As with The Name of the Wind, Kvothe is already a legendary hero by the time the books start, but for some reason, he is in hiding. For about a year, he has acted the part of a humble innkeeper, but when a famed story collector known as The Chronicler appears and convinces Kvothe to tell his story, the innkeeper says it will take three days to relay the details. The Wise Man's Fear is the second day of that telling.
When we last left young Kvothe, he had risen to a new rank at The University. After an encounter with one of his classmates where Kvothe inadvertently called the wind, he was promoted to Re'lar, and while this new rank gives him a bit more freedom in his studies, the encounter that granted him that rank will have more than a couple of consequences.
The least of which comes in the form of retaliation when Kvothe finds himself poisoned in a way that is sure to cause him troubles as the admissions tests approach. You see, this isn't your standard poison, it's the product of alchemy and it lowers your inhibitions similar to drunkenness, but without the buzz. Kvothe quickly realizes that he can't go into his tests speaking everything that comes to mind, especially given how much his moral compass seems to be impaired by the drug. While he does make his way through the tests, he finds his tuition to be higher than he expected, and as always with the young orphan, money is hard to come by.
As before, he finds himself in debt with local money-lender, Devi, but she makes it clear that there is other information he possesses that she would value much more than his current loan. When Kvothe doesn't give her the details she wants, he thinks the discussion is ended, but Kvothe soon find himself under a different kind of magical attack at random hours of the day and he can't help but think that Devi's bad reputation might be justified.
Just as many of these threads begin to resolve, Kvothe is arrested by the local law and put on trial for his public use of magic when he called the wind. While the ultimate results of this trial leave him acquitted, many people, both students and teachers alike, suggest that he spend some time away from The University in order to let the trouble die down.
While this isn't Kvothe's last term learning at the prestigious school, he does take to the road in the hopes of finding a wealthy patron who loves his music enough to make worrying about money a thing of the past. He is sent to one of the highest noble houses in Vintas, where he is asked by its head to help him in wooing a woman. Kvothe quickly makes himself invaluable to his potential patron in several ways, but the nobleman's stickler for pomp and circumstances make it hard to ask the man for what he wants. You see, having such a high-ranked person as his patron not only means Kvothe won't have to worry about lodging, food or tuition, but it might also grant him access to private libraries where he might glean information about the people that killed his family so many years ago. This is, of course, Kvothe's true purpose in practically anything he learns, and having a wealthy patron would open many doors for him.
Kvothe's path in this book is far from a straight line. His time in Vintas leads to several new adventures that help to add new tales to the growing myth that is Kvothe the Bloodless. He will track down and face a large bandit group, train under the famed mercenaries of Ademre, and even spend time in the Fae world where he will learn even more secrets and return with more than a few rewards. In fact, while the book starts off feeling like it will be mostly about his continued training at The University, it really is just about a third of the volume, and a vast majority of it takes place after Kvothe travels to Vintas.
Once again, Rothfuss weaves a detailed and pleasant tale. Not only is the reader drawn into the adventures of young Kvothe and his growing reputation, but the interludes involving the innkeeper, The Chronicler, and Kvothe's young Fae-student Bast are far from boring either. As Kvothe recounts his journey, the story in the present moves a bit too. At the end of The Name of the Wind, we learned that Bast had some hand in The Chronicler's trail to the Waystone Inn, and it appears the Fae was hoping that Kvothe's storytelling would help remind the innkeeper of the man he used to be, but is that all he wants? There does seem to be something darker and more disturbing in the night, and it will be interesting to see how the third volume will not only show readers how young Kvothe earned the title of Kingkiller, but how the events in the frame story wrap up as well.