Kvothe worries about his interview, and right away some oddities pop up:
Kilvin and Elxa Dal didn’t worry me. I was ready for their questions. The same was largely true of Arwyl. But the other masters were all varying degrees of mystery to me.
I’m not entirely sure of this, because ironically we haven’t seen much of how wizard school actually works despite all the time spent there, but doesn’t Kvothe only learn from a few of the Masters? Why are they all interviewing him? Is he expected to have memorized material from all the courses, even the ones he’s not enrolled in?
Every term each master put a selection of books on display in Tomes, the reading room in the Archives. […] Those books revealed what the masters considered valuable knowledge. Those were the books a clever student studied before admissions.
But I couldn’t wander into Tomes like everyone else.
This makes it sound as if the students are being graded entirely on supplementary reading material as opposed to what they’re taught directly in lectures and workshops. Which a) makes no sense and b) is a blatantly contrived scenario to make it harder for Kvothe to pass his exams.
A reminder: in this epic fantasy trilogy about a legendary hero, the main sources of drama so far have been the protagonist trying to pay off his student loans and getting banned from a library.
In the Inn where Kvothe lives a hawt sexy woman comes over to him and offers to buy him a drink for breaking Amrbose’s arm in the first book.
Her blonde hair was artfully curled, and her lips were a deeply painted red.
The Modegan accent practically sweats sex.
Has anyone else noticed that Kvothe has yet to meet a woman who doesn’t want to finger his lute, or at least spend large amounts of time with him? Even Moon Fey-chan is smitten with him in a seemingly platonic way. I wonder why all of these attractive older women are throwing themselves at our naive fifteen year old protagonist?
I guess I shouldn’t complain too much, since I happen to know that later on we’re going to encounter a plot element that makes this look like the epitome of restraint and good taste.
They drink together, Kvothe mysteriously smelling “nutmeg and plum” for some reason, then the woman suddenly bursts into tears and flees the room.
Kvothe lines up for admissions and talks loudly at a timid female student about how the whole process sucks.
I bit into another almond and quickly spit it onto the cobblestones. “Feah!” I held them out to her. “Do these taste like plums to you?”
I think there was something strange in that drink.
I’m not entirely sure what to credit this to, but tripping-balls-Kvothe comes across like a much more genuine character than normal-Kvothe. He’s loud, abrasive and arrogant, but that makes him seem like a real teenager instead of the worldly silver-tongued socialite we’ve been following up to this point.
Just then Ambrose shows up, and the fun increases:
“I met one of your previous ladyloves today,” I said. “She was dealing with the sort of profound emotional trauma I assume comes from seeing you naked.”
“I have it on good report that not only does Ambrose have a tiny, tiny penis, but he can only become aroused when in the presence of a dead dog, a painting of the Duke of Gibea, and a shirtless galley drummer.”
See? He’s being an immature little shit, but at least he has a personality now. And this is much closer to how I’d expect someone his age to act than what we’ve gotten before.
“What’s the matter?” Ambrose asked. “Don’t fancy plum?” Then, without waiting for an answer, he turned and walked away. He was smiling.
Oh look, it was Ambrose. I’m so surprised.
This would probably have more impact if the previous book hadn’t trained me to assume Ambrose is behind anything bad that happens to Kvothe. I’m half expecting it to turn out that he was somehow responsible for Kvothe’s parents getting killed.
Kvothe finally puts two and two together and runs off to Simmon to try and get a cure just before admissions starts. This scene is actually fairly entertaining, with Kvothe staggering around and saying whatever pops into his head. If only Rothfuss was a better writer, and didn’t insist on ruining it with stuff like this:
“Can you think of anything right now that seems like a bad idea?”
“… to jump off the roof?” My voice curled up at the end, making it a sort of question.
Actually the question mark makes it a sort of question.
Simmon spends way too long trying to explain what the drug Ambrose slipped him does, sighing and shaking his head several times, then tries to give Kvothe advice on how to not fuck up his admissions, all while Kvothe spouts waaaaaaacky dialogue and the scene is officially getting stupid now.
Simmon eventually runs off to find Fela so her and Kvothe can trade places at admissions. There’s a fairly uncomfortable bit where they talk about how it might be “dangerous” for her to come in the room, worried that Kvothe might spontaneously try to rape her.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Are you worried I’ll tackle her to the ground and ravage her?” I laughed.
I know I can’t eat a stone or walk through a wall. It’s like that.”
We’re told that Kvothe’s moral inhibitions have been completely erased (he keeps talking, apparently seriously, about murdering Ambrose and doesn’t see anything wrong with that) yet he states that it would be utterly impossible for him to rape someone. Is it reading too much into this to see it as an example of the attitude that men are divided cleanly into rapists- who are shadowy perverts hiding in dark alleyways- and Nice Guys, who of course would never dream of doing anything like that? That point of view often gets brought up when trying to rationalize something as “not really rape” or foisting the blame back onto the victim.
All of this isn’t helped by the fact that Kvothe keeps trying to bribe Fela into taking her clothes off.
That night the drug causes Kvothe to remember his childhood with absolute clarity for some reason. Moon Fey-chan arrives at his window, presumably to give him a carrot that sounds like the taste of rainbows or whatever the fuck, but instead ends up acting as the latter half of the hurt/comfort duality. The following scene is so treacly and overblown I’m not even going to bother describing it, but I wonder why it was included in this book and not the preceding one, where it would have made a lot more sense.
Over the next few days Kvothe has wild mood swings and random attacks of the weepies. Which is fair enough, I’m all for characters who display emotion instead of being rock-hard stoic manly men, but this feels like pointless tragedy-wanking. Why are we going back to Kvothe’s angst after all this time of it apparently not bothering him? This would have been a lot more compelling during his time in Tarbean instead of that “my emotions were frozen” guff.
There’s an interesting bit at the Inn Kvothe lives in where it turns out the people in Imre have what are essentially magical fridges made by the University. This is the sort of thing I always like to see in fantasy settings- magic being used for utility rather than just blowing up dragons or whatever. The ability to keep perishables cool would be far more useful than conjuring fireballs.
No moving parts at all, just two flat bands of tin covered in sygaldry that moved heat from one end of the metal band to the other.
…. then what happens to it? The heat still has to go somewhere or the whole system will be pointless.
Anyway Kvothe fixes the thing and Anker gives him a talent, bringing him one step closer to financial security. Can we please be done with this plot element soon?
Kvothe runs into Elodin and asks him why he hasn’t invited him to his super-magic class yet.
“Because you are too eager to be properly patient,” he said flippantly. “You’re too proud to listen properly. And you’re too clever by half. That’s the worst of it.”
I agree! High-fives all around.
Elodin tricks Kvothe into helping him break into Not-Snape’s rooms and burn his clothes as a way to illustrate that Kvothe always thinks he knows what he’s doing, but is actually a stupid tit.
There’s some pointless yoda-like banter about how Elodin is already teaching Kvothe but he won’t listen, be like water etc. I sure am glad this character isn’t just another eccentric mentor stereotype.
A Civil Tongue
The Masters ask Kvothe a bunch of questions, a lot of which appear to be either trick questions or riddles, which doesn’t seem like something an institute of higher learning would do. Elodin joins in with this, which seems to confirm that the students are indeed interviewed on material from Masters who aren’t teaching them.
“Where does the moon go,” Elodin asked grimly, “when it is no longer in our sky?”
How are they getting away with this shit? One of Not-Snapes friends asks him a question that’s impossible to answer without specialized equipment. Elodin’s question makes no sense. The head of the Archives asks him to recite the rules, apparently just to needle him about getting banned, instead of posing any serious questions. Is there no oversight to these interviews?
Not-Snape accuses Kvothe of setting his room on fire, which prompts Kvothe to tell him to go fuck himself (figuratively).
“My apologies, Chancellor,” I said quickly, looking down at my feet. “I spoke in anger. Ravel is a term my people find particularly offensive. Its use makes light of the systematic slaughter of thousands of Ruh.”
Wait, what? Where is this coming from? Why haven’t we heard of it before? Are the (ugh) Edema Ruh an ethnicity now? If they’re so hated how come no one ever looks down on Kvothe for it?
The Chancellor tells Not-Snape to knock it off, and Kvothe gets asked one last question by the Chancellor.
“Re’lar Kvothe: What is the etymology of the word ravel?”
So to sum up: Kvothe gets asked eight questions, two of which make no sense, two of which are just there to make him look like a fool, and one of which has nothing to do with his course-work. What kind of wizard school is this?
Hey, don’t you go getting smug Mr. My Students and Faculty Die At An Alarming Rate But Somehow We’re Still Open.