let’s read the name of the wind ch. 78-80




THE ROAR OF THE draccus was like a trumpet, if you can imagine a trumpet big as a house, and made of stone, and thunder, and molten lead.

I don’t think a trumpet made out of stone and molten lead would sound very good.

The purple prose and empty metaphors have been less frequent since the start of the book, but I wanted to quote this to show that they still pop up from time to time.

The draccus was . . . cavorting, bounding around like a drunken dog, knocking over trees like a boy would topple cornstalks in a field.

Are you excited yet?

They watch the dragon run around like an idiot for a while before Denna suggests luring it off a cliff with a burning tree branch.

“It’s not very heroic,” I said dismissively. “I was expecting something with a little more flair.”
“Well I left my armor and warhorse at home,” she said. “You’re just upset because your big University brain couldn’t think of a way, and my plan is brilliant.”

Okay seriously, what the fuck is going on? Denna and Kvothe are acting like completely different people and the whole tone of the book has switched to this quasi-surreal Terry Pratchett-esque comedy. We’re getting very close to the end of the novel here, shouldn’t things be getting exciting or dark or tense or something?

Denna grabs one of the dragon’s scales to give to Kvothe.

I turned the scale over in my hands and thought about it. I had wax, and this scale would make as good a link as any hair.

I thought the scale was made out of iron? If objects act as energy conduits according to how similar they are how is it going to be a substitute for hair?

Kvothe decides that magic won’t do any good (this is just buttock-clenchingly exciting, isn’t it?) and concludes that they’ll have to poison it with the drug resin stuff they found. I guess that money making scheme isn’t going to work after all.

She looked up at me and grinned.

Next time you’re talking to someone keep grinning at them for no reason and see how long it takes them to get freaked out and leave.

Before they try out their plan Kvothe wants to move closer to Trebon in case her condition worsens. He’s pretty sure she’s okay but entirely 100% sure (the tension) and is worried he won’t be able to get her to a doctor in time if she collapses. Because getting the dragon to follow you closer to the town you’re specifically trying to stop it from attacking is a great idea. Why not just ask Denna to go to Trebon on her own and warn people the dragon is coming? She’s too out of gourd to help with the dragon killing plan anyway.

Sweet Talk

Kvothe and Denna walk balk to the hill with the Greystone arch on it for two hours (HOLD ON TO YOUR SEATS). Denna insists on washing in the river.

She also made several none-too-subtle invitations that I could join her in the water.
Needless to say, I kept my distance. There are names for people who take advantage of women who are not in full control of themselves, and none of those names will ever rightfully be applied to me.

Hear that people? Kvothe isn’t a rapist, give the man a medal!

Also don’t you have more important things to be worrying about right now? Like the dragon? Remember that?

Kvothe tries to figure out how much resin to give the dragon so they can kill it.

“Just give him all of it,” Denna said. “Better safe than sorry.”
I shook my head. “There’s no reason to go that far. It would just be wasteful.

Will our heroes triumph in this gripping life or death struggle?????

Kvothe spends a long time trying to work out how much resin to give the dragon to kill it (I swear to God this feels like a walkthrough of an adventure game), laboriously working through factors like its size and how much of a tolerance it’s built up by eating denner trees for weeks. Instead of, you know, just using all of it.

This is all completely pointless anyway because we know from Kvothe’s little spiel at the start of the book that Trebon gets burned down, and since Kvothe presumably wasn’t actually responsible it must be the dragon that does it.

Kvothe and Denna settle down for dinner, where it becomes apparent that Denna is in no danger from the drug.

“I have trouble breathing,” she said.

Or not.

Kvothe listens to her heartbeat and breathing, causing her breasts to press against his face. How about that for completely draining all the tension from the scene.

I sat up. “You’re fine,”

Oh thank God, I thought things were about to get interesting for a second there.

“I stopped breathing for two minutes and died. Sometimes I wonder if this all isn’t some sort of mistake, if I should be dead. But if it isn’t a mistake I have to be here for a reason. But if there is a reason, I don’t know what that reason is.”

This passage makes me think Denna got tainted by the forces of darkness or whatever on her trip beyond the veil, but knowing this book we’ll get 700 pages of her seeing a counselor to work through her latent issues with mortality.

Kvothe and Denna climb up on top of the arch to wait for the dragon to finally arrive. Denna falls asleep leaning against Kvothe. There’s lots of dreadful romantic dialogue and Denna indicates that she doesn’t realize Kvothe wants her to climb his greystone even though they’ve been flirting non-stop since they met.

 She curled snugly along the inside of my body, so easy and natural, as if she had been designed to fit there.

If I caught myself thinking like this about a woman (or, really, anyone) I’d probably slap myself across the face a few times. I wouldn’t really mind all that much except it ties into the way Denna has been described throughout the book as a complimentary being to Kvothe. Remember the whole “I was like a mighty oak tree, she was like a sparrow flitting daintily among the branches” stuff?

Denna stirred in her sleep. “I know you didn’t mean it,” she said clearly.
“Mean what?” I asked softly. Her voice was different, no longer dreamy and tired. I wondered if she was talking in her sleep.
“Before. You said you’d knock me down and make me eat coals. You’d never hit me.”

Please don’t tell me this is going where I think it’s

“You wouldn’t, would you? Not even if it was for my own good?”

…. okay, no. It’s going somewhere worse.

“I didn’t tell you everything. I know Ash [Mr. mysterious patron man] didn’t die at the farm. When I was heading toward the fire he found me. He came back and said that everyone was dead. He said that people would be suspicious if I was the only one who survived. . . .”

Why? If someone survives a car crash do you assume they must have caused it?

I felt a hard, dark anger rise up in me.

If her patron turns out to be Ambrose or something stupid like that, I swear to fucking God.

“He didn’t just do it out of the blue,” she said. “He made sure it was what I really wanted. I knew it wouldn’t look convincing if I did it to myself. He made sure I really wanted him to. He made me ask him to hit me. Just to be sure.

And here we have the moment where the book has officially crossed the event horizon from “overrated and mediocre” to “go fuck yourself”.

There are so many ways this could have been phrased without getting into weird abusive relationship subtext. Denna could have come up with the plan herself, or Mystery Man could have just attacked her without all of this “I know he was doing it for my own good” nonsense. Why go to all the trouble to present the scene this way?

Denna says that Mystery Man is her only hope of making a living and falls asleep. Can we please get to the end of this now?

Touching Iron

The dragon finally shows up but Denna is in a deep post-tripping-balls sleep. It eats the bucket of resin, to Kvothe’s relief. Well the dragon’s dead, book’s over I guess thanks for reading everyone!

By all my calculations it should be over within an hour, hopefully sooner.

Can’t anything just happen quickly in this book?

The dragon rolls on its back and starts to fidget in a way that’s not quite imminent-death enough for Kvothe’s liking. Trebon is currently massively illuminated by bonfires for some sort of harvest festival. I think you can see where this is going.

The draccus bounded off the bed of coals, looking for all the world like a frisking puppy.

Guess you should have used all the resin, huh? I’d like to point out that the climactic crisis of the book was caused entirely by Kvothe not wanting to waste money. Even now, near the end of the story, Kvothe Needs Money is the over-riding  plot motivation.

“No,” I said. “No no no

The dragon predictably hauls ass off to Trebon. You know what would have helped? If you had gone and warned people instead of dicking around with buckets for hours.

I scooped her up, blankets and all, and carefully made my way down to the ground. I bundled her up again between the arch of the greystones. She seemed to rouse herself slightly as I jostled her around. “Denna?”

“Moteth?” she muttered around a mouthful of sleep, her eyes barely moving under her lids.

I know this is supposed to be a big mystery moment where we wonder who this person from Denna’s past is, but  can’t get over how stupid the name Moteth is.

Kvothe runs toward Trebon, but the town is already on fire by the time he gets there. Kvothe jumps onto the roof of a building and magics the fires using magic to put them out. The way he does this seems incredibly implausible but I don’t even care at this point.

Next in the most complicated and least exciting action scene I’ve ever read Kvothe copens his inventory and combines Iron Scale + Magnet and then uses it on the giant iron wheel hanging over the door of the church, causing it to fly off and crush the dragon.

We’re now at page 615 of 695 (sweet merciful Christ) and it seems as if this dragon thing really is the climax of the book. Which begs the question: why? The story has theoretically concerned itself with Kvothe’s quest for the Chandrian and his time in wizard school up to this point, and now we’re getting an ending where a dragon burns down some random town? How is this thematically connected to anything that happened before? What’s the point of all of this?


10 thoughts on “let’s read the name of the wind ch. 78-80

  1. JM

    This is the whiniest breakdown of a book I’ve ever read and the writer completely misses many basic literary concepts because they are looking to nitpick.

    NOTW is not a perfect book by any means but I suggest you stop looking for things to complain about and it might let you enjoy the book a bit more. Instead of looking at a blank connect the dots page and saying “this isn’t a picture at all!” take the time to actually connect the dots and see what the author is trying to convey.

  2. katz

    Denna passing out is of course the inevitable conclusion of Kvothe’s need to do everything 100% by himself. She can’t even watch him being awesome! That would undermine his awesomeness!

  3. zephyrean

    @Ronan, “I thought the scale was made out of iron? If objects act as energy conduits according to how similar they are how is it going to be a substitute for hair?”

    To be fair to Kvothfuss here, he means that similar to how spells are cast on humans by using their hair, he can probably cast something on a dragon by using the dragon’s scale.

    @Aaron, “Are the Chandrian even real? I suspect that they are going to turn out to be fictitious, that all of the actions attributed to them are either coincidence like the dragon or Kvothfuss lying, hallucinating or whatever. This seems to be the direction Rothfuss is going with his whole legends are just stories that get blown out of proportion-or whatever-theme.”

    They are, they just suck. Kvothfuss is going for a fantasy-science vs magic dichotomy, and is terribad at it.

    The whole thing with ohsoclever trope subversion is intellectually insulting. It mostly boils down to the fact that if you set out to write a book extolling the virtues of intelligence, you had better be twice as good as the protagonist, but there’s also a fundamental design failure. I’m all for a Connecticut Yankee setup where a scientifically inclined kid kicks ass and takes names in a world rife with ignorance and superstition (like Eliezer Yudkowsky apparently does in his Harry Potter fanfiction). I also won’t mind the opposite, where reason and logic fails in the face of power that runs off incomprehensible navel-gazing nonsense. Kvothfuss is trying to have it both ways, and the results are emphatically not good.

    For example, the thing that stayed unexplained: there are two kinds of magic. Sympathy is basically “mundane” physics with invisible improvised tools. Its core concept is a conservation law-principle-thing that in Kvothfuss’ mind prevents people from doing something awesome with sympathy (not that people aren’t doing awesome things with “mundane” physics IRL), except Kvothfuss knows dick about physics, so it’s actually described in a way that allows for steampunk singularity.

    (The fact that the world hasn’t imploded in a steampunk singularity despite having a thinktank full of apparently super-brilliant people is implausible, but I’ll overlook that as (heavy-handed) satirical commentary, even though it was probably not intended.)

    Truenaming magic is vastly more powerful, and it works off feeeeeeeelings, poetry, mystical bullshit and somesuch. Graystones and oaths and curses and stories and tinkers are *unscientifically* magical.

    Note that it’s the first, scientific kind of magic that requires believing in the implausible, breaking the unbreakable and the like. To Kvothfuss’ questionable credit, he does not go on to claim that RL science works on the same principles – so, unlike many other terrible writers, he doesn’t demand that his “true in spirit” nonsense should apply to real life; rather, he abuses rational thinking by depicting ways it is “correctly” applied in his nonsense world.

    Everyone who’s aware of urban fantasy as a genre knows the tendency of ohsoclever writers to go Roswell on certain supernatural claims and decry others as idiotic superstition. Such writers are welcome to choke on a sexual organ of their choice. What Kvothfuss is doing here is essentially the same, but on a more abstract level. Consider the scene where Elodin tells Kvothfuss to jump off a roof (Ch 46, April 23), and jumping is somehow a failure. Say what? Truenaming is the magic of doing stupid things. It is intellectually dishonest to say some stupid things are stupid enough to be magical, but other stupid things are stupid enough to be just plain stupid. Jumping off a roof believing that you don’t fall is a fitting test of sympathy aptitude; jumping off the roof for shits and giggles, because you wanted to try a new experience and expand your understanding of the world, is exactly the sort of thing that truenamers are shown to do to level up.

    And Kvothfuss is aware of that. He designed the magic types, he wrote all that pseudomythological background, he made Kvothfuss-the-character a geek and a musician for that very reason: so he could engage in, and be awesome at, all this spontaneous navel-gazing crap. Every time Kvothfuss decides to be clever, I have this mental picture of a five-year-old who beat me at Hangman because he spelled the word wrong and was very proud of it.

    Now, the less-TL;DR reason why Aaron’s suspicion won’t come true is, of course, that it’s contradicted in book 2, which goes in the entirely opposite direction. The supernatural is *real*, it’s just really small, stupid, inconsequential, and unexciting. The Chandrian are a D&D 1st level random encounter (“while travelling through the forest, you’re beset by… bandits!”). The fairy queen is an insane reclusive rapist-murderer, living in a forest and preying on peasants, with no kingdom or subjects. Etc. The “truth” isn’t non-magical but more exciting, as it should’ve been in a good book, nor is it non-magical and mundane, as it should’ve been in a pomo deconstruction thing. It’s the worst of both worlds, pretty much unsalvageable as of the end of book 2.

    Despite all said above, I liked TNotW for background material revealed through arcless slice-of-life. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is mine, even though I’d have preferred no sugar and no cyanide. TWMF takes a grandiose dump on the chance of that background material being interesting and making sense. I am, however, actively waiting for book 3, because I empathize with passable characters in terrible novels more than with passable characters in passable novels, so I want to know what happens to my fellow sufferer Devan.

    1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

      Regarding the tendency of fantasy authors to have people who believe and work with magic yet decry things as superstitious is actually realistic although I doubt they are aware of that fact. During the Middle Ages, which is one of the many time periods this book could be imitating, peasants were seen by the elite as being both to credulous and to incredulous, that is they would believe things were supernatural that were not but would also be unable to properly understand how something was miraculous and not just something the peasant had yet to see. In other words these fantasy authors are carrying on a proud tradition of holding mutually exclusive views about people you think are intellectually inferior.

  4. Reveen

    Sympathy seems pretty fucking scary considering that it’s meant to be “magic-lite”. All you need to send a spiked wheel flying at somebody is a magnet, a hunk of metal, and a lock of the guys hair? Why is this called the Kingkiller Chronicles? With this kind of power floating around political assassinations should be like this worlds national sport.

    With a better writer half the plot would concern inventive uses of sympathy. Maybe a locked room murder and elaborate spells within spells to unravel. It would actually be interesting.

    But no, the possibly cool magic is just a crutch for a writer who completely screwed up the “wily muggle gets by using his wits” premise, great.

  5. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    Are the Chandrian even real? I suspect that they are going to turn out to be fictitious, that all of the actions attributed to them are either coincidence like the dragon or Kvothfuss lying, hallucinating or whatever. This seems to be the direction Rothfuss is going with his whole legends are just stories that get blown out of proportion-or whatever-theme. To have the villains of this trilogy turn out to be nothing more than fictitious seems like the sort of thing a bad fantasy author with delusions of grandeur would do. Or perhaps Kvothfuss is the Chandrian or some bullshit. At least it would explain his inexplicable magical perfectness.

      1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

        I doubt Rothfuss will be satisfied with Kvothfuss being just ONE Chandrian. He’ll have to be all of them. Speaking of which, are there any female Chandrian? If so that could refute my little hypothesis as I doubt Rothfuss will want Kvothfuss to be a g-g-girl.

  6. sonamib

    Yeah, I think if our heroes hadn’t “helpfully” tried to kill the dragon, everyone in Trebon would be better off. They make the dragon follow them to the outskirts of the city for no good reason, and then Kvothe is too cheap to give the beast a dose of resin that will actually kill it. So the dragon is just drugged enough to be pissed and burns the whole town down. Good job, folks! Are we really supposed to admire these characters?

    And that “by all my calculations” line is priceless.


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