The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Kingkiller Chronicle Book 2.5)
By Patrick Rothfuss; Narrated by Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Publication Date: 28 October 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 3 hours, 39 minutes
Themes: / Kingkiller / fantasy / university /
Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place. Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows…. In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world.
Executive Summary: I think this is a book that most of the hard core fans will gush over, but I thought it was just alright. 3.5 stars rounded down for reasons I get into (rant about?) below.
Audio book: I haven’t done any of the Kingkiller books in audio. I have friends who have gushed to me over both the Rupert Degas and the Nick Podehl versions.
I’m not sure if those people will bothered by this one being read by Mr. Rothfuss himself, but I thought for this book at least, he makes for a good narrator. As he was the one who wrote it, he was able to put emphasis on the words he wanted to and he has a good story telling voice.
I’m going to try to write a review without getting too ranty, but I may fall short in that regard, so I apologize in advance.
First a little background as to where I’m coming from: I heard about The Name of the Wind and Patrick Rothfuss over four years ago from Penny-Arcade. Since that time I had several friends telling me I had to read it.
I was reluctant to do though, because the third book hasn’t been published and there is no real eta in sight. I was content to wait until at least their was an announced publish date. Until last year that is, when I finally caved and read both books with a few friends. I’m glad I finally did, though now I’m stuck waiting for the final book like everyone else.
I seem to be in a minority of the fans I’ve talked to who thought that The Name of the Wind was good, but The Wise Man’s Fear was much better. So maybe that will put me in the minority of fans once again who find myself a bit disappointed with this story.
Originally slated for Rogues, Mr. Rothfuss set this one aside and wrote The Lightning Tree instead. It has a similar feel to this. We follow Bast around for a day in the life. I really loved that story. I felt like we got some good insights to his character we didn’t in the main novels.
Auri is definitely one of my favorite characters in his books, so I was really excited to see he had a novella about her coming out. Until I saw the price. I like to support authors I read so they will hopefully continue to write more stories I enjoy, but $17 for a 150 page novella seems crazy to me. So maybe I was already in a negative mindset coming into this book.
I was planning to wait until I could get a copy from the library and if I enjoyed it, picking up a copy for my shelves if/when the price came down. However, I was fortunate enough to receive an early review copy of the audio book, making the price irrelevant to me personally.
So I’ve written all these words now (and apparently you’ve kept reading them) and still really haven’t talked about the book. That seems appropriate because there really isn’t a story here.
We follow Auri around for a week. We do get some insights into her thought process. Maybe someone smarter than me will argue we get a lot of insights. Maybe if I read it again, I’ll come away with more. I don’t know. What I really wanted was to know more about Auri’s background more so than her character. As far as I’m concerned, you get none of that here. Maybe I’m just not smart enough.
And that brings me to why I rounded down my rating of 3.5 to a 3. I was all set to round up to 4 because I really like Patrick Rothfuss, and I really like Auri. He seems like a generally nice guy who does a lot of great things for other people with his success and influence.
But Mr. Rothfuss felt the need to include this long author’s note at the end. He makes it out like an apology to his fans who may not “get” this book, or don’t like it. But to me it came off as insincere and really more like him turning up his nose at anyone who doesn’t love this story as much as Vi Hart.
And the thing is, I didn’t dislike it for any of the reasons he mentioned. This book definitely FEELS like Auri. I liked all the randomness. Auri’s OCD makes me feel way better about my own. She really is a great character, and that shines through here. As I said my main disappointment was getting nothing about Auri’s back story.
But to talk about “There are plenty of stories out there for you, even if this one isn’t” came off condescending to me. I’m probably just reading it the wrong way, because Mr. Rothfuss never stuck me as that sort of person before now.
So if you want a story where nothing really of note happens and to just spend time with Auri, you’ll probably love this story. If you like me were hoping for some kind of back story, you may be disappointed like I was. There definitely were a few hints dropped, but nothing that made any real sense to me, just left me with more questions than before I read it.
Review by Rob Zak.
The Name of the Wind
By Patrick Rothfuss; Read by Nick Podehl
28 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Themes: / Fantasy / Magic / Magicians / University /
The emperor may have clothes, but they didn’t fit me
A review by Brian Murphy
What do you want out of your fantasy? Exotic places? People different than the ones you know? High language? The clangor of battle? Wonders cold and distant and magnificent? The calling of silver trumpets? You don’t get any of this in Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind. It feels very … pedestrian, and common. Rothfuss’ created world is very much like our own, and is altogether too much with us. Worst of all, its protagonist is annoying as hell. In my opinion.
I was fully prepared to love The Name of the Wind. I knew about the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon, and the rave reviews from bloggers whose tastes and opinions frequently mirror my own. I was excited to see fantasy/SF luminaries like Robin Hobb, Ursula LeGuin, and Orson Scott Card (“He’s the great new fantasy writer we’ve been waiting for,” the latter wrote) singing its praises, and was fully prepared to do the same.
But the long and short of it is this: I didn’t love this book, and for long stretches, I didn’t even like it. Which makes me a bit sad, as I too was anticipating the arrival of a new great hope to emerge (or rescue, depending on your point of view) from the current crop of fantasy writers. As it turns out, I’m still waiting.
All that said, I recognize The Name of the Wind as a pretty solid artistic endeavor. In no way would I describe it as objectively bad, and the more I thought about it, I realized that it’s just not to my tastes. So I thought I would detail in this review why I didn’t like it, and then speculate on a few of the reasons why so many others have found it appealing. Of course, since I didn’t like The Name of the Wind very much, this review will spend much more time on the former, so be prepared.
The Name of the Wind is the first in a planned trilogy called The Kingkiller Chronicles. It details the life and times of a young man named Kvothe, a brilliant and talented magician doing his best to stay out of the limelight by posing as a simple innkeeper. When we meet Kvothe he’s in his early to mid 20s and is already a legend, though the events of his life have been exaggerated and mythologized. The Name of the Wind is essentially about a single day in which Kvothe sets the record straight for the loremaster Chronicler by giving the latter the full and true account of his youth and his subsequent rise to fame. We learn about Kvothe’s upbringing with a traveling group of minstrels and performers, to his days as a homeless street urchin, up through his first year at a University for wizards.
The Name of the Wind is epic fantasy length-wise (approximately 700 pages, and 23 discs in the audio version), but has nothing to do with J.R.R. Tolkien. It has everything to do with Harry Potter—Potter with a harder edge, yes, but Potter, unmistakably. When I read the description of the book and some of the reviews on Amazon I was expecting something closer to Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea series—mythic, serious, a book with lessons to teach us about human nature and our place in the world. Instead I got a harmless, overlong soap opera.
I think we need a new name for this type of fantasy. This “positive” review (“Lovely and Undemanding” by Jo Walton or Tor.com) expresses one of my problems with the novel: its lightweight nature. Writes Walton, “It’s not very demanding—and I wonder if that’s precisely part of its wide appeal and success… I wonder if “undemanding” is something we actually seek in fantasy, if it’s part of the star quality that DAW instantly recognised in Rothfuss? … The Name of the Wind is a lovely read, but at the end there isn’t much to say about it.”
There is something to say about The Name of the Wind, of course, but the word that comes to mind is ordinary. I don’t mind applicability to the real world in my fantasy fiction, but what I don’t want is 1:1 equivalency. Aside from some sprinkled anachronisms (calling a week “a span,” or invoking the name of “Tehlu” instead of God) Rothfuss’ world is too much like our own. Half or more of the book is about Kvothe’s struggles with … student loans. Most of the problems Kvothe encounters are pedestrian: Young love, separation from his parents, completion of school projects on time, teachers who just don’t understand him. His college days also suffer from what I would call 90210 syndrome—despite the heavy workload we’re assured he’s suffering under, Kvothe seems to have endless time for hanging out with friends and sipping wine at the bar, or saving the town from marauding dragons. Which is much cooler than schoolwork, of course, but not entirely realistic. This is a problem, given that one of the conceits Rothfuss employs in The Name of The Wind is that he’s telling us a “real” story as opposed to a cliché fantasy. He uses the construction, “Now if this were a book, then X would have happened, but this is not a fantasy, and so here’s the real truth,” time and time again. But the problem is we never once feel like we’re in something other than a well planned, well coordinated, safe fantasy. Rothfuss does not have the maturity as a writer to pull off this conceit, in my opinion. Despite its claims to the contrary The Name of the Wind is a genre novel in every sense of the word. Again, that’s not a bad thing, and many readers have enjoyed it and will continue to do so. But let’s not pretend it’s anything more than another Belgariad.
This brings me to my first major problem with The Name of The Wind: I don’t like Kvothe. I don’t need to identify with the main character to enjoy a story, but I have to at least enjoy residing in their head space. I come up just short of actively despising the dude (Rothfuss does deserve praise for evoking that reaction in me, but I would bet it wasn’t his intent). The only way to explain Kvothe is that he is some avatar of the Gods. It’s utterly impossible for a boy his age to know what he knows. A precocious human child does not even come close to explaining his impossible adroitness and encyclopedic knowledge. Even after spending three years as a homeless street urchin, during which he did little but beg for coins and bread, Kvothe can rattle off every historical and anatomic question thrown at him by a brilliant panel of instructors to gain admission to the university. At one point he finds a dead man with a crossbow and knows how long the man has been dead, the type of crossbow he’s using, its cost, its usage, the fact that it’s illegal, etc. This is supposedly a medieval setting and yet what we have in Kvothe is a medieval McGyver, a walking Wikipedia page, applying scientific rigor and clear-headed rationality to every situation he encounters (another thing that irks me: The medieval tech level of Rothfuss’ world makes no sense. We have a college of brilliant teachers who have mastered anatomy and physics and every natural science known to man, yet are stuck reading rare books over candlelight and riding on horses).
One Amazon reviewer said that “Kvothe’s cockiness, arrogance, and impatience are constantly and quite believably landing him in trouble.” Except that they really don’t. Kvothe is not cocky and arrogant, save on a very superficial level. Impatient, yes. But his impatience lands him in minor scrapes from which he emerges undamaged or perhaps lightly scathed. He is, basically, perfect in every way, able to overcome every challenge with ease. For example, Kvothe takes the stage at a prestigious tavern to “earn his pipes,” a challenge which requires him to play before a tough, knowledgeable crowd to earn the distinction of master musician (yes, he’s an incredibly gifted lute player too. I didn’t mention that yet?). A jealous student sabotages Kvothe’s lute string so that it breaks at the height of his performance. But Kvothe is unflappable. It’s not even a real crisis, just a chance for Kvothe to again prove that he is that much better than we could have even thought. He finishes the most difficult song in the land with five strings and doesn’t miss a beat. Afterwards the audience weeps uncontrollably. There always seems to be a crowd around to applaud his every word. Hordes of faceless onlookers cheer his every act, applaud his every song, laugh at his every joke.
Kvothe’s only reported “fault” is his awkwardness with women and his inability to understand them, yet during one scene he compares his love Denna to a half dozen flowers with practiced, poetic ease, wooing her as no suitor before ever could. Denna returns the favor, spending paragraphs describing how Kvothe’s eyes change color when his emotions are aroused and how beautiful his red hair is. Kvothe flatters her back, telling her that only one other person has ever noticed that his eyes change color… this is bad romance novel stuff.
As for its originality? Sorry, I’m not seeing that either. The magic system seems very much cribbed from Ursula LeGuin, the conceit that knowing the true name of something grants you power over it.
So after all that grousing what is there to recommend about The Name of the Wind? At the sentence level Rothfuss is a pretty good writer. I think he’s better than Terry Brooks, and better than Stephen Donaldson. The Name of the Wind is compulsively readable, which is no mean feat. Stephen King has been labeled by a number of critics as pedestrian or lightweight, yet most of these guys can cite chapter and verse of his books and have apparently read all of them straight through. That’s because he’s so darned readable. So is Rothfuss. The story is easy to follow and carries you along to the end.
Second: Rothfuss gives you a lot of cool stuff to gawk at. Teachers engaged in a decades long war over the proper way to shelve books. A room where papers are cast to the wind and land on tiles labeled with “yes,” “no” and “maybe,” answering your questions unerringly like a medieval magic eight ball. And so on. Again, very Harry Potter-esque with its fine imaginative touches. Rothfuss also embeds lots of “Easter Eggs” and bits that prove significant later on, or lead the reader to speculate about their importance in the story. There’s lots of chatter by fans about why the evil Chandrian are so secretive, what the Underthing (mysterious passages and rooms beneath the school) are all about, and so on.
Yet a third reason: The Name of the Wind is a nice change of pace from the “GrimDark” fantasies of Joe Abercrombie, George R.R. Martin, and Richard Morgan, where everyone is a bastard and ends up raped, or dead, or both. We can cheer for Kvothe, and enjoy his scrapes, and perhaps remember what it was like to love our first girl with an unrequited love, or when we could barely scrape together six bucks on a Thursday night for a pizza.
In summary, The Name of the Wind is the product of a good writer with a lot of potential but did not deliver what I was looking for. Your mileage will vary, of course.
Posted by Brian Murphy
Talked about on today’s show:
The Wise Man’s Fear is long, ♪ Hellhole ♪, The Road To Dune |READ OUR REVIEW|, quality of Dune series, Adjustment Bureau, Twilight Zone, A Kind Of A Stopwatch, The Stainless Steel Rat For President, The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted, Richard Matheson, Other Kingdoms, (parentheses), Richard Christian Matheson (son), I Am Legend comic, Splatterpunk, some Masters Of Horror tv episodes, James Tiptree, Jr., The Screwfly Solution, Lovecraft, Dreams In The Witchhouse, Ambrose Bierce, Damn Thing, John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns episode, incontinence, Alex Bledsoe, Dark Jenny, Sword-Edged Blonde, Blood Groove |READ OUR REVIEW|, Alex H And The Airship City, Girl Genius Online comics, Airship Fantasy, William Gibson, Count Zero, Necromancer?, Normads Of Gor, Assasins Of Gor, Warlord Of Mars, Elvin Blood, cover of Warlord Of Mars #5 comic, comics vs trade paperbacks, 3 YA titles, Sweep: Book Of Shadows, don’t worry the title isn’t Wicca, Liparulo’s Whirlwind, Guardians of Ga’Hoole Book 9: The First Collier, would owls be good pets?, Shadowfever has a soundtrack, Darkfever used to be on Podiobooks, Moning is not George R. R. Martin, Fevre Dream, The Armageddon Rag, March In Country, Lifeforce the movie, The Executioner series, E. E. Knight at Graphicaudio, “I Am Batman!”, Batman: Inferno at Graphicaudio, Kings Of The North, borderline sf, Clive Cussler, The Jungle, aural noir, Andrew Vachss, rhymes with tax, child protection, Only Child, Down Here, Hard Looks comics, Shaken, Jacq Daniels, drink names, Tequila Mockingbird, Lucky Stiff, a million honeybees, this is noir romance, Romeo And Juliet spoiler, horoscopes, David Suzuki, Neil Degrasse Tyson, Radio Drama Revival, Anita Blake #1 (Guilty Pleasures), Death Cloud (young Sherlock), Fountains Of Paradise, Fade To Blonde, Gilgamesh The King |READ OUR REVIEW|, The God Engines |READ OUR REVIEW|, fiction where “stuff happens”, Roy Dotrice world record, The God Engines review gender controversy
Posted by Tamahome
(note by poster: listening to yourself is wierd)
The SFFaudio Podcast #098 – Scott and Jesse talk with Luke Burrage about the new audiobook releases. And we also play Philip K. Dick’s “Preserving Machine” game in which you pick a piece of music and transform it into an animal.
Talked about on today’s show:
New releases, The Adjustment Bureau by Philip K. Dick, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, Roger Ebert, “Meet Cute”, Phil Gigante, The Stainless Steel Rat, Gregg Margarite, Russian Ark, Hermitage, The SFBRP Podcast, Your Movie Sucks, Dune, “This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.”, Korean movies mix humor, horror, drama, “the tone is off” in Shakespeare too, Unknown (a special edition of Out Of My Head), Berlin, Bronson Pinchot, Richard Matheson, On Stranger Tides, Bronson Pinchot has “a whole crew full of pirates in his mouth”, Audible.com, Beverly Hills Cop, Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Arthur C. Clarke’s Richter 10 by Mike McQuay, a Gene Wolfe writing exercise, The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin |READ OUR REVIEW|, “trickster, prodigy, master thief”, techno-thriller-ish, Planet Of The Damned by Harry Harrison, West Of Eden, Bill The Galactic Hero, Long After Midnight by Ray Bradbury, Tantor Media, Michael Prichard, Drink Entire: Against the Madness of Crowds, The Odyssey of Homer, “he’s in a boat, Poseidon hates him, then he’s home”, the origins of Necromancy are in The Odyssey, Philip K. Dick was directly inspired by The Odyssey, An Improvised Life: A Memoir by Alan Arkin, James Randi, The Black Widowers, The Trapdoor Spiders, Isaac Asimov, the Amazing Larry, Luke jumps on giant balloons |VIDEO|, Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Physics Of The Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny And Our Daily Lives By The Year 2100 by Michio Kaku, Art Bell and Coast To Coast AM, Jesse thinks string theory is bullshit, 2012, Higgs boson, Tachyons, what’s wrong with futurism, Popular Mechanics/Popular Science and the flying car, filtering metastases, The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell, Cynical-C, Kenneth Branagh as Wallander, the relationship between Science Fiction and detective fiction is that both allow the reader to participate in them, who-dun-it? vs. what happened?, Sherlock Holmes vs. Columbo, Agatha Christie vs. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself, The Writing Excuses Podcast, The Orbit Books Podcast #1, Jack Womack, Tamahome, sycophantic interviews are bad, Robert J. Sawyer, “the best stuff happens after the interview”, Richard K. Morgan’s article on Tolkien, The Space Dog Podcast, Ballentine Books, The Fountains Of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke, Lester del Rey, Utopia by Sir Thomas More, Simon Prebble, Gulliver’s Travels, dystopia, A Truly Golden Little Book, No Less Beneficial Than Entertaining, of the Best State of a Republic, and of the New Island Utopia, Steen Hansen, “immersed in Americanism”, The United States vs. Canada, American utopianism vs. Canadian muddling through, British North America Act, the long gun registry, Winston Churchill, did Winston Churchill write SF?, Newt Gingrich as an alternate history novel, Plato’s The Republic, Mein Kampf, Dianetics, Meatball Fulton (aka Tom Lopez), Ruby, Lady Windermere’s Brass Fantabulous, Part 2, “purposefully ridiculous”, new Audible.com releases, Audible Frontiers, When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger, Jonathan Davis, The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds, “grimy and grungy and punky”, Pushing Ice, mining the Oort cloud, Century Rain, Journey To The Center To The Earth, Gulliver’s Travels, Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Kenneth Brannagh, Jorge Luis Borges, Stromboli, The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2) by Patrick Rothfuss, Random House Audio, The Vampire Archives: The Most Complete Volume of Vampire Tales Ever Published edited by Otto Penzler, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, undeadliest, Dreamsongs by George R.R. Martin, Heart Of Darkness, Alas Babylon by Pat Frank, Heavy Time by C.J. Cherryh, Lord Of Light by Roger Zelazny, Sri Lanka, Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, Venus by Ben Bova, The Children Of Dune by Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert, “talented readers” is a compliment?, “horribly unreadable” “throwthemacrosstheroomable”, family curse, Christopher Tolkien and Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Saga Of Seven Suns, Hellhole, sickmyduck, The Preserving Machine by Philip K. Dick |ETEXT|, Doc Labyrinth, Mozart bird, Beethoven beetle, Wagner animal, this is Dick talking about music, “Hey Jesse you must be the coolest teacher out there”, what would The Beatles be, put Lady Gaga in out comes Lady Gaga?, Vampire Weekend into meercats, what gender is this website?, Band Of Horses would yield themselves, “Weird Al” Yankovic?, “I wonder what will happen next?”, A Scanner Darkly, Radiohead would be an owl, if the term “sellout” applies to anyone in the universe it applies to Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert, planetary romance vs. space opera, Greenland vs. Iceland, Berlin means bogtown, are Malad residents are Malodorous?
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Time Traveler, of The Time Traveler Show podcast, attended an SF con (Confusion 2008) in January. Because he recorded so many panels he’s not podcasting them all, have a look, pick and choose on his site or below…
Teh Awesome Duo – Revealed!
1 |MP3| – [INTERVIEW]
Convention: ConFusion 2008
Recorded: Jan. 19th, Sat, 12:00-13:00
An interview with Guests of Honor Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld conducted by John Scalzi
Piracy of Fiction on the Internet
Panelists Patrick Nielsen Hayden, John Scalzi (M), Merry Haskell, Patrick Rothfuss, and Paul Melko
1 |MP3| – [CONVENTION PANEL]
Convention: ConFusion 2008
Recorded: Jan. 19th, Sat, 12:00-13:00
What is fair use versus exploitation without compensation?
The Short Sell
John Scalzi (M), Mike Resnick, William Schafer, David Klecha
1 |MP3| – [SF CONVENTION PANEL]
Convention: ConFusion 2008
Recorded: Jan. 19th, Sat, 14:00-15:00
Where are the current markets for short sf? Are some better than others? What is the place for short fiction in the science fiction field today?
The Internet as Career Tool
By Tobias Buckell (M), The Ferrett, Catherynne Valente, Suzanne Church
1 |MP3| – [SF CONVENTION PANEL]
Convention: ConFusion 2008
Recorded: Jan. 20th, Sun, 11:00-12:00
What are the best ways to use the internet to promote your career? From webpages to blogs to other ideas.
The Art and Science of Evolving as a Writer
Panelists John Scalzi, Paul Melko (m), Sarah Zettel, Jim Hines
1 |MP3| – [SF CONVENTION PANEL]
Convention: ConFusion 2008
Recorded: Jan. 20th, Sun, 12:00-1:00
In order to improve as a writer you have to practice. What are some of the ways to do this? How can you tell if there is improvement?
Also, The Time Traveler Show #23 |MP3| contains two recordings from ConFusion with Jim Hines that are not listed above. Also the next Time Traveler Show will feature a reading by Mike Resnick! If you haven’t already, subscribe to the podcast using this feed:
Posted by Jesse Willis