I have read a lot of books in my life so far, and plan on reading a lot more. I’m not trying to brag it’s a simple fact, I love to read. There are however very few books that I have re-read. I find the experience to be interesting. Books that I read as a teenager feel completely different to me as a person in their 30’s. I haven’t exactly not enjoyed my re-read of Crichton’s works so far, I have a long ways to go still, but I’ve found myself being slightly bored by books that I remember devouring before. Maybe it’s because I haven’t gotten to my favorite Crichton novels, or maybe I’m just getting finicky as I get older, who knows.
I do know this, the first two books in the KingKiller Chronicles we’re far better on the re-read. That is most definitely saying something because the first time I read them I was simply blown away at their awesomeness. The book series and books themselves were firmly set in my top 10 of all time on the initial read, but after this re-read I think some shuffling might be in order for the top of my list. On the first read I was just enjoying Rothfuss’s ability to create a world and make it believable and breathtakingly amazing all at the same time. If I didn’t understand something on the first read I just skipped it and kept chugging along. After the initial read I decided to try my hand at the detailed re-read Jo Walton has over at tor.com that I mentioned in my last blog. Even though I had just read the books, to say that I was not familiar with the world of Four Corners would be an understatement. There were characters and bits of information that I never would have put together if not for this awesome resource. So let’s get to some details from The Wise Man’s Fear, fair warning there will be spoilers ahead for the Kingkiller Chronicles.
At the beginning of the book we find our young Kvothe back at the University having made quite a decent name for himself. Ultimately he is unable to find out pretty much anything about the Chandrian or the Amyr, which seems to be his overall goal for everything he does, revenge can be a fickle mistress but it suits him well for the time being. There are a lot of shenanigans between Kvothe and Ambrose, whom Kvothe can’t quite seem to stop poking at whenever he gets the chance. Kote’s semi-sporadic meetings with Denna end up with him breaking into to Ambrose’s rooms trying to get her ring back from him; instead Kvothe gets almost caught and leaves some blood behind for Ambrose to practice his malfeasance on. Ambrose basically tries to kill Kvothe and it almost works, but then Kvothe creates a magical item through artificing, which by the way is a seriously awesome profession/skill to have, called a gram. The gram protects him but he then devises a plot to find Denna’s ring, which he failed at the first time, and desperately needs to get his blood back by setting fire to it in Ambrose’s rooms. Things come to a head and Ambrose breaks Kvothe’s lute, which wakes up his sleeping mind and he calls the wind and breaks Ambrose’s arm as recompense. This of course means more charges against our fiery hero, we think he is going to be expelled, and he is, momentarily. Instead though he is promoted to Re’lar, which means “speaker” because ya know he sort of called the name of the wind, and he is given more lashes for his attack on Ambrose. And this is only the first quarter or so of the book!
After being advised that attending school after the incident would not be the brightest idea he has ever had. Kvothe sets out to find a Patron for himself, at the advice of Count Threpe, a local nobleman who frequents the Eolian and has faith in Kote’s abilities. Kvothe quickly trades his valuables, including Denna’s ring for cash from Devi, the local shady money lender, and heads for Vintas. I follow Pat’s blog and on one post a while ago he talked about how he had written out all of Kvothe’s adventures during his trip to Vintas, but none of it made the final cut for the book, I hope he releases an extended edition someday.
Kvothe finds the Maer, who is essentially the king of Vintas, and puts on his best charming act to try and get in his good graces. It works of course and then Kvothe figures out the Maer’s own Arcanist is slowly poisoning him to death. I have to say that the parts where Kvothe is trying to get the Maer to trust him and believe him about the poisoning are probably the most intense in the book, when I got to this part I read it all in one sitting so I could just get it over with. Everything is about to come crashing down around Kvothe and then he is proven right and is saved from being executed and displayed in a gruesome fashion outside of town. Now with the promise of lands and titles Kvothe is finally given the task of helping the Maer woo his lady love, and is of course extremely successful at doing so. Just after his arrival in Vintas, Kvothe happens upon his own lady love again, Denna, and uses her as inspiration in writing songs, poems, and letters to Lady Lackless.
There are quite a few interesting tidbits from this part of the book. First we learn about some history of the Lackless family, and Lady Lackless’ innate hatred of the Edema Ruh. Kvothe is of course an Edema Ruh, but hasn’t let anyone know that he is, yet…It is not explicitly stated in the book but in Jo Walton’s re-read I found out that her reason for hating the Edema Ruh, her sister ran away with a troupe of them when she was younger, directly relates to Kvothe. It is speculated that the Lackless sister who ran away with the Edema Ruh troupe was in fact Kvothe’s mother. Scandalous I know! Kvothe is hanging around Denna, a lot, and she then decides to play a song for him she has been working on for a while. It actually turns out to the story of Lanre, one of the stories he heard from Skarpi in the first book, and one that is directly related to the Chandrian. Kvothe and Denna have a huge fight over it because Kote likes the song but argues with her about the details, he desperately wants to tell Denna about his parents but can’t quite bring himself to it. They part on bad terms and Kvothe makes his way back to the Maer’s estate and his rooms. He then proceeds to drink several bottles of wine to drown his sorrows. This normally seems like a not so bad idea to help forget about a huge fight with your lady love until the Maer comes a knocking the next morning with a crazy and deadly assignment.
There are bandits in the woods along the King’s road and the Maer’s tax collectors are being killed en route after collecting them taxes. The Maer owes fealty to King Roderick and he will get his taxes one way or another. Though the search for bandits in the forest known as the Eld is my favorite part of book two, it is also very strange. Kvothe just saved the Maer from being slowly poisoned to death by his Alchemist and hooked him up with the woman he wanted and the Maer decides to send him out on an impossible mission to kill a group of bandits that they know next to nothing about other than they are killing lots of people. Kvothe wonders the same things and I am very curious to know more about the Maer’s motivations in book three. Kvothe meets up with his crew in a nearby town and they set out on their mission. Joining him are two big burley mercenary types, Dedan a man and a Hespe woman, Marten a tracker/hunter/scout, and tempi a male Ademe mercenary. I think Kvothe is 15 or 16 at this point and the rest of his group can obviously tell he is green. But he is also an arcanist and they quickly learn just how useful and potentially powerful he can be. You see people from Vintas are especially superstitious, so Kvothe has to be careful exactly how much sympathy he performs around them. But he does enough to make them have at least a little respect for them.
The search for the bandits in the Eld is a ridiculously huge task for them to take on, the Eld is seriously freaking huge, but they start their due diligence and during these searches of the woods we get some of the best stories in the books. We learn of how Jax stole the moon, a story Ferulian later also tells to Kvothe and explains that Iax (his name is different in Ferulian’s story) is the reason the Fae realm and the realm Four Corners both reside in are at war. We also learn from Ferulian that Jax, a shaper, is shut behind the doors of stone, an interesting point I caught on the re-read. We also get a fantastic little story about a boy who had a golden screw in his belly button. Kvothe tells this one and the boy searches high and low to try and find someone who can take this golden screw out of his stomach. He finally finds a powerful Modegan king who has a golden screwdriver and when he takes out the golden screw the boy’s ass falls off! I could not stop laughing at this on my re-read; it still makes me crack a smile when I think about it.
The search is growing long and arduous, everyone is getting on everyone else’s nerves and Marten is starting to get pneumonia. During the search and their downtime Kvothe is desperately trying to get Tempi to teach him about the Ademe. There is a thing called The Lethani that guides the Ademe and Tempi agrees to teach Kvothe more about it. Kvothe also learns about the Ademe language and their use of hands for communicating. The Ademe to me are so interesting, their whole society and way they function is so different than the common human experience here in America. They are indifferent about nakedness and sex, they have no sense of body space or I guess you could argue they have a heightened sense, they don’t communicate with facial expressions they use their hands instead. They also don’t think men have anything to do with women getting pregnant, which is still kind of hard to wrap my head around. Tempi also starts showing Kvothe about a series of exercises called the Ketan he performs multiple times a day, it is the basis for their fighting style, and it sort of reminded me of a hardcore yoga.
Finally after weeks of searching Tempi informs Marten and Kvothe, one particularly rainy day, that he just killed two men. Kvothe was about to have them head back into town because Marten’s sickness was getting so bad but they seemed to have finally gotten the break that they need. They all want this over with now, but they have no idea what they are up against. Kvothe, Tempi, and Marten scout ahead to try and get an idea of what their plan of attack will be. But Dedan and Hespe decide that staying back and guarding their camp is not the right plan so they bumble through the woods and are found by a scout for the bandits. There are at least two dozen men in the camp, it was actually more like a small fortress, and there are five of them. The odds don’t look good, but after killing a scout of their own Kvothe decides to use a little malfeasance sympathy, creating a connection between the dead bandit and the one’s now vigorously attacking them from the encampment. He takes out quite a few but is absolutely drained, the commander of the camp shows up and kicks some life into his men that were just terrified by Kvothe using sympathy to kill them from seemingly nowhere. Kvothe has binder’s chills because he used the heat from his own blood to perform the magic necessary and so in one last desperate attempt he decides to try and focus some lightning from the storm that is upon them onto the giant oak tree at the middle of the bandit’s encampment.
It works and we think Kvothe might be gone but he wakes up next to a fire, in the encampment surrounded by his companions and a lot of dead bandits. His plan appeared to work and just like Taborlin the Great he called down lightning from the sky and it blew up the oak tree and most of the bandits at the camp. One gets away and they don’t worry about tracking him down, figuring it will do more good for their reputation with someone who will spread the story around, and the captain has mysteriously vanished into thin air. His tent was crushed by a branch from the oak tree but there is no body to be found and no trace of him anywhere. They find all of the Maer’s tax money and after pulling another Taborlin and opening the locked box, they pocket a little bit for themselves, and scavenge and loot a ton of other stuff, cause duh that’s how things in the Four Corners go down. They also find a map that shows a shortcut through the woods back to town and decide to try it out.
The shortcut mostly works, except they run into a swamp and that slows them down considerably. They are almost back to town when all of the sudden they hear a beautiful voice singing and the famed Felurian waiting in a moonlit glad trying entice them to come with her. Kvothe just can’t seem to resist and after a broken arm from Hespe, Dedan is dragged off along with the others back to town while Kvothe goes chasing after her. He catches her and she takes him back to the Fae realm where they make lots of the sex. We’ve heard rumors and stories about Ferulian throughout the books to this point; Dedan even told a story with the exact same song she sang to entice Kvothe. Kvothe is intoxicated by her, but this is mainly due to the fact that she is an extremely old and extremely powerful Fae creature. Fae to me are kind of like a mix between Faeries and Demons. They can take human form when in the world of Four Corners and keep themselves hidden, they also like to have lots of sex and seem to be able to entice people at will to have sex with them, which is pretty rapey when you think about it. There is a short story in the anthology Rogues that Rothfuss wrote on the character of Bast, who is Fae and Kvothe’s student in the current times of the book; I highly recommend you check it out.
Back in the Fae, Kvothe quickly realizes the trouble he is in and the reason why no man is ever reported to have survived an encounter with Felurian. He goes a little postal on her when she tries to press her will against his and he ends up actually scaring her and winning their brief battle. But he is unable to sustain his sleeping mind state where he can call the names of things at will and he knows it. One interesting tidbit we find out at the end of book two when Kvothe heads back to the University is that Elodin, his naming teacher, says that his sleeping mind must have known the name of Felurian and that’s why he was able to beat her. To know the name of a creature so ancient and powerful is something that Elodin can’t even really believe. I think this is just a taste of Kvothe’s power to come. Kvothe is trying to figure out a way to get Felurian to release him without going crazy after and finds her weakness when he starts playing his Lute for her and explains that he was in fact a virgin before she came upon him. He will write a song about her, but he can’t finish it until he has something to compare it to, he has never felt the touch of a human woman, but after he does he will finishing writing his song, sing it for all to hear and then someday return to her. She makes him promise he will return and after that they have lots more of the sex and hang out naked a lot.
There are two extremely interesting pieces from Kvothe’s time in the Fae. The first is the construction of his magical cloak, the Shaede, and the second is his encounter with a creature known as the Cthaeh. If you can perform magic a nice magical cloak is a must for any burgeoning wizard. Cloaks are a very important part of my own book and they play a big role in the Kingkiller Chronicles. Knowing that he must leave her at some point but afraid that he will be hurt or killed out in the realm of the Four Corners, Felurian decides to make a cloak from shadow and moonbeams for Kvothe. Their journey through the Fae to find the shadows was very intriguing to me on the re-read. In the Fae you don’t travel North or South you travel Day to Night. Obviously they need some night for his cloak so Felurian leads him through the craziness that is the Fae realm. At one point it is so dark that they cannot see so Kvothe, being the handy fellow that he is, decides to perform a little sympathy and light their way. This seems to almost get them killed but by what I couldn’t quite figure out. If and when they make these books into a TV show or movie I am really looking forward to seeing some sort of a creature on the screen. Felurian saves him by laying on him and breathing on/in him while the seriously scary and large creature tries to find and eat them. They eventually get the shadow they need and return to Felurian’s glade unscathed.
It finally comes time for Felurian to put the finishing touches on the cloak so she shoos Kvothe off while she does the last bits of magic. Kvothe wanders in the direction of day and ends up in a giant field with a huge tree way off in the distance. As he gets closer he notices there are a bunch of butterflies all around the tree. He gets super close and then sees that they are not butteflies but the corpses of them instead, a voice then talks to him from the tree. This creature is known as the Cthaeh. It is an oracle and can see all the possible futures of everything, and for some reason it is a giant bag of dicks. The Cthaeh apparently likes to mess with anyone who comes in contact with it and tells them the worst possible aspects of their future and does whatever it can to seriously screw them up. It tells Kvothe a bunch of horrible things about Denna, and they talk about the Chandrian and Kvothe going to Ademre. It eventually makes Kvothe so upset that he runs off a complete hot mess and somehow ends up back at Felurian’s glade. She is seriously concerned for him when he gets back and he then spends an unknown amount of time nursing him back to health. Back in the current time Bast flips his shit when Kvothe tells the Chronicler about meeting with the Cthaeh. Apparently there is a group of Fae that are designated to keep people away from the tree and murder anyone horribly who actually makes contact with the creature. From Bast we learn that a lot of historically famous and tragic people have talked with the Cthaeh before everything went horribly wrong. It seems that Kvothe is now headed down the same path.
Kvothe heals up, gets his Shaede cloak and heads back to the Four Corners realm. Even though he was gone for what seemed like months possibly even years, he was only gone 3 days in Four Corners. He shows back up at the inn, where his companions are still waiting for him, and everyone has already heard what happened to him running off with Felurian and killing the entire group of bandit’s almost single handedly. They also desperately want to know how he got away. He sings his song and sleeps with one of the barmaids now that he is a learned man and he and his companions head back towards the Maer and Vintas to turn in the taxes and collect their reward. The group is enjoying the last remnants of time they will spend together knowing that it will all soon come to an end. Then a group of Ademe mercenaries shows up as Kvothe is practicing the Ketan as Tempi looks on and practices the lute.
Tempi, it seems is in some trouble. He should not have been teaching Kvothe the way of the Lethani and he now must head back to his teacher to request forgiveness and possibly even be banished for his actions. Kvothe can’t have any of that on his conscience so he agrees to head back with Tempi to show that he is a good and capable student who isn’t looking to steal the secrets of the Ademe. Kvothe also remembers something that the Cthaeh told him that he should head into the Stormwal Mountains for truth. The journey to the town of Haert in the Ademre Mountains was also a really memorable part of the book for me. Tempi keeps a furious pace making them practice the Ketan and run multiple times a day, they also speak about the Lethani a lot. This is also where we first see Kvothe figure out a new way to control his own mind, he calls it Spinning Leaf. Kvothe is able to answer questions about the Lethani at ease when in this frame of mind and eventually he is able to know the name of the wind in it as well. They finally make it to Haert and Kvothe quickly realizes he is in more trouble than it seems.
He is essentially a prisoner even after it is decided that Tempi will not be banished and that Kvothe has been assigned to a new teacher other than Tempi, known as Vashet “The Hammer”. Adem society is matriarchal; women make the best fighters and teachers and run shit, so naturally Kvothe’s teacher is a woman. Kvothe’s teacher eventually tells him that they had continually thought he would try to run away, which he seriously thought about multiple times, and that they would have easily hunted him down and killed him if he had done so. I think that after the fight with Felurian that this would most definitely not have been the case, a cornered Kote is a dangerous Kote and you don’t want to awaken his sleeping mind. Kvothe naturally has a hard time adjusting to Adem society, things are just so different, and almost the complete opposite in some cases of what he is used to.
I spoke on this briefly earlier about the Adem’s views on sex, but it is so different than what our own “normal” society thinks that I want to touch on it again. Kvothe eventually starts a sexual relationship with his teacher and then another Adem woman named Penthe. Sexual relationship is probably the wrong word for it though; Kvothe becomes distracted in his training and Vashet notices and offers to take him off for a shag in the bushes. They do this on a semi-consistent basis but they never talk about it after and there is never any awkwardness about it between them. The Adem don’t seem to have any sort of taboo about sex like modern society and even the society in Four Corners, they are not shy about being naked, and if they feel like having sex with someone they do it. There is a really funny exchange towards the end of Kvothe’s time in Haert with the Adem. Penthe has invited him over for a little roll in the hay and he goes to Vashet first and awkwardly asks her if it is okay that he has sex with Penthe, since they have been sleeping together too. She says no and laughs at him and he explains he wasn’t sure if he needed to ask but thought that he should anyway just in case, she replies well are you offended that I have been sleeping with other people? He isn’t and then goes about his business with Penthe. Kvothe also tries to get various Adem to explain the concept of women just sporadically getting pregnant without men being involved, but he basically just gets laughed at. The Adem think the concept of “man-mothers” or the men being involved with pregnancy somehow to be hilarious and one of the many reasons they refer to all outsiders as “barbarians”.
Kvothe trains and gets his ass kicked by a 10 year old girl a lot, literally. Eventually he is given a final test. There is a giant tree known as the “sword tree” that is full of these razor sharp leaves that will leave you with some serious wounds if you are not careful. Kvothe has seen his young sparring partner dance in and out of the dangerous branches of the tree many times and when it comes to his own trial he is tasked with doing the same thing. He must get to the trunk and pick an item to bring back to Shehyn, the leader of the school he is at and Tempi’s teacher. Kvothe uses his new Jedi Mind Trick, spinning leaf, and is able to call the name of the wind to control he branches. He makes his way to the center of the tree and doesn’t know which item to bring back. He considers for a while and then makes his way back out empty handed. As he is heading back to Shehyn he cuts his hand on a leaf and offers his blood to her. He passes the trial leaving quite a few Adem impressed and is then assigned a new secret name and an ancient sword. He must learn the names and stories of all the previous owners of the sword and the ancient weapon turns out to be over 2000 years old. The sword also turns out to be the relic of Carceret’s mothers, of one of Kvothe’s enemies in Haert, who initially argued for his execution and hates him even more after he passes the test.
There is then a trial of the stones where Kvothe has to fight various warriors to gain more rank. The first fight of course is against Carceret and he loses after giving in a spirited try, he has passed the initial trial however and then must decide whether to stay in Haert and learn more or head back to the Four Corners. He decides to head back. The Maer is awaiting his return and his box full of taxes so Kvothe heads back to Vintas as fast as he can. Before he leaves Shehyn tells him a story of the Chandrian that he has been trying to find information on. It is from this story which tells their true names and the signs of their being around that he figures out how his parents were killed. When you say one of the Chandrians name they know and can track you down, the more you say it the more they are able to hone into your location. His parents must have been singing the song a lot and eventually the Chandrian caught up, Kvothe thinks the only reason they stayed alive as long as they did is because they moved around so much. Kvothe starts his way back to Vintas and along the way he inevitably runs into trouble.
Kvothe is tired from traveling and hoping for an inn to sleep in and get a hot meal when he comes upon a troupe of Edema Ruh. They have the proper markings on their wagons and know the proper greeting where they offer wine but the visitor only accepts water. But something is off. They have two young teenage girls with them that they have been drugging and raping. Kvothe poisons kidnappers and kills everyone in the troupe. Turns out these were not Edema Ruh but a bunch of bandits that killed the real troupe, leaving one member who had been traveling with them alive so he could teach them to act like the Edema. Kvothe rescues the two teenage girls and returns them to their nearby village. The problem is he has just killed a bunch of people to rescue them and he knows he is going to be in some trouble for doing so. Kvothe wants there to be a trial but the mayor of the town, whose daughter was one of the girls rescued, lets him sneak away during all the commotion of their return. The whole village is of course blaming the Edema Ruh for the kidnappings and are taken aback when Kvothe tries to explain that he is Edema Ruh and the troupe was not. The mayor asks him before he leaves if there is anything he can do for him. Kvothe replies, remember that it was not the Edema Ruh who took your children but one brought them back. Wise words indeed.
Kvothe knows that his only hope of not being taken to trial for killing the troupe is getting to the Maer and explaining his side of the story. He makes it back to Vintas in short order and after some courtly maneuvering he gets an opportunity to find out even more information that he has been seeking. He has been trying to seek a private audience with the Maer since his return and he is walking in the gardens with him playing the game and the Maer allows him to ask a question. Where are the Amyr? He asks. This is greeted with some enthusiasm from the Maer, in his youth he also wondered where the Amyr had gone, and they appear to be immortal beings with immense power just like the Chandrian. But there is almost zero information on them anywhere, almost like they purposefully got rid of it all.
The Maer has his own question for Kvothe and so they head into his private rooms and we meet Lady Lackless again. She brings along with her a small wooden box. It has no apparent seams, hinges, or lid but there is definitely something inside. Kvothe tries to open it but to no avail; he remembers an old song though and thinks that there is perhaps something inside that whoever created the box did not want to let out. Yet another mystery that needs answering in book 3! Kvothe then tries to be diplomatic and tell the Maer about him killing a bunch of people and saving two young girls. He wants Lady Lackless to leave, but she is having none of it. Kvothe shows the Maer the troupe’s writ of patronage that allows them to perform on his lands, and explains that they kidnapped two girls and he killed them all to rescue them. Lady Lackless of course blames it on the Edema Ruh and goes off on them and how despicable they are. If only Kvothe would have kept his mouth shut, but he has a temper and it shows here, especially after what he went through with the townsfolk and killing the fake troupe I think he is still very raw on the subject. Kvothe confesses that he is Edema Ruh and that they would never do such a thing. Lady Lackless storms out and Kvothe is summarily dismissed by the Maer after not taking too kindly to her hateful words.
Kvothe knows his time in Vintas is up and after not receiving a patronage but a pardon and all his tuition paid for his services rendered to the Maer, he sneaks out of his rooms and the Maer estate and heads back to the University. Lady Lackless essentially has his blackballed from court after his heritage is found out, it is a horrible thing she does but Kvothe knew that something of that nature was coming after his fight with her. Kvothe gets back and everyone thought he had been dead for quite a while, his ship had sank on his original voyage to Vintas and everyone assumed Ambrose had it capsized out of spite. There is much rejoicing and partying, Kvothe’s room at Anchors is still there waiting for him. He has a decent chunk of change in his pocket from his adventures and works out a deal with the guy who collects tuition that since he has a writ for tuition from the Maer that any tuition over ten talents they will split the remainder. He pays back Devi, even though she is not too happy about it and gets all his pawned items back. Devi desperately wants Kvothe’s secret way to get into the Archives but he refuses to put Auri in jeopardy for her to have it. Kvothe’s tutelage under Elodin continues and he is able to call the name of the wind more often. Kvothe settles back in at the University and that’s where he leaves the story that he is telling. Things are good and he is surrounded by friends.
The Wise Man’s Fear was so much better on the re-read when I knew more about Rothfuss’ world. I am so excited for Doors of Stone, but I know how long it takes to get things on the page sometimes. I have been writing on my own story since 2011 and it is nowhere close to being finished. Rothfuss in a recent blog post said that The Name of the Wind took him over a decade to write. I don’t plan on it taking that long for me to finish my first book, but I can see how it could.
I am currently finishing up the Rothfuss Novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, which is about Auri. So far it is really weird and really fantastic. The Underthing and Auri are such interesting aspects of the world of Four Corners to explore. Due to a screw in my tire I was never able to make it to Seattle for my signed copy and Rothfuss’ book tour, but I picked up one at the local Costco anyway. I have also decided to finish Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy next and I am very much looking forward to it. Nano is going well; I have over 5k words on my story and then as you can see from the length of this blog a lot more random writing has been accomplished. Any writing is good writing for me at this point. The snow is coming to my area soon so I think this weekend will be a great reading and writing weekend. Until next time!