In chapter 32 Kvothe begins his trek to wizard school but feels as though someone is following him.
The feeling of vague unease returned almost immediately. I ignored it while trying to find out where it was coming from. But after five minutes I lost my nerve and turned onto aside street, watching the crowd to see who was following me.
But it turns out he’s just frightened of the crowds. Because you see, he regularly moved through crowds during his three years on the streets of Tarbean but he wasn’t truly part of them. Or something.
I’m beginning to get the feeling that in the very early stages this story was originally supposed to feature a much younger Kvothe going to wizard school, mostly due to scenes like this that don’t make sense unless you assume the three years in Tarbean and the six month wilderness survival adventure didn’t happen. This would be perfectly reasonable if Kvothe had just now arrived in the city but it makes no sense if he’s been there for ages.
As I’ve mentioned, Tarbean has two main sections: Hillside and Waterside. Waterside was poor. Hillside was rich. Waterside stank. Hillside was clean. Waterside had thieves. Hillside had bankers— I’m sorry, burglars.
OH SNAP BITING SOCIAL COMMENTARY
I’m not buying that the city is that evenly divided between rich and poor. Surely you’d have at least some bleed-over.
Kvothe spots a guard on the way into Hillside and ducks into a shoe shop to avoid him.
“Let me guess—” […] “—you need shoes.” He smiled timidly, as if the joke was a pair of old boots that had worn out long ago, but were too comfortable to give up.
He makes shoes and so his entire existence is shoes. Everything about him relates to shoes in some way. He eats shoes for breakfast. All of his clothes are actually shoes. What does he dream of when he sleeps at night?
In the winter, I dreamed of shoes.
OH SHIT IT’S SPREADING
The old guy, who as we’ve established is just crazy for footwear, starts rapidly giving Kvothe different pairs of shoes to try on in a scene that reminds me uncannily of that bit in the first Harry Potter book where Harry goes to the wand shop.
“How much?” I asked apprehensively.
Instead of answering he stood, and started searching the shelves with his eyes. “You can tell a lot about a person by their feet,” he mused.
We’re not really going to do this, are we?
“Some men come in here, smiling and laughing, shoes all clean and brushed, socks all powdered up. But when the shoes are off, their feet smell just fearsome. Those are the people that hide things. They’ve got bad smelling secrets and they try to hide ’em, just like they try to hide their feet.”
So the shoe dude goes on a bit like this then recognizes that Kvothe must be homeless and gives him a pair of used shoes for free. No mention is made of whether they have unicorn hair or phoenix tail-feathers in them.
(please don’t ask why I can remember what Harry Potter’s wand is made out of without having to Google it)
Roent was the third wagoneer I’d asked about going north to Imre, the town nearest the University.
For some reason I thought wizard school was in Tarbean. Couldn’t it have been? That would have saved a lot of time. I really want Kvothe to get there. I have this probably-irrational hope that the story will start to get more interesting once he does.
Kvothe spots a girl around his own age on the wagon as well.
I assumed the girl was a passenger like myself. She was my age, perhaps a year older, but a year makes a great deal of difference at that time of life. The Tahl have a saying about children of our age. The boy grows upward, but the girl grows up.
What the fuck is a Tahl?
I’m probably going to be saying this a lot, but I keep forgetting how young Kvothe is supposed to be here. Rothfuss is really not good at writing teenagers.
Kvothe is of course smitten with her instantly. Prediction time: she’s going to wizard school as well.
He turned to me. “Two hours.” He held up thick fingers to make his point. “You are late, you get left behind.”
I nodded solemnly. “Rieusa, tu kialus A’isha tua.” Thank you for bringing me close to your family.
I used the following image a few posts back; it will now serve as my default reaction to displays of bullshit conlang, self-important fantasy-wanking and Gary Stuness from Kvothe:
Fantasy authors: get your heads out of your asses. Your books are not grand and majestic and oh-so-important, most of you are writing shallow cookie-cutter airport tripe.
Anyway the only point of this scene was for Kvothe to demonstrate how awesome he is to the wagon guy.
I shook his hand, feeling awkward. It had been so long since I’d made simple conversation with someone that I felt strange and hesitant.
No, you aren’t hesitant and awkward. You’ve just spent the last 24 hours confidently swindling people and bullshitting them like a seasoned pro. You can apparently turn this stuff on and off like a tap.
The dark-haired girl looked in my direction and smiled. I looked away, not knowing what to make of it.
Kvothe being shy around women (which I’ve been told is a character trait of his) also doesn’t fir with anything we’ve seen of him up to this point.
Kvothe goes to say goodbye to Trapis and he’s all like what if he doesn’t recognize me in my cool clothes but then Trapis is like “no it’s cool brah I know who you are” and it’s supposed to be a touching moment but this character hasn’t been developed nearly well enough for it to have any impact.
A Sea of Stars
Kvothe returns to the wagons with a bag full of supplies. I’m really having trouble figuring out how much the currency in this world is worth- Kvothe got two silver talents for his book and seems to have been able to buy an enormous amount of stuff with them even taking into account that the shoes were free. I really don’t think you’d get that much for a single book.
the best cloaks have innumerable little pockets that I have an irrational and overpowering attraction toward.
Okay, I have to admit that made me laugh. It’s also one of the few really humanizing touches Kvothe has gotten so far.
As the miles rolled away, it was as if a great weight slowly fell away from me. I reveled in the feel of the ground through my shoes, the taste of the air, the quiet hush of wind brushing through the spring wheat in the fields. I found myself grinning for no good reason, save that I was happy. We Ruh are not meant to stay in one place for so long. I took a deep breath and nearly laughed out loud.
I guess all that grimdark on the streets of Tarbean didn’t really have much of an impact, huh?
Kvothe rides along on the wagon not speaking to the other passenger, Denna, in a way that indicates he fancies the pants off of her.
I was riding with one of the mercenaries, absently peeling the bark from a willow switch
Reading the Wheel of Time series has given me an involuntary mental tic that causes me to leap head first through the nearest window whenever I encounter the word “switch” in a fantasy novel.
While my fingers worked, I studied the side of her face, admiring the line of her jaw, the curve of her neck into her shoulder
What is it with people in books admiring the curve of people’s jaws? Do real people do this? Maybe I’m just more of an eyebrow guy.
Kvothe has a bit of banter with Denna and it becomes even more clear that he wants to show her his willow switch.
After a few minutes, I heard her return to her conversation with Reta. I found myself strangely disappointed.
You like her, Kvothe. It’s a thing that happens. I know you’ve had an unorthodox childhood but I refuse to believe you’re incapable of identifying what this emotion is.
Later on Denna and Kvothe have a baffling conversation that I think is supposed to be quirky or something but comes across more like Denna not being entirely lucid.
She stopped about a dozen feet from me. “Have you figured it out yet?” she asked.
“Why I’m here.” She smiled gently. “I’ve been wondering the same thing for most my life, you see. I thought if you had any ideas. . . .” she gave me a wry, hopeful look.
And so on. Apparently she isn’t going to wizard school after all. During the course of this conversation we learn that Denna is wearing a strange ring that I’m sure will be important.
The next day Kvothe awkwardly tries to spend time with Denna without wanting to seem too eager. I’m still really not buying that Kvothe is shy around girls, the dude’s been cool as a cucumber up to this point.
I pointed out the different types of clouds and what they told of the weather to come. She showed me the shapes they held: a rose, a harp, a waterfall.
Seriously? Fucking seriously?
Anyway it continues like this with Kvothe and Denna enjoying spending time together. I’ll give Rothfuss this, it does come across as a pretty realistic portrayal of two teenagers who are attracted to each other but don’t quite have the maturity to realize that or act on it yet. I wish Denna was better fleshed out beyond dreamy-whimsical-quirky girl though.
When they stop at an inn Denna and Kvothe go walking in the woods and find a falled waystone by a pond.
My eyes were always returning to Denna. She sat beside me, arms hugging her knees. Her skin was more luminous than the moon, her eyes wider than the sky, deeper than the water, darker than the night.
Do I have to break out the STFU image again, Rothfuss?
Kvothe is about to tell Denna he wuvs her but realizes he’s intent on going to wizard school and she probably won’t be able to follow him there.
The next day they take on a new passenger.
His name was Josn, and he had paid Roent for passage to Anilin. He had an easy manner and an honest smile. He seemed an earnest man. I did not like him.
My reason was simple. He spent the entire day riding next to Denna.
Sweet mother of God, this better not be turning into a love triangle.
The result was that I spent the day being irritated and jealous while acting unconcerned.
Kvothe you already decided you’re not going to tell Denna how you feel. Why do you care if this guy is interested in her? What you’re basically saying is that you don’t want to be in a relationship with Denna but you also don’t want her to get into one with anyone else, which is pretty selfish and weird.
The next night Kvothe is going to ask Denna to go for a walk with him again, I guess just to string her along some more, when Josn whips out his lute and starts fingering it.
Sure of everyone’s attention, he cocked his head and strummed, pausing to listen to the sound. Then, nodding to himself, he started to play.
Kvothe is naturally consumed with lust for Josn’s instrument and asks to hold it.
I hated myself for the question. Asking to hold a musician’s instrument is roughly similar to asking to kiss a man’s wife.
…. Is it? Are musicians actually like this about their equipment? I’ve only met a few but none of them had this attitude.
Kvothe holds the lute and is filled with emotion. You know what, I’m giving Rothfuss this one. If his passion is music and he’s been deprived of it for three years I think this is understandable.
I moved a finger and the chord went minor in a way that always sounded to me as if the lute were saying sad.
Ouch, that’s a real clunker. I think that left a bruise.
Then, without realizing what I was doing, I began to play.
Of course, Kvothe’s music is beautiful like spun gossamer webs and painful like heartache and all that shite and everyone is amazed at how good he is after three years with no practice.
You know what would have been awesome? If Kvothe totally face-planted here and he had to slowly regain his musical skill over months. But I guess that would have been too interesting.
Then, SUDDEN PERSPECTIVE SWITCH:
And that is how Kvothe spent his last night before he came to the University, with his cloak as both his blanket and his bed.
Wait, isn’t Kvothe telling this story to Devan? Wouldn’t it sound really fucking weird if he suddenly started talking about himself in the third person?
And if by chance there were tears, let us forgive him. He was just a child, after all, and had yet to learn what sorrow really was.
Ablooo bloo blooo, poor little Kvothe.
I really, really hope we get to wizard school soon.