I LEFT THE BAR smiling, unmindful of the fact that I was still Dockside and in danger. I felt buoyant knowing I would have the chance to hear another story soon. It had been a long time since I had looked forward to anything.
I quite like this. In hard times fiction can often be an important release valve and I think Rothfuss is tapping into that quite nicely here.
But as I sat there, I felt a vague unease creep over me. A feeling that I was forgetting something impinged on my too-rare happiness.
By the end of the day, I was certain I had forgotten something. Something about the story Skarpi had told.
Like the fact that it was the supervillain origin story of your parent’s murderer?
The narrative does something here that I really hate- it anticipates that people are going to bring this up and tries to deflect the complaint, specifically by claiming that Kvothe’s “mind was still alseep” and his painful memories were still locked away.
You know what, I’m not buying that any more. It’s been three years. I’d expect that he’d at least have gotten to the point where he could start remembering what had happened even if he couldn’t come to terms with it.
A lot of this book feels like Rothfuss creating problems for himself and then haphazardly throwing up scaffolding to try and fix them. He has Kvothe survive in the wilderness for six months then refuses to follow through on any of the ramifications of that, he gives Kvothe tons of possible ways out of Tarbean then has to spend most of a chapter giving excuses for Kvothe not using any of them, he has three years pass from the time of the murder so Kvothe can be old enough to (I assume) join the University but has to act as though it happened last week. It’s clear there’s a set direction Rothfuss wants to take the story and he’s determined to stick to that path regardless of whether or not it makes any sense.
All of this is completely pointless anyway because Kvothe sees a priest wearing a cowl with his face hidden in shadow and it triggers a flashback to what Haliax looked like.
The Chandrian were real. Haliax was real. If the story Skarpi had told was true, then Lanre and Haliax were the same person. The Chandrian had killed my parents, my whole troupe. Why?
It’s implied that this is literally the first time Kvothe is bothering to ask any questions. You know what that means? Everything we just read about Kvothe’s time in Tarbean was pointless. The story has only advanced from the night of the massacre now, ten chapters later. Nothing really took place in the meantime apart from Kvothe getting subjected to Bad Shit.
They had killed my parents for gathering stories about them. They had killed my whole troupe over a song.
Yes, we got that back when it happened, thanks.
Kvothe resolves to ask Skarpi the truth behind his stories the next day.
In chapter 28 Kvothe runs to the inn to see Skarpi and we get another fucking story. Luckily it’s pretty short this time.
In the aftermath of Lanre becoming Haliax, Selitos gathers a band of warriors and goes to seek help to defeat him from Aleph, who is apparently God? Anyway Aleph is an asshole and refuses to help so Selitos decides to fight Haliax by himself. But some of his warriors step forward and decide to get super-powers from Aleph.
Let’s take a look at the following paragraph. Try to spot what the difference is between the men and the women:
Others came forward. Tall Kirel, who had been burned but left living in the ash of Myr Tariniel. Deah, who had lost two husbands to the fighting, and whose face and mouth and heart were hard and cold as stone. Enlas, who would not carry a sword or eat the flesh of animals, and who no man had ever known to speak hard words. Fair Geisa, who had a hundred suitors in Belen before the walls fell. The first woman to know the unasked-for touch of man.
Now to be fair Enlas’ gender isn’t mentioned, but in books like this an ungendered character is usually assumed to be male (non-binary gender portrayal? Psssshhhaw). Note that the two women are motivated by men. And one of them is a rape victim! The first rape victim, somehow. Why did that need to be in there? Does it add to her character in any way? Nope, it’s just there to add more grimdark gritty grit.
Then there’s the last few:
Lecelte, who laughed easily and often, even when there was woe thick about him. Imet, hardly more than a boy, who never sang and killed swiftly without tears. Ordal, the youngest of them all, who had never seen a thing die, stood bravely before Aleph, her golden hair bright with ribbon. And beside her came Andan, whose face was a mask with burning eyes, whose name meant anger.
So angry widow, rape victim and pure golden-haired young girl (“her golden hair bright with ribbon” what kind of terrible writing is that).
Am I over-reacting to this? Maybe I’m just so used to misogyny in fantasy that I’m jumping on the first possible example of it I can find. Leave a comment if you disagree with me.
Aleph touches all of the D&D squad and there’s a long, terribly written grandiose segment where flaming wings erupt from their backs and they get super powers or something. Tehlu is the greatest of them and he goes off to hit people with hammers and be a judgmental fascist asshole and impregnate women with himself without asking them first. I’m really wondering if we’re supposed to hate Tehlu as much as I do.
Before we can hear the thrilling conclusion of the story two Tehlian priests/inquisitors appear and start to drag Skarpi away and exhort the innkeeper and generally act like dicks. Growing up in a country heavily embroiled in scandals and abuses of power by organized religion has left me quite sympathetic to the whole Evil Church trope, but I wish it was handled with a bit more subtlety. Putting up a veneer of respectability and honesty is precisely what makes abuses like the ones that occurred in real life possible, whereas if your priests go around acting like thugs and criminals people will treat them like thugs and criminals. You might argue that a lot of religious authorities did act like that in Ye Olden Days, but that seemed to be facilitated by governments in which religious and civil authorities were essentially one and the same or where the former had so much influence on the latter that it might as well have been the case and there’s been no indication of that kind of setup here.
Skarpi mouths off to the priests and enrages them a bit because of course he’s a giant badass. Before they drag him off he tells Kvothe to run for it. The chapter of course concludes without Kvothe learning anything of interest because why advance the story when we can waste time on pointless world-building?