This is Book Two of the very popular and complex fantasy series (“The Kingkiller Chronicles”) recounting the story of Kvothe, currently a self-effacing innkeeper who is not yet thirty, going by the name of Kote. His saga is told by the literary device of the “frame story” or “Mise-en-abyme” – a story within a story.
Kvothe agreed to tell his life story over a period of three days to a man called The Chronicler. This second book picks up the story told on day two, beginning, as did Book One, with a reference to the silence that now characterizes Kvothe’s life.
Kvothe is a prodigy who is studying how to work with magic at the University, and who is also obsessed with a young woman, Denna. Denna (this is only the first of many names she uses) will be friends with Kvothe but maybe not more; he doesn’t want to risk losing her by pushing her.
Nevertheless, he manages to acquire sexual experience elsewhere, via Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist. Nor can men survive if Felurian pushes them away. Kvothe of course manages to do both (eventually, anyway). He escapes the extremely long drawn out male-fantasy-within-a-fantasy book sexcapade with a magic cloak made for him by Felurian to protect himself back out in the [non-Fae] world.
Other adventures we learn about on day two include an encounter with the truth-telling, future-prognosticating Fae oracle Cthaeh; a trip to Vintas to meet the rich potential patron Maer Alveron; a stint leading a group of mercenaries on the Maer’s behalf to clean up the bandits on the road who have been stealing the King’s taxes; training in the Adem skill of fighting (which requires getting into the Zen-like mindset of “the Lethani”; various sexual encounters with Adem women (who, continuing Rothfuss’s romp through male fantasies within the fantasy, like and even prefer sex without emotional commitment); rescuing a couple of girls held as sex slaves by travelers pretending to be from Kvothe’s troupe of “Edema Ruh”; meeting up with Meluan, the new wife of the Maer (who may or may not actually be his aunt); and finally returning to the University. All of these adventures are interspersed with Kvothe either looking for, or running into Denna, or obsessing about her in her absence.
[I would complain about the abundance of what I consider to be unnecessary and over-long male-fantasy sexual encounters, but Rothfuss’s plot permutations are not so easily classified; these passages could prove to have significant meaning later on in the saga.]
Back at the University, Kvothe is finally flush with money, but not so successful with his studies. He occupies himself with paying off some debts he had accrued, and exacting a small piece of revenge on his enemy, the bully from University, Ambrose.
At the end of Book Two, Kvothe takes a break from storytelling, and he is robbed and beaten by thieves who have come to his inn.
Evaluation: This is not a standalone book, but is a must-read for followers of this saga. However, if you can restrain yourself, I would suggest not even starting it until the third book makes an appearance, because it is an extremely convoluted story with many layers of meaning (albeit in an intellectually rewarding way), that could get lost in the lacuna.
Published by DAW Books, Inc. 2011