We open with Kvothe giving a riveting lecture on a nearby civilization’s transition from a nomadic to settled lifestyle, which he knows about in a level of detail that would probably require a time machine. The point of the scene is that Ben begins to teach Kvothe how to use magic to make two similar objects influence each other- think quantum entanglement because less interesting.
That’s boring so instead let’s count how many times Rothfuss uses the word “grin” or some variation of it in the space of four pages:
“Historically,” he grinned, “Astound me with your grasp of historical minutiae, E’lir.”
“Sorry, sir.” Ben sat up straight in his seat and assumed such an aspect of rapt attention that we both broke into grins.
He set down the coin. His lecturer’s facade gave way to a grin as he tried with marginal success to wipe the pitch off of his hands with a rag.
I felt a grin capture my face, wolfish.
“Too bad, E’lir.” His grin was wolfish too, and savage.
Kvothe then gives us/Devan a brief explanation of how magic works.
First, energy cannot be created or destroyed
How the fuck does he even know what energy is? The technology level of this world seems to be far below that of the 19th century, which is when the concept in its modern sense was first described.
Look, I know this is a fantasy world. But discoveries in science often rely on certain technological prerequisites- eg, you couldn’t have a universe where microscopic life was discovered before microscopes were invented. And Kvothe’s world is so similar to generic Ye Olde Europelandia it creates a certain expectation that it’s going to behave in broadly the same way. If you want a fantasy setting where the rate of scientific progress is markedly different from our own, make sure it doesn’t feel like our world in every other respect.
There some bullshit about Kvothe’s mom getting mad at him for singing a rude song that just serves to remind me that his parents appear to have largely vanished from the narrative, then the chapter ends.
Huh. That was…. kind of pointless. Nothing really happened, we just got a lot of exposition.
Well, onto chapter 12 I guess.
When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.
Can I take a moment to say how sick I am of seeing stuff like this come up in fiction?
Childhood is not an idyllic carefree romp- kids experience worry, stress and anxiety just like adults. In fact kids often worry more than adults because they don’t have the experience or maturity to parse real concerns from irrelevant ones and fixate on irrational fears.
I just think it’s bizarre that this version of childhood gets propagated so widely even though it contradicts our own experiences. Do people just completely forget what that period of their life was like?
Anyway, Kvothe overhears his parent and Ben talking about the Chandrian. Kvothe’s dad is gathering information on them for a story but is having trouble tracking down anything accurate (even though in the framing story instructions on burying their pet spider-crabs are apparently common knowledge). We learn that there are seven Chandrian (plus unlimited spider-crabs) and then there’s some fantasy linguistics BS about where the word “chandrian” comes from, because Tolkien. Also the Chandrian’s motivations are inscrutable, as they tend to simply show up and start wrecking shit with no apparent rhyme or reason.
So on the subject of Kvothe’s parents, I guess I should mention that I like how Kvothe’s mother is portrayed. She’s intelligent to a degree equal to the men around her, possibly more so, and plays an active and important role in the troupe’s work. Given how badly fantasy authors tend to handle female characters this is pretty nice.
“That’s a clever wife you’ve got there, Arl.” Ben spoke up, breaking the tension. “How much will you sell her for?”
“I need her for my work, unfortunately. But if you’re interested in a short-term rental, I’m sure we could arrange a reas—” There was a fleshy thump followed by a slightly pained chortle in my father’s baritone.
Well, okay. There’s also that.
Kvothe overhears Ben telling his parents telling what a genius he is, but for once it’s plot-relevant and not just pointless masturbation. Well, okay, some of it is pointless masturbation. But not all of it which is a big improvement.
“But most eleven-year-olds’ deepest thoughts have to do with skipping stones, and how to swing a cat by the tail.”
Already went over this, it’s just as stupid this time as it was a few pages ago.
“His music stopping barroom brawls and border wars.” Ben smiled.
“The wild women in his lap,” my father enthused, “laying their breasts on his head.”
This is a serious work of important literary fantasy, Kvothe’s Dad, not Love Hina. Also stop making me regret saying I like you.
She swatted at him playfully, and a thoughtful look crossed her face. “Come to think of it, there was a night, about a dozen years ago, a man came to me. He bound me with kisses and cords of chorded song.
Ben suggests that Kvothe should go to
the University Wizard School to learn magic.
I’ve been pressing the snark peddle pretty hard lately so I should probably mention that I’m enjoying this section a lot better than the framing story- the Kvothewank is down to just about tolerable levels, the purple prose has mostly stopped and I like Ben and Kvothe’s parents as characters. Which I guess just reaffirms my earlier KVOTHE IS THE MIND-KILLER assertion.