscles Are Meaningless: A discussed trope. The Adem mercenaries say that women are better fighters even though they are smaller and weaker than the men. Vashet asserts that strength has very little to do with fighting ability.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: Notably averted by the Adem. The women are thought to be stronger fighters, yet they're screwing so often that no one, over the course of several thousand years, has figured out that sex has something to do with reproduction. That's a lot of screwing.
- Noodle Incident: "Chapter Fifty Two: A Brief Journey." Also, Kvothe's trial in Imre, which he skips because it bores him.
- Not So Different: Kvothe and Denna. Both stay somewhere where they're abused because it's the only place they can learn what they want to learn.
- Oh Crap: Many, many times. But probably the most notable was when Bast hears that Kvothe has spoken to Cthaeh.
- Old Master: Shehyn.
- The Omniscient: The Cthaeh, who can see all possible futures perfectly, and is "perfectly malicious." It knows the exact outcome of every single possible action it could ever make, and always chooses the one that will cause the most harm to the world. Bast describes people who come into contact with it as "plague ships sailing for a harbor," because their actions will set up terrible events to occur. Bast describes it as infinitely more dangerous than even the apparant Big Bad of the series, the Chandrian. Chronicler, however, isn't quite as convinced that it can have as much influence as Bast believes. The Fae in general however are so afraid of it that they kill anyone who talks to it from out of hearing range. And then shoot the crows too.
- Playing Cyrano: Kvothe to Maer Alveron of Vintas.
- Precision F-Strike: Bast delivers the only instance of the f-word as of yet after Kvothe gets done talking about the Cthaeh.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Any Adem mercenary. Played with in that they are extremely practical in terms of doing what it takes to win.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: When Kvothe gets drugged with a poison that completely removes his ability to judge morality, he can't figure out which is worse, killing a man or stealing a pie. But when it's suggested he might rape a girl, he just says, "I could never do that. Just like I couldn't eat a stone or walk through a wall."
- Revealing Coverup: Kvothe notices that almost all hard fact concerning the Amyr has been either removed or muddied, creating a consistently inaccurate mess. Later, the Maer corroborates this.
- Rhymes on a Dime: Felurian often speaks in rhyme, and Kvothe lapses into it when he's with her. He and Denna also engage in some of it as repartee. Simmon can compose verse on the spot as well.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Kvothe goes on one against the fake Edema Ruh.
- Shaggy Dog Story: Kvothe tells one to the mercenaries he's leading so they stop asking him for stories.
- Shock and Awe: There's a thunderstorm when the mercenary band confronts the bandits. Kvothe puts this to good use.
- Shout-Out: Caudicus, the Maer's arcanist, has a stuffed crocodile hanging from his ceiling.
- Speak of the Devil: The Chandrian know when you speak their true names. This is how and why they tracked down and killed Kvothe's family.
- Standard Royal Court: The court of the Maer of Vintas. Since we're seeing this story from Kvothe's point of view, it comes off as a bit of a Deadly Decadent Court.
- Starving Student: Kvothe's struggle to come up with his tuition money drives a large part of the plot.
- Sublime Rhyme: Felurian speaks almost entirely in rhymes. It's easier to notice in the audiobook.
- Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Sympathy and Alchemy, analyzed to the point that they aren't even considered magic anymore.
- Too Clever by Half: Invoked by Elodin as a reason he's not keen on teaching Kvothe.
- Took a Level in Badass: After Kvothe studies with the Adem.
- Training from Hell: Kvothe's time among the Adem, which leads to whippings, being constantly belittled and humiliated for being a barbarian, and on several occasions being tossed around by a 10-year-old girl.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Elodin decided to enter the Masters' Hall one night by climbing on the rooftop, then knocking on the glass window like a door. Lorren responded to this by unhinging the window and saying hello. (He's probably seen Elodin do much stranger things.)
- Voodoo Doll: Mommets, a key component in Malfeasance. Though an actual corpse serves this purpose later on in a grisly and disturbing fashion. There's a reason people used to burn arcanists at the stake.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Some of the Amyr are implied to have been this. And at times Kvothe is well on his way.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- Skarpi has yet to reappear.
- In a recent interview, the author has stated that Sovoy now lives happily on a farm in the countryside.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Marten is rightfully freaked out when Kvothe kills the bandits using sympathy with a corpse.
- Quite a few people are alarmed at the fact that he killed the fake Edema Ruh.
- Xanatos Gambit: Alveron's scheme to send Kvothe after bandits would result in either the bandits being removed or Kvothe's position in the court and the Maer's obligations of support, significantly weakened.
This thing happened, though it was years and miles away. I have heard it from the mouths of the Edema Ruh, and thus I know it to be true.