Let’s Read the name of the wind ch. 66-68

Wind

CHAPTER SIXTY-SIX
Volatile

Kvothe wakes up the next morning nervous about having lunch with Denna despite the fact they’ve spent a good 12 hours in total flirting with each other by this point. I’d find the whole “awkard first relationship” thing a lot more believable ad possibly even enjoyable if either of them actually acted like it.

Kvothe goes to the workshop to make some blue sympathy lanterns until it’s time to meet Denna in the Eolian. He has to use the bone tar to do this, which if you remember is super dangerous.

“Should there be this much frost?” I asked him, pointing out the tar canister. Its edges were covered in fine white tufts of frost, like tiny shrubs. The air around the metal actually shimmered with cold.

How are they keeping this thing that cold? Do they have magic freezers or something? The way he’s describing it makes it sound like it’s at least below -60 C.

Kvothe works on his lamps for two hours before something interesting finally happens!

I felt a flash of cold sweat roll over me when I saw black liquid leaking from one corner and running down the worktable’s leg to pool on the floor. The thick timber of the table’s leg was almost entirely eaten away, and I heard a light popping and crackling as the liquid pooling on the floor began to boil. All I could think of was Kilvin’s statement during the demonstration: In addition to being highly corrosive, the gas burns when it comes in contact with air….

Let me guess, Not-Malfoy sabotaged the canister or something?

The metal canister is so cold it shatters like glass when it hits the floor, which, yeah, I don’t think so.

The bone-tar goes all over the place and threatens to light one of the students on fire so Kvothe can jump to the rescue. Can you guess the gender of the student?

Trapped between these two spreading arms of dark fog was Fela, who had been working by herself at an out-of-the-way table in the corner of the shop. She stood, her mouth half open in shock. She was dressed practically for work in the shop, light trousers and a gauzy linen shirt cuffed at the elbow. Her long, dark hair was pulled back into a tail, but still hung down to nearly the small of her back. She would burn like a torch.

Yes, in a school where only 10% of the students are women one of them just happens to be the only person in major peril. I guess Kvothe rescuing a guy would have been too gay, am I rite.

Kvothe does…. something with sympathy to make one of the water pipes burst and get his cloak wet, then runs to Fela who is of course too busy shrieking and tripping over herself to do anything.

I picked her up, not in front of me, like Prince Gallant out of some storybook, but over one shoulder, the way you carry a sack of potatoes.

Guyz he didn’t pick her up like in stories, is this a deep deconstruction of fantasy tropes and cliches yet?

Kvothe runs like hell out of the lab but collapses from breathing in super-acid fog.

He wakes up in the Medica and all is well, but he missed his date with Denna. Everyone is remarkably calm about nearly getting killed in an industrial accident.

Kvothe goes to the Eolian to look for Denna but it turns out she left with someone else already. No interview about what happened, considering Kvothe was the last person to use the bone tar before the accident? No? Guess not.

Kvothe heads back the Inn he lives at and overhears everyone talking about how awesome he is.

People were already embroidering the details and confusing parts, but the heart of the story was still there. I had saved Fela, rushed into the fire and carried her to safety. Just like Prince Gallant out of some storybook.

Kvothe is great and people talk constantly about how great he is. This isn’t at all some sort of shallow wish fulfillment fantasy because uuuuuuhhhhh.

CHAPTER SIXTY-SEVEN
A Matter of Hands

Kvothe goes back to the mostly-still-intact workshop to finish making his sympathy lanterns. Kilvin arrives and is super blown away at how Kvothe rescued Fela by using the heat of his own blood to smash glass. Somehow.

I’m still really not sure how sympathy actually works. It’s presented as being about transferring energy from one body of matter to another, which is a neat idea, but in practice it seems to boil down to “use heat to make things happen”.

“Do you know the saying ‘Chan Vaen edan Kote’?”
I tried to puzzle it out. “Seven years … I don’t know Kote.”
” ‘Expect disaster every seven years,’ ” he said.

Remember that Kote was Kvothe’s (bad) alter ego at the Inn, which means he named himself “disaster”. I guess that’s a cool little non-obvious character insight moment, although if the next interlude chapter has the characters explaining this I’m going to hurl something large and Rothfuss shaped through a window.

We’re told that wild rumours are once more swirling about how exactly Kvothe broke the water pipe, with some people claiming he smashed it with his fists and stuff. As before, this all feels really contrived and unbelievable. The things that Kvothe has done so far aren’t so spectacular or noteworthy that supernatural explanations would be ascribed to them. The only reason for the other students to act like this is if they know Kvothe is the hero of the story and that their role is to serve as his fanbase.

In the course of all this it turns out that Elodin- the crazy name guy- knows the Name of Fire.

“The name of fire,” I said slowly. “And they could have called it and the fire would have done what they said, like Taborlin the Great?”
Kilvin nodded again.
“But those are just stories,” I protested.
He gave me an amused look. “Where do you think stories come from, E’lir Kvothe? Every tale has deep roots somewhere in the world.”

Okay, this is what I don’t get- Kvothe treats the whole name magic thing as if it’s just myth, but enough people at the University either know about it or can do it themselves that it seems like it should be common knowledge among wizardly types that it’s at least theoretically possible. I’m just not getting a clear idea of how common magic actually is in this world or how much ordinary people know about it, which is a problem when Kvothe’s quest to learn this kind of magic seems like it’s going to be a central plot point whenever the book gets around to actually having a plot.

We also discover that the canister was being kept cold with sygaldry. What’s the different between sygalrdy and sympathy again? It’s basically magic runes, but how does that work? Does a sympathy wizard still need to actively direct all the heat to wherever it is they’re diverting it to to bring the temperature down?

“You can’t be serious,” I said. “It was a furnace in here. You couldn’t have moved that many thaums of heat.

A quick Google search tells me that “thaum” is a bullshit made up fantasy term embraced by illiterate nerds who prefer pointless trivia and worldbuilding nonsense to an actual decent story (what chip on my shoulder, I don’t know what you’re talking about) so its inclusion here makes me roll my eyes hard enough to knock the planet off its axis. That and we, you know, already have units of measurement for heat.

CHAPTER SIXTY-EIGHT
The Ever-Changing Wind

Kvothe trudges around wizard school thinking gloomy thoughts about his lack of money and how he can’t get into the Archives- or in other words the same issues we’ve been dealing with the last, what, thirty chapters? More?

My flash burns were minor but incessantly painful. I had no money to buy painkillers or new clothes. I chewed bitter willow bark and bitter was my mood.

I’m going to start up some sot of running count for how many times willow trees, willow wood or willow derived components get mentioned in this book. I will discount this one instance because willow bark contains quinone, the stuff aspirin was derived from, so it makes sense he’d be chewing it. Taking that into account the current Willow Tally stands at 18.

How could I hope to stay in the University for the years it “would take me to become a full arcanist? How could I hope to advance in the ranks without access to the Archives?

Kvothe needs money. He’s poor. We get it. Move on with the story.

Hasn’t this already been resolved like five times? First Kvothe got a lute, then he got his badge, then he got a job at Kilvin’s workshop, then he moved up the ranks enough to make and sell his own devices. The text itself has explicetly stated “my money problems were over” at least three times, but then we’re right back to square one. I really get the feeling Rothfuss is trying to pad the story out to some arbitrary page count by just repeating the same plot points over and over again.

Kvothe goes to the Eolian to see Denna. Inside is Fela, who thanks him for rescuing her.

“Just the part where I passed out and dropped you. It was sheer stupidity. I forgot to hold my breath and sucked down some bad air. Were you hurt anywhere else?”
“Nowhere I can show you in public,” she said with a slight grimace, shifting her hips in a way I found most distracting.

I sigh heavily, remember the good times and continue on.

 I was just standing there. Like one of those silly girls in those stories my mother used to read me. I always hated them. I used to ask, ‘Why doesn’t she push the witch out the window? Why doesn’t she poison the ogre’s food?’ ” Fela was looking down at her feet now, her hair falling to hide her face. Her voice grew softer and softer until it was barely louder than a sigh. ” ‘Why does she just sit there waiting to be saved? Why doesn’t she save herself?’ “

Oh for fuck’s sake.

Fela-chan starts to sob but it’s okay because her Onii-san Kvothe is there to comfort her. Kvothe who’s bad with women, remember.

I flushed with embarrassment as I realized what I’d said, but pushed ahead. “This isn’t the hand of some swooning princess who sits tatting lace and waiting for some prince to save her. This is the hand of a woman who would climb a rope of her own hair to freedom, or kill a captor ogre in his sleep.” I looked into her eyes. “And this is the hand of a woman who would have made it through the fire on her own if I hadn’t been there. Singed perhaps, but safe.”

No, actually, the narration made it pretty clear she was seconds away from burning to death and only survived because of Kvothe. What is this, Rothfuss trying to convince us his female characters aren’t all helpless damsels while still having them be helpless damsels?

Fela-chan gives Kvothe a cloak as a gift, leaning over to put it on him. Can you guess what happens next? You can, can’t you?

when she leaned to adjust the way the cloak lay across my shoulders, one of her breasts brushed my arm.

Then Kvothe trips and his face mashes into Fela-chan’s chest. She shrieks and blood squirts out of Kvothe’s nostrils, but there’s a moment before that where they both blush and it seems as if there might be something more-

Oh, no, sorry. I got confused there for a second. Where was I?

Just then Kvothe spots Denna in the doorway! It looks like she saw Fela-chan all over Kvothe! Oh noooooooooooooooooooo!

Seriously though I cannot fucking believe we’re actually going here.

Kvothe doesn’t actually go after Denna to try and explain what happened or anything- because who needs proactive characters, right?- but instead sits around chatting to Fela-chan. It turns out she works for Elodin.

He put wet clay in her shoes and made her spend the entire day walking around in them. He even … she flushed and shook her head, breaking off the story.

We better not be zeroing in on Rothfuss’ fetish of choice here. This is exactly how all the spanking bullshit in Wheel of Time started, coy little hints that only made sense once you looked back on them after reading the later books.

I really need to do a big rambly blog post about the Wheel of Time one of these days and just get it out of my system.

Kvothe goes to the roofs to finger his lute some more then suddenly remembers Auri his moon-fey, who lives underneath the University and so might have been hurt when the bone-tar went down the drains. I’d kind of assume someone would have followed up on such a dangerous substance being disposed of in such dangerous quantities. I mean it has to end up somewhere, right? Like a river or the ocean?

Kvothe grabs one of the Medica students and races off to the sewer grate that Auri uses to get in and out of the tunnels below the building. Turns out she’s fine, though.

Auri relaxed a bit and came a few steps closer to me. “I brought you a feather with the spring wind in it, but since you were late …”

Out of all the terrible things in this book, the portrayal of this character might be the worst.

Instead of a feather with bullshit in it she gives him an odd coin.

It was shaped like an Aturan penance piece, but it gleamed silver in the moonlight. I’d never seen a coin like it.

No, I’m not going to say it. That’s way too over-used.

Kvothe gives her some sea salt and explains that it contains “the dreams of fish and sailor’s songs” because she’s his little pet moon-fey and communicates only in quirk.

Since Auri is fine I guess this was totally pointless. Kvothe plays some music for Auri and Mola, the Medicia student. On the way back Mola raises the fairly reasonable point that Kvothe should really tell someone that Auri is there so they can help her. But Kvothe (who as we’ve been reminded over and over and over and over again is poor and barely able to feed himself) insists on taking care of her, objecting that she’d be sent to the Crockery if anyone found out about her. Why that would be a bad thing is beyond me, she clearly needs help and they seem able to treat students with these sorts of conditions at least enough to get them functioning independently.

So I’m now on page 1021 of 1452 according to the Epub copy I’m using, which means I’m just over two thirds of the way through this thing. I’ve said it before, but I’m really starting to wonder if this story is going to come to some sort of resolution or climax at all. You could argue that it doesn’t need to as the entire trilogy is basically one really long novel chopped into three parts, and I’d counter by saying that that’s a fucking stupid way to write a novel. Even if they’re part of a greater whole each book needs to stand alone to some degree and deliver a satisfying story. I really doubt The Name of The Wind is going to be able to deliver on that in the time we’e got left with it.

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32 thoughts on “Let’s Read the name of the wind ch. 66-68

  1. shardbaenre

    I don’t understand how Kvothe is allowed into the lab again without proper supervision. In real life, you screw up that badly and endanger fellow students/workers, you get in huge trouble, have to do more training on proper lab etiquette, and volatile substances are off limits to you until you can prove that you can handle them without supervision.

    On the one hand, yes, we are all special snowflakes, on the other hand, no not really. And not in this way and not all the time and not to the exclusion of safety or making sense. Kvothe is not a human being, nor is anyone else in this story. They aren’t characters. They’re aliens or robots or something else unreal because people do not behave this way. And if they do, they better be rich or literal geniuses or they’re shunned like nobodies business. I don’t understand this book on a fundamental level.

    Reply
    1. Reveen

      This is the same lab where dressing in flammable linens with exposed hands and hanging hair is considered “practical”, I’m pretty sure Rothfuss has never even seen a lab or workshop in his entire life.

      When I heard all the shit about how much the book hammered in the “Kvothe is awesome” agenda I just figured it was the main flaw of a possibly OK fantasy series. All those people must like this thing for a reason right? But no, this is flat out a Sue fic. It’s genuinely Twilight for male fantasy fans.

      Reply
    2. ronanwills Post author

      It wasn’t actually Kvothe’s fault that the canister broke. When he talks to Kilvin it’s suggested that the magic runes making it cold were turned up too high and the interior container broke.

      Although that does raise the question of why Kvothe didn’t assume himself that he was responsible for it- if I was the last person to use something and it failed spectacularly immediately afterwards I’d assume it was my fault.

      Reply
      1. shardbaenre

        Gotcha.

        Is there ever a reason given why they have such a dangerous substance in such an open place? It just seems to be on a shelving unit. Wouldn’t it be stowed away under lock and key? It seems you should have a certain level of expertise for this particular thing, so would it make sense that a journeyman would have unfettered access to it? Or is it somewhat unclear on that score?

        I’m kinda bothered by these lab scenes. I think traditional alchemy had some, primitive, safe guards, right? I might be focused on the wrong part here in my obsession with this aspect of science stuff. 😛

        Reply
        1. ronanwills Post author

          The thing with the canister being out in the open bothered me too. I mean they have fume hoods and this stuff produces poisonous gas if it breaks, you’d think they’d keep it in the fume hood instead of out on a bench.

          Reply
      2. braak

        You’d think they’d also keep the bulk of it stored away from human beings, and they’d only take out a little at a time.

        Reply
      3. kappa

        They have fume hoods in the lab? How does the ventilation work without an engine to power the fan to create the airflow? Magic?

        Reply
    3. Reveen

      I just feel gypped that that no one actually got killed by the incredibly dangerous super acid, even though Rothfuss made a point to mention it and how dangerous it was. He might’ve just used any old highly flammable chemical then.

      Frankly, a high school slacker with three hours of WHMIS training is more qualified to handle reactive materiel than these people.

      Reply
  2. Liana

    My sister and I had great fun over the weekend reading to each other out loud sections of tNotW with the genders flipped. Kvotha’s dates with Dean, her rescuing a guy named Fel from a burning building, her BFFs Willa and Sima, her spats with her rival Rosie… great stuff. I recommend it when the book becomes too much.

    Reply
  3. braak

    “Okay, this is what I don’t get- Kvothe treats the whole name magic thing as if it’s just myth, but enough people at the University either know about it or can do it themselves that it seems like it should be common knowledge among wizardly types that it’s at least theoretically possible.”

    I think what’s peculiar about this is that he has already seen people do it. He saw Ben use the name of the wind to mess with those guys! He even tried to do it himself and couldn’t do it using ordinary sympathy. He saw Elodin make the wall disappear with CYBORGALIENS!

    HE ALREADY KNOWS IT IS NOT A MYTH. How is this atomic super-genius also such a fucking bonehead?

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I know, right? It really seems like the magic system in this story wasn’t thought through at all. Normally I don’t really pay attention to the nitty gritty of world-building because it so often distracts from telling the actual story, but the book is making such a huge deal of this that it’s obviously going to be important to the plot in some way.

      Reply
      1. braak

        Also, I don’t know if you know the sort of backstory around this book, but Rothfuss apparently spent seven years working on it — presuming that this wasn’t something like “three years of writing, four years of editing,” but instead more like, “writing off and on for seven years,” it actually starts to make a lot of sense that the history and worldbuilding and character development is inconsistent. It also makes sense that so much of it seems like padding or idle water-treading.

        What doesn’t make sense is why some editor didn’t go after it with a hatchet, but on the other hand, the target demographic for fantasy door-stoppers has never placed a high value on storytelling efficiency.

        Reply
      2. Reveen

        I guess Rothfuss wanted both for Kvothe to be a super awesome student at his version of Hogwarts, but also for magic to actually be mystical and mysterious. Trying to have his cake and eating it too seems to be a running theme in his writing.

        The place could have been a general school for the arts and sciences that happens to have a society of magic students working in secret. But then Kvothe couldn’t be totes awesome at magic from the get go and he’d have to do some actual research.

        Also, I’m pretty sure we’re stuck at the stupid school for the rest of the book. Why did people think this was superepicawesome again?

        Reply
  4. magpiewhotypes

    Since we’re nearing the end of this read-along, I wanted to share a story I found while on the not-so-great Patrick Rothfuss fanfiction quest. It’s about some of the female characters in the books, and I think it does a much better job of playing with Rothfuss’s ideas than Rothfuss does playing with traditional fantasy tropes. Plus it’s not over 1,000 pages.

    Have some badass Devi at:

    http://archiveofourown.org/works/299602

    Reply
  5. Andrea Harris

    I think that the think with the willow references indicates that Rothfuss has a suburban American male’s general ignorance of nature and specifically horticulture. Especially guys like this, who live in a world of fantasy novels, movies, and videogames seem to know nothing about the actual real world around them. To them “trees” are these things that give shade, and their leaves fall off in the autumn and have to be raked (or more likely nowadays, blown into the street with a leaf blower), but beyond that they won’t know a maple from an oak. The only reason these dudes even know willows exist is because Tolkien was into trees and nature and (like a lot of British writers) sprinkled his text with their names. I’ll bet Rothfuss also thinks all willows look like weeping willows, instead of knowing that those are just a specific type of willow that doesn’t grow everywhere. Does he name any other trees or plants in his novel that weren’t featured in some other fantasy novel? I’ll bet he doesn’t. (If he only mentions “oaks,” “beech,” “alder”, and/or “rowan” I’ll know I’m right. Those are the go-to trees for every fantasy novel written in the past fifty years.)

    Reply
    1. magpiewhotypes

      Willow bark is where aspirin eventually came from (with the aid of SCIENCE!, of course). So there’s some sort of sense going on here. It’s not just a willow fetish thing.

      Reply
    2. ronanwills Post author

      Yep, it’s all oaks and rowan and stuff. It’s also implied that all willows are of the weeping variety.

      Reply
    3. braak

      I would like to read a fantasy novel in which the only trees are gingkos. “I come from a world that smells like rancid semen,” Kvothe would say. “If you haven’t smelt gingkos in the spring, I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

      Reply
      1. Andrea Harris

        Haha we have those all over the place here. They’re gorgeous, but they smell like dog poop.

        Reply
      2. sonamib

        Of course, gingkos are interesting in their own right because there are no living plants like them. They are not flowering plants (pretty easy to tell) nor are they conifers or whatever. They’re the only living species of their evolutionary family, the Ginkgoaeceae.

        Yes, my biology teacher loved those trees and talked a lot about them.

        Reply
  6. RSGardner

    I like how Kvothe feels it necessary to describe Fela’s hot little outfit whilst she nearly burns to death. Not to mention the fact he finds it a turn-on when she literally moves in pain… and just because Kvothe points out that Fela follows those TSTL damsel-in-distress tropes doesn’t make it subversive; it makes it worse.

    Also, Ronan; please do write a rambly blog post on the Wheel of Time. That’s a purging we all could do with.

    Reply
    1. Andrea Harris

      Yeah, I was wondering what was that, why did he have to pause the action to describe her clothes and hair in detail. I mean, all he had to do to spell out the danger she was in was point out how close she was to the fire. We know humans are flammable.

      Reply
    2. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

      I’ll second the request for the Wheel of Time ramble, there isn’t nearly enough Jordan hate.

      Also, whenever a story says something like “this could only happen in a bad story” and then follows through with it, all that means is that this is a bad story. For some reason many sf/f authors and readers seem to think that being self aware about some genre cliche excuses using it.

      Reply
      1. katz

        This. Lampshading is not an excuse! In fact, pointing out that you know you’re doing something wrong and then doing it anyway just makes it worse, IMO.

        Reply
  7. Reveen

    Wait, he’s actually taking care of the homeless lady in secret? Wow, that subplot is significantly creepier than I thought. It’s an older woman with dementia, not a fucking stray cat!

    Reply
  8. braak

    Would it even have been such a problem if Kvothr had been the one who was rescued?

    It seems like such an obvious choice, it makes me suspicious that maybe Kvothe IS bullshitting this whole story. Maybe Rothfuss is running the long con, and in book three Chronicler will drop his coffee cup because it says “Elxa Dal” on the bottom.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      If that actually happens I’ll be mightily impressed, but it still wouldn’t justify the massive slog it takes to get to that point.

      Reply
  9. Bluemoon

    The ‘It’s Act 1 of a humongous novel’ defense is one I also have very little time for. If your Act 1 is coming in at almost 700 pages and your not George RR Martin and trying to tell the story of an entire continent; you have serious problems as a writer.

    I think I get what Rothfuss’s trying to do with these books; it’s a Tragic hero story. Kvothe is gradually undone by his critical flaw (Rothfuss a word of advice, for this to work Kvothe has to actually have a critical flaw) and taken from sparkly wonder boy everyone loves to grizzled bartender everyone hates.

    This just seems like an unnecessarily long and rather inept way to tell this story. There’s a reason Shakespeare didn’t precede Hamlet: Prince of Denmark with something like Hamlet: The Wittenberg years. A three hour play consisting of nothing more than Hamlet getting into hilarious but ultimately inconsequential scrapes with his best buds Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. You don’t have to go to such exhaustive lengths to establish that Kvothe was awesome at university and learned lots about magic. Which as far as I can tell is all this section exists to do. It could have been dealt with in a few (maybe even one) carefully constructed vignettes leaving the rest of the novel free to actually advance the main narrative.

    Reply

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