let’s read the wise man’s fear ch. 19-21

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Gentlemen and Thieves

That sounds like the name of a terrible YA novel, possibly involving steampunk in some way.

Kvothe and Denna go on another one of their semi-platonic flirt-walks through the streets of Imre.

“I wouldn’t begin to know where to find you there. It’s like a maze. If I can’t catch you playing at Anker’s, I know I’m out of luck”

Hey here’s a wild idea, why don’t you arrange some reliable means of communicating with each other besides just wandering around randomly?

Kvothe asks her if she was the woman who came to the workshop looking for him about the charms even though it was clearly another one of Amrbose’s (apparently coerced) minions.

Denna is still waiting to hear back from her mystery asshole patron Ash. I guess he wasn’t Ambrose after all, which makes me mildly intrigued.

It turns out that Denna is one of those characters who irrationally doubts her own ability and sells herself short. Which is fair enough, plenty of people struggle with self confidence, but this is blatantly just in there so Kvothe can score points by telling her how awesome she is.

Who would hire a half-trained musician without even an instrument to her name?”

“Anyone with ears to hear you,” I said. “Anyone with eyes to see.”

Denna looked down, her hair falling around her face like a curtain. “You’re sweet,” she said quietly, making an odd fidgeting gesture with her hands.

Oh isn’t she just such a good woman, so demure and quiet.

How did this happen, I really liked Denna at the start when she was running intellectual rings around Kvothe and generally being confident and self assured.

We learn that Denna has scammed people out of money before and seems to know quite a bit about petty crime, which I guess gives her and Kvothe something in common.

After some banal chatter Kvothe notices that the silver and blue ring she usually wears is gone.

“You wear it all the time,” I said, trying to sound casual, as if I didn’t know every detail of her. As if I didn’t know her habit of twirling it on her finger while she was anxious or lost in thought.

Edward Cullen, is that you?

“A young gentleman has it,” she said.


“Actually, you might know him. He goes to the University too. Ambrose Jakis.”


My stomach was suddenly filled with acid and ice.

A Song Of Ice And Acid book 1: A Game Of Stomachs

Don’t worry though, Ambrose was an asshole to her and she doesn’t like him. Thank God, I thought we were about to get some actual drama there for a second.

A feeling of vast relief flooded me


Kvothe resolves to get Denna’s ring back so he can add a few more points to the Sex Meter that guys like him assume women have in their brains, obligating them to put out if the guy fills it completely by being nice.


The Fickle Wind

Enough about the fucking wind I swear to God.

Kvothe sneaks onto the roof of an Inn to break into Ambrose’s rooms. Maybe this will be how he gets expelled.

Does anyone else notice how events in these book aren’t really plotted in any way? Kvothe just sort of drifts aimlessly until something mildly interesting occurs in his vicinity. He doesn’t go out and actually do things, he waits around for things to happen to him.

The plan is for the Wizard Frat Squad to lure Ambrose away with a flirtatious letter, then for Kothe to make with the sneaky-sneak. This plan involves using small wooden sticks as sympathetically-connected signalling devices, neither of which are made of willow. It’s good to know that Rothfuss is successfully fighting back against the international willow conspiracy.


Keep the struggle alive, man.

Kvothe clambers up onto the roof. It’s sort of high and if he fell it might hurt a bit, so I guess this counts as something happening in the sense that watching a man on a step ladder is theoretically more interesting than watching him sit on his couch.

Kvothe breaks into Ambrose’s room but nearly falls off, but the wind pushes him back do you see yeah you get it okay. Kvothe trolls Ambrose by sabotaging his chimney because he’s a fucking idiot, but then the alert-stick in his pocket twitches indicating that Ambrose has unexpectedly returned early. Gee, do you think maybe the wizard might have used magic to secure his incredibly expensive and valuable possessions in some way? Maybe something similar to the magic you’re currently using yourself? I guess that didn’t occur to Kvothe or his buddies.

Then I glimpsed a thin strip of brass running along the inside of the windowsill. I couldn’t read the sygaldry in the dim light, but I know wards when I see them. That explained why Ambrose was back so soon. He knew someone had broken in. What’s more, the best sort of wards wouldn’t just warn of an intruder, they could hold a door or window shut to seal a thief in

Called it.

Ambrose arrives at the front door so Kvothe jams a metal pen into the keyhole to stop him from opening it. Alright, this is actually getting pretty exciting now!

Kvothe is about to scratch out the runes on the brass strip to render it useless, then realizes that this would make it obvious a wizard was in the room, and since Kvothe and Ambrose’s rivalry is well known he’d be the obvious suspect.

Kvothe manages to wizard the window open in a more subtle fashion, but then wind starts acting up again and knocks him off the roof in a manner that I’m incapable of picturing without an accompanying old-timey comedy soundtrack.

He manages to make it back to his room, mildly injured from the fall. The Wonder Boys show up soon after to commiserate on their utter failure to do anything right.

I hate clay roofing tiles

Kvothe can’t go to the medica for help because that will alert the fuzz to the fact that he was the one who fell off the roof, so he gets Sim to patch him up. Wil correctly points out that Kvothe is a stupid fucking brainless moronic goddamn idiotic jackass (paraphrased) who keeps antagonizing Ambrose for no reason.



Kvothe heads down to the workshop (how many times have I typed that so far), careful to hide his shame-bruises. The woman who accused him of selling charms has been back and he’s summoned to Kilvin’s office. The workshop is unusually quiet and serene looking, which is a sure sign that drama is about to ensue.

Turns out Kilvin just wants to give him a stupid Tough Love lecture about doing more complex work becoming of a level 2 wizard. Just as he’s about to leave Kvothe blacks out from the heat in the room, slamming his inured knees painfully against the ground.

He wakes up in the medica and a whole lot of bullshit ensues, which I will summarize in list form:

  • Mola, the medical student we met in the first book, figures out from his injuries he was the one who broke into Ambrose’s room
  • Kvothe gets his ego stroked for being so awesome and saving Fela from the workshop fire.
  • Mola decides not to tell anyone about Kvothe breaking into Ambrose’s room because of Ambrose’s reputation for treating women badly. Well thank God, wouldn’t want any moral complexity or Kvothe being held accountable for his actions.
  • Kvothe has Magic Eyes that turn dark when he’s pissed off, or something.

Mola leaves the suspicious injuries off her report, so I guess that scene was pointless.

I had heard that the first part of this book is essentially just a continuation of The Name Of The Wind, but it’s really more of a re-tread. We’re just watching Kvothe and his buddies doing the exact same things they were doing in the first book, with no real difference except that Kvothe has access to the Archives again (which hasn’t advanced the plot in any way). Several of the scenes so far literally just feel like shot-for-shot retreads of similar parts of the first book, but with the exact dialogue swapped around slightly.

What is the point of all of this? Where is this going? Why was it written this way?

I guess the bit where Kvothe broke into Ambrose’s room was pretty cool.


13 thoughts on “let’s read the wise man’s fear ch. 19-21

  1. braak

    Yeah, but the thing of it is that it also seems like such a specialized, and peculiar, thing for a person to invent, instead of inventing solutions to the problems that are (or anyway that ought to be) right in front of him.

    1. Zenobious

      True, it does read an awful lot like something *Rothfuss* came up with and felt was clever, so he put the invention into Kvothe’s mind, thinking to demonstrate his character’s intelligence — but it’s just not what you’d expect someone obsessed with music and magic to invent. Your magic amp or something else like it would be a much better choice for an invention that flows naturally from Kvothe’s interests and inclinations.

  2. braak

    “but then the alert-stick in his pocket twitches indicating that Ambrose has unexpectedly returned early”

    “Oh, yes, of course we’ve invented a way to communicate information easily at a distance and without loss. It’s essentially magical telegraphy, and because of Sygaldry, we can basically write it into any piece of brass we want and allow even non-wizards to use it.”

    “Oh, okay, what are you going to use it for?”

    “Hm? What? I don’t, pranks or something?”

    1. ronanwills Post author

      That’s actually a really good point. Why haven’t they invented telegraphs by now?

      Also I just realized “the alert stick in his pocket twitches” sounds really pornographic.

      1. braak

        I was thinking, the other day, about all of the things that Kvothe might use Sympathy for besides lights and refrigerators — telegraphy, maglev locomotives, the stove — and actually it’s a pretty interesting thing that of course he’d never think of using sympathy to solve those problems. Kvothe doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t have friends he needs to write letters to, he doesn’t cook, he doesn’t travel, he doesn’t have a job as a miner, or a carpenter, or an architect.

        Here, look here: surely he’s noticed that large-bodied, hollow instruments have a louder, fuller sound than smaller ones? He could etch sygaldry into his lute and then buy a huge bass cello and create a sympathetic connection between the two instruments. Voila, sympathetic wireless amp.

        Kvothe doesn’t think of that though, and I think that’s because ORthfuss doesn’t think of this kind of stuff, which is maybe a natural pitfall of making your living as a writer and an English teacher.

      2. Zenobious

        Actually, one of the few things that does happen in the next 30 chapters is that Kvothe invents a new device using sygaldry. Except that after hearing his description of it, all I could think is “Why wasn’t this invented decades/centuries ago, along with a whole host of similar devices!?”

        Rothfuss is obviously fond of the 6 different types of magic in his setting, and all the “clever” things you can do with them, but he clearly never sat down and tried to figure out the implications of most (if not all) of them on the world in general. Which is about what one would expect from a homebrew D&D setting which Rothfuss used for RPG sessions with his college buddies….

  3. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    Regarding you liking Denna in her first appearance, given how TNotW was a conglomeration of different stages of Rothfuss’ writing career, when would you say early Denna versus later Denna were written?

    Also does TWMF have the same sort of chronologically cobbled together feel?

    1. ronanwills Post author

      Early Denna actually strikes me as bring written by a somewhat more mature author, which doesn’t really fit into the whole chronology idea. I get the feeling he originally wrote her as more capable and interesting then let his ego get in the way and turned her into a wish fulfilment character.

      Wise Man’s Fear is basically just following straight on from the first book. I think it was probably all written originally as one story then arbitrarily split up later, necessitating the pointless climax with the dragon in the first book. This supports the idea that the framing story was a later addition, with the three day format driven by the decision to make the series a trilogy rather than the other way around.

      1. Reveen

        I think it’s a common tactic overdudely writers use for writing women, whether it’s intentional or not. Present them as competent, tough, or intelligent first then gradually introduce flaws, insecurities, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities that distance her skills from her actual character. This way a writer can claim to be writing complex women without threatening their reader’s penises.

        I’d cite GRR Martin’s Brienne as an example. Who gradually becomes less impressive than her initial showing makes her. Badass woman knight? Show that she’s secretly naive and thin-skinned! Not an extreme example, but that’s what made me first notice the trend.

        Though Rothfuss can’t really claim to be deliberately doing this I guess. Denna is just wildly inconsistent.

  4. Orryia

    I’ve never read Wise Man’s Fear, but from what I’ve heard it gets better later on (in the sense that it gets so bad it’s entertaining). Or it least later on it stops rehashing the previous book, and even that’s something.

    1. Zenobious

      Yeah. Later parts of the book should be much better material for this Let’s Read, because new and *different* poorly-written things are happening, instead of more of the same.

      I was about to add “And I think he’s going to leave the university soon, actually!” but then I went and looked through my copy of TWMF and no, it’s not for another 30 (!) chapters. I guess they really were that forgettable.


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