So these are big books and there were moments and ideas that I did like but there was also plenty that left me cold:
- The frame tale is infuriatingly unfair to the reader. There’s a war on of which the origins and participants will be common knowledge to everyone in the setting; however, after two huge doorstop novels the player is still left in the dark on such crucial elements of the story.
I’m fine with twists and reveals, but this is like if we got three books into an Asimov series before telling you the protagonists are robots and everyone but the reader knew the whole time.
The whole trope of being the only red headed country boy to get admitted into the ninja academy and learn the secret sword ways of the mysterious foreigners had me rolling my eyes for like seven chapters straight.
The sex with the nymph section was cause for eye-rolling too (of course Kvoth is a peerless lover, he’s everything else).
The story is basically an expanded rehash of the Earthsea Trilogy. That could be okay but it’s really bloated! The plot unfolds slowly, keen on clever foreshadowing of things to happen in a future book long after I’ll have forgotten the significance of the detail (it’s a technique that George RR Martin is fond of too). With the frame tale it sets up things your keen to know and then takes literally hundreds of pages to deliver.
The thing is, there are bits of a good book spread out through the series. If it was completely terrible I wouldn’t have continued on.
I liked the part where he was living with the wealthy patron and dealing with courtly intrigue, learning the rules of the place, uncovering conspiracies etc. That was great!
I’m happy to see anyone else’s thoughts on it.
It’s been a few years since I read them too, but here’s what I remember…
The Mary-Sue-ness that was especially present in the first book was what bothered me too. It was a little toned down in the second book (though yeah, the Felurian stuff is over the top), but, more importantly, I realized that the main theme of the series is stories, and how and why people tell them and what effects they have on the listener. So I am pretty sure we are not to trust Kote’s version of the story he is telling Chronicler. And the near-complete disconnect between the characters and events in the frame story and in Kote’s tale does seem pretty odd, and it makes me wonder if the entire thing is just being made up out of whole cloth for some reason (presumably involving duping Chronicler?).
So a lot of my appreciation is contingent on how it all plays out in the final book. In the meantime, I am enjoying all the subtle hidden connections between things in various parts of the tale, e.g. Kvothe’s mother, Denna’s patron, Haliax/Iax/Jax, etc. There are a lot of these puzzles & mysteries, probably too many to be satisfactorily tied up by the end, but I am crossing my fingers…
When I started reading it, Harry Potter was the referent that came to mind, but you’re right, it’s much closer to Earthsea both in tone and in story elements. Come to think of it, when I re-read A Wizard of Earthsea as an adult, I noticed how Sparrowhawk was not a very sympathetic character, and I got the sense he wasn’t meant to be (that of course went over my head when I read it as a kid). So that’s sort of the opposite of Kvothe.
I agree that there’s a lot of careful attention to point-of-view, and the over-the-top parts are characterization of the narrator.
I trust the author enough to not come to final decisions about what I think until the third book is out. If I wind up being disappointed, eh, whatever. There are other books.
I liked the first book but then I looked at the page count and realized that it’s almost up and the guy is only on his fourth month in the magical school. He still has four years and eight months until the graduation and some time afterwards to catch up with his current whereabouts. And that’s how I shelved that book and never returned.