Someone in the comments from the last post made an interesting point that prompted me to go off on a little tangent:
Incidentally, as improbable as it may seem, the Adem use the same word for “Flame” and “Thunder,” and whatever that word was, it’s one of Kvothe’s eighteen nicknames — and since this is presumably where “Six’String” comes from, this chapter features TWO of those names.
(“Flame” because of his red hair. “Thunder” because he is a skinny little white kid — I assume this is the sort of joke like naming a really big guy “Tiny.”)
I didn’t actually cop the Six String thing until after I had written this post.
If this is the “exploration of the intersection of myth and reality” everyone keeps crowing on about I’m pretty let down. This isn’t how fame works- every last insignificant detail of a person’s life isn’t put on a pedestal and worshiped, particularly in a pre-computer age when accurately recording information is going to be difficult. The only kinds of people who receive that level of obsessive deification are actual religious figures and their back-stories tend to be highly embellished or entirely fabricated decades or centuries after their deaths. It’s only been ten years since the stuff we’ve seen so far, even less for the really impressive things he apparently does later.
I just don’t think an incident as small as Kvothe managing to play a difficult song with six strings would be remembered, particularly when the guy has more miraculous events attributed to him than Jesus and Mohammed combined.
…. Actually that gives me an idea, you know what would have been really interesting? If instead of cutting back and forth between the back-story and a decade into the future we cut back and forth between Kvothe and hundreds of years in the future when he was literally a religious figure. Let’s say he saved the world from the Chandrian and a new religious order grew up around him that sought out stories from his past to prove he was chosen by Tehlu or something, and over time his true history fades into a series of overblown legends. You know, the way actual myths develop rather than just a bunch of people seeing something in a bar one time.
Interlude—The Parts that Form Us
BANTER BANTER BANTER
BANTER BANTER BANTER BANTER BANTER BANTER
Yeah, there’s no real point going into this in detail. Kvothe, Bast and Devan sit around trading “witty” and “funny” dialogue and going on and on and on about how beautiful Denna is (it turns out The Woman is Denna, zomg) and how it’s really hard to describe her, but maybe they could do it this way, but no, that’s not right, because she was so beautiful you see and uuuuuuuuggghhhh.
How did this get published. Someone tell me.
Her eyes were dark. Dark as chocolate, dark as coffee, dark as the polished wood of my father’s lute. They were set in a fair face, oval. Like a teardrop.
People do not have oval faces. No, really. I know in art class they tell you to draw a face by making a big ol’ oval and filling in the details (which is by the way the hardest possible way to draw a portrait and anyone who teaches this way should be fired) but really look at a face some time. They’re not oval. This bothers me more than it probably should.
“In what manner was she beautiful? I realize that I cannot say enough. So. Since I cannot say enough, at least I will avoid saying too much.
Way too late for that buddy
Devan starts to record Kvothe verbally wanking over his inability to describe Denna’s beauty and then Kvothe throws a hissy fit and rips up the page. It’s supposed to be badass but makes him look like an asshole.
“But to be honest, it must be said that she was beautiful to others as well.. ..”
I swear to God if this turns into a love triangle I’m going to start burning things.
Names for Beginning
Kvothe stands there and stares at Denna like an idiot.
The months had changed her. Where before she had been pretty, now she was lovely as well.
What the fuck
Since we parted ways, I had kept foolish, fond thoughts of Denna hidden in a secret corner of my heart
Rothfuss really loves to drop these little character factoids into the story despite there being absolutely no hint of them up to this point. In the actual narrative Kvothe has mentioned Denna precisely once since arriving at Wizard School, when he considered going to look for her if he had to leave the University. But no, I guess he was really jonesing for her all along.
Denna skips toward Kvothe excitedly and is of course described in infantalizing child-like terms.
I honestly cannot think of how I could describe it. Lying would be easier. I could steal from a hundred stories and tell you a lie so familiar you would swallow it whole.
So despite what I just said there’s a bit where she runs toward Kvothe all a-flutter and has to stop herself at the last second before running headlong into him which is quite nice and well written. But the scene is then crushed under two paragraphs of over the type hyperbole about how radiantly, stunningly beautiful Denna is and it makes me want to hate her out of pure spite. These aren’t just the ramblings of a love-struck fifteen year old either, adult-Kvothe is just as over the top if not more so.
After a whole lot of waffling Kvothe decides to give Denna his talent badge, which means he’ll have to earn another set. Thankfully Denna declines or else I’d have to call in the armour dudes for Road Block O’Clock time again.
Then she looked up at me, her expression unreadable. “I think you might be a wonderful person,” she said.
This feels like Rothfuss’ only experience with romance comes from reading Jane Austen novels.
An old dude comes on stage with a 24-stringed court lute, which is a big deal apparently. But Kvothe doesn’t remember the song and so I guess there was no point in spending half a page explaining that.
It turns out Denna is a super genius as well and was able to recite her parts of Kvothe’s song from memory despite only hearing it twice ages ago at a formal dinner. I am okay with Denna being a super genius because she actually has a personality and is pretty likable (unlike a certain someone) but comments made in the framing story seem to imply she’s going to get fridged at some point.
The formal dinner thing just made me realize something- where are Denna’s parents? I know this is Ye Olde Fantasy Times and teenagers can go off on their own without anyone batting an eye but Kvothe never asked if she had a family or where she lives last time he met her. It’s like when his parents were killed everyone else’s parents vanished as well.
Sovoy (one of Kvothe’s pals) comes over and there’s some absolutely painful banter between the three of them. For your edification I will now quote an entire page of it:
She leaned back in her chair and looked at me with dangerous eyes. “A leaf of the singing tree,” she mused. “That might be a nice thing to have. Would you bring me one?”
“I would,” I said, and was surprised to find that it was the truth.
She seemed to consider it, then shook her head playfully. “I couldn’t send you journeying so far away. I’ll have to save my favor for another day.”
I sighed. “So I am left in your debt.”
“Oh no!” she exclaimed. “Another weight upon my Savien’s heart. . . .”
“The reason my heart is so heavy is that I fear I might never know your name. I could keep thinking of you as Felurian,” I said. “But that could lead to unfortunate confusion.”
She gave me an appraising look. “Felurian? I might like that if I didn’t think you were a liar.”
“A liar?” I said indignantly. “My first thought in seeing you was ‘Felurian! What have I done? The adulation of my peers below has been a waste of hours. Could I recall the moments I have careless cast away, I could but hope to spend them in a wiser way, and warm myself in light that rivals light of day’ ”
She smiled. “A thief and a liar. You stole that from the third act of Daeonica.”
She knew Daeonica too? “Guilty,” I admitted freely. “But that doesn’t make it untrue.”
This goes on for two more pages and eventually culiminates in Denna and Kvothe telling each other their names. Turns out Denna’s real name is “Dianne”. Kote = Kvothe, Denna = Dianne. These people are masters of subterfuge, let me tell you.
Sovoy fancies the pants off of Denna/Dianne. So, love triangle.
All This Knowing
Kvothe stumbles back to wizard school drunk.
That’s all that happens.
Kvothe goes to the lottery where slots for admissions exams are given out. He tries to sell his slot to someone else for a later one so he’ll have more time to prepare. This strikes me as a very nonsensical way of arranging things.
Not-Malfoy comes along to be a dick some more, offering to give Kvothe one of his shirts in exchange for his exam slot.
“I’ll pass,” I said lightly. “Your shirttails are a little richly dyed for my taste.” I tugged at the front of my own shirt to make my point clear. A few nearby students laughed.
“I don’t get it,” I heard Sim say quietly to Wil.
“He’s implying Ambrose has the . . .” Wil paused. “The Edamete tass, a disease you get from whores. There is a discharge—”
You could just write a treatise on the inanity of this one exchange. Why is the STD given a clunky fantasy name? How does what Kvothe said make any sense? Once again, what is it with the “whores”? I feel like all the prostitute jokes were added in late in the writing process when Rothfuss decided he wanted the book to be a little more adult. Or maybe he read Game of Thrones and thought Tyrion Lanister was just bust-a-gut funny.
Kvothe ends up delivering a sick burn to Not-Malfoy but the impact is dulled somewhat by the fact that it takes an entire page and a half of world-building exposition to set up. I guess that’s the problem with delivering sick burns in a fantasy setting.
Anyway BANTER BANTER BANTER STUPID FUCKING JOKES Kvothe’s tuition is set at six talents. Which means that once again, Kvothe needs money. It really boggles my mind that Rothfuss thought this was enough to carry an entire story. We’ve done the whole “Kvothe needs money, Kvothe spends money, Kvothe needs money”, what, six times now? It’s patently obvious that Kvothe isn’t actually going to have trouble paying his tuition since we know from the bit at the start he gets expelled from Wizard School rather than being forced to leave due to his financial situation. Why keep bringing this up so much? Isn’t there something else that could be used to create tension and conflict?
Kvothe returns to the Eolian and discovers that Denna is inside.
“Whatever you call her, Stanchion’s got her behind the bar. I’d go grab her before he gets overly familiar and starts practicing his fingering.”
I’m the only one allowed to make instrument-based double entendres around here.
(Also remember how I speculated that Stanchion is Rothfuss’ self-insert? Ew)
I felt a flash of rage and barely managed to swallow a mouthful of hot words. My lute. He was talking about my lute.
He sure was
Instead of running into Denna Kvothe encounters Count Threpe, his quasi-patron, who tells him that he’s now famous for his performance the previous night. Kvothe lets slip that he’s studying at Wizard School, horrifying Threpe because fantasy wizard racism.
It turns out Threpe can’t be Kvote’s patron because he already has three and four would be too many because reasons, but he’ll help Kvothe find one. Kvothe starts grilling him for information about Denna, whose address or other contact details he didn’t ask for before for some reason even though they both clearly like each other and now that she’s in Imre their one reason for not being together has been eliminated. In the middle of all of this Kvothe does a lot of blushing ans stammering to remind us that HE’S SHY AROUND WOMEN GUYS. This is such a painfully half-baked attempt at characterization.
Next Kvothe goes to pay the interest on his loan to Devi (then he picks up some milk from the shops, then he buys stamps, then he renews his car tax). Devi has a collection of books that Kvothe is agog over due to being banned from the Wizard Library and Devi offers to let him come by and read them from time to time.
But, first and foremost, I was a fifteen-year-old boy. When it came to women, I was lost as a lamb in the woods.
Why does this need to keep being brought up? “I’m fifteen, I don’t have experience with women” is like saying “I’m fifteen, I’ve never been in the International Space Station”. There’s no reason it would have been impossible for him to have gone out with someone or had sex before, but him not doing that is completely expected. This isn’t a character flaw, no matter how hard Rothfuss tries to pretend it is.
Kvothe goes to Kilvin to pay for the artificing materials he used during his studies, which I guess students are supposed to do, and Kilvin lets him come back to work for him. Wheeeeeeee.
Next Kvothe goes to a local inn and manages to finagle free room and board and two talentas a month out of the owner in exchange for playing music in the evenings . Okay, great! That’s Kvothe’s living arrangements taken care of. No need to keep harping on the Kvothe Needs Money thing now, right? Right?
If you have never been desperately poor, I doubt you can understand the relief I felt.
You’re not desperately poor shut the fuck up. You have multiple means of income, a roof over your head and wealthy friends who would probably support you if you’d just ask them.
These chapters are so boooooring. We’re approaching the 3/4 mark now and so far all that’s happened in the story is that Kvothe’s parents died, he enrolled in Wizard School and then not a whole lot else. The story has been treading water for hundreds and hundreds of pages with no momentum and no sign that it’s actually going anywhere. If I wasn’t reading this for my blog I’d have given up long ago.