The Wise Man's Fear is the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle series. It was released on 1 March 2011.
The book begins with the dawn of a new day in Kote's inn. After breakfast, Kvothe continues his story beginning with the admissions for the next university term. On the day of his interview, Ambrose slips him a Plum bob, an alchemical potion which removes the ingester's moral inhibitions. As a result, he has to take his interviews later. To pay for his tuition, Kvothe borrows money from the moneylender Devi. Master Elodin allows Kvothe to join his new class on naming and subsequently convinces Master Lorren to allow Kvothe back into the Archives.
Denna reveals that Ambrose has a ring that belongs to her. Kvothe plans to please Denna by breaking into Ambrose's room and stealing the ring back. However, Ambrose returns early, forcing Kvothe to leave by rushing out the window before he is able to steal the ring. Kvothe begins to experience odd problems with his body and concludes that he is the target of malfeasance, an attack from another wizard. Though he first blames Ambrose, his friends convince him that it is more likely to be Devi, who extracted his blood as security against the loan. He confronts Devi, but loses the subsequent sympathetic battle.
He then concludes that Ambrose has his blood, attempts to make a defensive device against sympathy called a gram, and succeeds after some difficulties. He also destroys his blood sample by setting fire to Ambrose's rooms with the help of his friends.
Kvothe is then arrested for the incident in The Name of the Wind where he inadvertently attacked Ambrose by calling the name of the wind and breaking his arm. Though he is later cleared of all charges, it is suggested to him by Elxa Dal, among others, that he should leave the University for a few months. Count Threpe persuades him to go to Severen, where the powerful Vintish noble Maer Alveron has need of a talented musician.
In Severen, the Maer reveals that he needs Kvothe's help to woo the Lady Meluan Lackless. Kvothe finds out that the Maer is being poisoned by his resident arcanist, Caudicus. While researching Meluan, he learns that she hates the Ruh because her sister ran off with one. Kvothe also finds Denna during one of his excursions to Severen-Low. He uses his feelings for her to write letters, songs and poems he then dedicates to Meluan. The wooing proves successful and Kvothe rises higher in the Maer's favor. The Maer persuades Kvothe to lead a party of four mecenaries, to get rid of bandits who were waylaying the Maer's tax collectors.
One of the mercenaries, named Tempi, is an Adem, famous warriors of unequaled skill. Kvothe persuades him to teach him Ketan and the Lethani, the philosophy all Adem follow. The group eventually finds the bandits and, although heavily outnumbered, manages to kill them due to Kvothe´s clever use of sympathy. Their leader, who seems familiar to Kvothe and is indifferent to arrow wounds, escapes. While returning, they encounter Felurian, the mythical Fae women known for seducing men and keeping them until they die. Kvothe chases after her while his companions flee.
Kvothe is initially seduced by Felurian, but he regains control of his mind and matches wills with Felurian. He calls her true name (although he believes himself to be calling the name of the wind at the time) and is able to temporarily throw off her magic. He composes half a song about her, and convinces Felurian to release him, so that he will be able to spread the song he has written about her among humans. Felurian agrees to let him go, provided he promises to come back. She weaves him a cloak of shadow, called a shaed, to keep him safe. While staying with Felurian, Kvothe meets the Cthaeh, a malevolent, omniscient oracle whose influence is known by the Fae to bring about disaster. Kvothe eventually leaves Felurian and catches up to the rest of his group. Although to his friends and other humans he has only been gone three days, it is hinted that he was gone much longer.
On the road back to Severen, Kvothe and Tempi encounter a group of Adem mercenaries, who become angry with Tempi for teaching Kvothe the Ketan and the Lethani. Kvothe agrees to travel back with him to help defend Tempi's choice to his superior, the Shehyn. When Kvothe arrives in Ademre, the Shehyn agrees to apprentice Kvothe after testing him and appoints the teacher Vashet to teach Kvothe. Kvothe finally passes two tests, calling the name of the wind to pass one of them, and proves himself a member of the Adem. He earns himself a new name, Maedre (meaning either The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree), and a two-thousand year old sword called Saicere (meaning 'the broken breath'), although Kvothe renames it Caesura (meaning a pause or break in a song or a line of a poem). He then leaves for Severen.
On his way to Severen, he runs into a traveling troupe, claiming to be Edema Ruh, but their odd behaviour makes him suspicious. After finding out that they have kidnapped and raped two girls from a nearby town, Kvothe poisons their food and kills the sick troupers during the night. Kvothe leaves their leader mortally wounded but alive and interrogates him. He discovers that the Ruh impersonators were masquerading as a troupe for cover. Kvothe leads the two traumatized girls back to their town and then resumes his journey to Severen.
In Severen, he shares his theory about the Amyr with the Maer, who has come to the same conclusion: that the Amyr still exist, but are in hiding, and to protect themselves are expunging any information about themselves in any records they can find. The Maer and Meluan (who have been married in the meantime) show Kvothe the Lackless heirloom which is shut in a chest. Kvothe then reveals to them his actions after leaving the Adem. Kvothe becomes enraged after Meluan rants about the Ruh, and Kvothe reveals that he is also of the Ruh and consequently insults her by seeming to have intuited that a Ruh trouper had seduced her as well. The Maer becomes angry and asks him to leave Severen. However, for the services Kvothe has rendered, the Maer pardons Kvothe for any wrongdoing in the slaughter of the Edema Ruh impersonators, grants him a writ (not a full writ of patronage) allowing him to perform anywhere in Vintas under the Maer's name, and agrees to pay Kvothe's tuition at the University indefinitely.
Kvothe returns to the University, where he learns that he was presumed dead. He makes a deal with the University bursar (treasurer) to drive up his own tuitions in return for half the tuition above ten talents. He also starts earning compensation for sales of his Bloodless device, which is his invention that protects the bearer from fired arrows. As a result, he achieves financial stability. He reduces his work at the Fishery, and uses the time to further his naming studies. Stories about his time with Felurian, the Adem and Trebon have become famous even in Imre and the University.
During a trip to Tarbean, he saves Denna from an inability to breathe by calling the name of the wind, similar to what Abenthy did for Kvothe in Book 1. They reconnect to some degree, yet Kvothe's new experiences make him desirous of a more solid romantic connection, causing Denna to withdraw. Only when he presents her with her lost ring does she temper her anger. The two part on uncertain terms as she heads north while Kvothe remains at the University.
During the present day, people stop by occasionally to make use of Chronicler's writing abilities. During one of these interludes, Chronicler gets one of the locals to tell a story about Kvothe to try to influence him to share the story of his arrest and subsequent trial, arguing that this is the first and most notorious story ever spread of Kvothe in which he learned Tema in a single day, but Kvothe makes up a story about him back with Bast's help and the Chronicler gives in. During another interlude, when Bast goes off to Shep's wake, two soldiers enter the inn to rob it. Kvothe steps forward to fight them but is badly beaten. When Bast returns, he helps to heal him. In the end, Bast leaves the inn and confronts the two soldiers at their campfire, having staged the entire thing in an attempt to wake Kvothe from his fighting stupor and it having failed spectacularly.