Without Word or Warning
I just realized I completely forgot what was going on in the plot. Literally, I’m not joking. I sat down to write this and couldn’t remember a thing that had occurred since the start of the book. Something about Ambrose and…. a fire, or something? Falling off a roof? And Devi was there, I think? That’s about it.
Anyway, Kvothe is in Anker’s Inn moping and playing with Denna’s ring (you wouldn’t believe how many iterations of that sentence I went through trying to find one that doesn’t sound like an innuendo) when a Cealdish man comes in. I can’t remember what “Cealdish” actually signifies, although for some reason I’m picturing a really big burly dude with a crew cut. According to the Kingkiller wiki- there’s a wiki, enjoy- they’re associated with money and trade. Alrighty.
Mr Crew Cut gives Kvothe a letter from Denna and then promptly leaves the book. That was probably a smart decision. It turns out Denna left Imre for greener pastures abroad and she’s thinking of Kvothe. But not enough to tell him before she took off, apparently. Later Kvothe goes to Elodin’s class to get quirked at some more. But it turns out Elodin is in srs business mode today.
“Only through skill in naming did students move through the ranks. An alchemist without any skill in naming was regarded as a sad thing, no more respected than a cook. Sympathy was invented here, but a sympathist without any naming might as well be a carriage driver. An artificer with no names behind his work was little more than a cobbler or a smith.
I said repeatedly throughout my posts on the first book that I didn’t get how naming and sympathy worked, or what the difference is between alchemy and chemistry. That’s become more clear at this point, but all of the wizard stuff in the book- the University, the magic system, Kvothe going to lectures- feels so inconsequential and disconnected from the plot. Kvothe and his pals only ever use sympathy on rare occasions, and name magic has come up exactly once, in a fairly inconsequential scene. None of this appears to tie into the Chandrian or the wider story in any way.
To once again go back to the Harry Potter parallels, regardless of what you thought of the quality of those books 90% of the time if something was included in the story it had some sort of purpose (the big exception being the last book, where everything started to go off the rails). When the characters learned about something you could be sure it was going to be relevant, usually pretty soon and not at some vague point in the future. If they learned about a type of magic a character would use that magic, or it would feature in the backstory. If someone talked at length about an historical event or a societal attitude or whatever, it would inform some element of the plot. And even with the long-term Checkov’s guns, you could generally see how they would fit into the overall story eventually.
In other words, it felt like someone had sat down and tried to get the entire story hashed out before the books were actually written, whereas with the Kingkiller trilogy, with the exception of Felurian and the Adem which I happen to know come up later, I can’t shake the feeling that Rothfuss is just making this shit up as he goes along. Nothing sticks, nothing appears to actually matter. The pieces don’t fit together. People used to hate the Wagon Bros, but that’s not really a big deal in the time the story is set in. People used to hate wizards, but they don’t really any more so I guess that’s pointless. People don’t believe the Chandrian exist? They may as well not for all the impact they’ve had so far.
I once again have to wonder how much of this is Rothfuss writing himself into corners in an attempt to distance himself from his “inspirations”. My hard drive is littered with half-finished or barely started attempts at writing projects I’ve discarded over the years, some of which are pretty obvious rip-offs of whatever I was into at the time. One thing I’ve learned is that if you’re going to copy something either say “fuck it” and just go for it, or don’t bother. If you play this coy game where you try to throw up smoke screens to fool people you’re just going to end up with a pale imitation of whatever your inspiration was, but with all the interesting parts sequestered behind layers of obfuscation so no one will cotton on to what you’re doing. These books would be so much better if Haliax and the Chandrian really were just imitations of Voledmort and the Death Eaters, hatching all these crazy over-elaborate schemes and jumping out of closets to try and murder Kvothe. This business with people hating the Wagon Bros and wizards and non-namers all feels like a Wizard/Muggle dynamic that got cut out of the story for being too obvious. No, just leave it in. It was bullshit in Harry Potter and it would be just as much so here, but at least it would be something.
Hell, Rothfuss, you’ve obviously read the HP books in enough detail to want to copy them, but in all that time you failed to notice that they don’t consist 90% of nothing happening?
Anyway! It turns out Fela has learned the Name of stone so Elodin has her demonstrate in front of the class. Maybe they’ll all get their own elemental powers or something, which if so would be the longest and most tedious build-up to such a cliched idea I’ve ever seen. Elodin wants to give her a special ring to signify her awesomeness, but she had to make it herself with Earth-bending or whatever.
Elodin stretched out a hand in front of Fela and opened it, revealing a river stone, smooth and dark.
I guess this is where the “smooth and whatever as a river stone” thing in the prologue came from.
Fela is initially unable to do anything, but then Elodin slaps her on the back of the head to activate her magic. I guess wizards work like old TV sets in this universe.
Fela opened her hand and a scattering of sand and gravel spilled out. With two fingers she reached into the jumble of loose stone and pulled out a ring of sheer black stone. It was round as a cup and smooth as polished glass.
This is actually kind of cool. I really wish stuff like this would happen more often. You know, interesting stuff.
Kvothe has finished whatever he’s been working on at the workshop, and invites Kilvin to come and have a gander at it. Kilvin apparently had no idea what he was doing until this point, which isn’t really how college projects work. Generally the staff will want to look over your plans to make sure you’re not trying to do something impossible or dangerous without realizing it.
It turns out that Kvothe’s invention is a magic lantern shaped thing that blocks arrows. I don’t know why, but I find that really anti-climactic and un-interesting. Kvothe has never had trouble with arrows, why would he choose to invent something like? It doesn’t fit into the story in any way. I would have thought he’d make something with some connection to the Chandrian.
“No one should ever die from ambush on the road,” I said firmly.
I…. guess that makes sense? His troupe wasn’t killed by arrows though.
Kilvin gives his approval for the arrow-whatsit to go on sale for twenty-five talents, but our hero nobly offers to price it lower so poorer people can afford it. Take the money you stupid tit, that way I won’t have to read about your student finances any more. Luckily Kilvin offers to give him twenty-five for that particular model, as he wants to put it in his private collection.
Kvothe is playing in Anker’s inn when some dudes come in and arrest him.
“Kvothe, Arliden’s son,” he read aloud to the room, his voice clear and strong. “In the sight of these witnesses I bind you to stand to your own account before the iron law. You are charged with Consortation with Demonic Powers, Malicious Use of Unnatural Arts, Unprovoked Assault, and Malfeasance.”
Um. Okay. That was kind of sudden, but yay for stuff happening I guess.
After so many chapters of wading through treacle the plot suddenly barrels forward in the space of a few pages, so here goes:
Kvothe was arrested for using airbending on Ambrose at the end of the first book. Even though the matter had been handled by the University several influential nobles went to the courts about it, presumably under Ambrose’s directions. Kvothe is charged under archaic anti-wizard laws but the University masters spring to his defence.
In the end, I was cleared of any wrongdoing. I thought I was vindicated. I thought I had won….
But I was still terribly naive in many ways.
Since Rothfuss spent chapters upon chapters on Kvothe faffing around doing nothing but skipped over a dramatic trial and acquittal in the space of a few paragraphs we must face the terrifying prospect that he actually finds all of the time-wasting interesting.
Interlude—A Bit of Fiddle
Chronicler is astonished that there’s so little to the trial, since it’s apparently a major part of Kvothe’s legend.
“But that’s the first story I ever heard about you when I came to the University,” Chronicler protested. “How you learned Tema in a day. How you spoke your entire defense in verse and they applauded afterward. How you …”
I still don’t get how these rumours are getting started. Even assuming Kvothe becomes incredibly famous later in the story (and whatever it is he does, it better be damn impressive) I don’t get how this level of mythologizing could have taken place in such a short time. Most religious figures don’t even have such elaborate back stories millenia after their deaths.
I also don’t get how this is supposed to be some sort of clever commentary on the nature of myths and stories; it’s just Chronicler saying “but I heard that you-” and Kvothe going “NOPE”.
Kvothe claims that there’s already two detailed written accounts of the trial, and there were dozens of eyewitnesses. Then how the hell did the crazy legend spread? How poor of a historian is Chronicler if he didn’t already find the other accounts?
“I’ve probably kept us at the University too long, anyway,” he said.
You don’t fucking say.
The local morons come around to stop the plot from advancing for awhile.
“That,” he said in a booming voice, “was a damn fine pie.”
“Oh honey,” the big man said. “Don’t get yourself in a twit. Damfine is a kind of apple, innit?”
…. did he just say “innit”?
Interlude—The Hempen Verse
Another interlude? Seriously?
The morons start talking about Kvothe’s trial im Imre (how about that) and throw around lots of wild rumours and legends and oh God this is so stupid let’s just move on.
You see, there’s two lines in the Book of the Path, and if you can read them out loud in the old Tema only priests know, then the iron law says you get treated like a priest. That means a Commonwealth judge can’t do a damn thing to you. If you read those lines, your case has to be decided by the church courts.” Old Cob took another bite of pie and chewed it slowly before swallowing. “Those two lines are called the hempen verse, because if you know them, you can keep yourself from getting strung up. The church courts can’t hang a man, you see.
Okay this is actually kind of interesting. I’m pretty sure this is a riff on pseudo-law like the “freeman on the land” thing, where idiots believe they can make themselves immune to the law by exploiting obscure loop-holes in the legal system. Feel free to take some time to research that, it’s way more fascinating than anything in the book.
One of the morons tells the legend-version of Kvothe’s trial at length which I think is the first time we’ve had the real and false versions of Kvothe’s antics contrasted so directly.
Kvothe starts trolling Devan by telling stories of “The Chronicler”, a legendary figure with super writing powers.
The innkeeper nodded. “And if he learns your name, he can write it on
the blade of the sword and use it to kill you from a thousand miles away.”
Is that a Death Note reference?
Old Cob will talk about Chronicler to a dozen people while they’re bucking hay and drinking water in the shade. Tonight at Shep’s wake, folk from ten towns will hear about the Lord of Stories. It will spread like a fire in a field.”
I still maintain that the way stories spread in this book only makes sense if everyone is stupid. It’s like they exist solely to propagate rumors and myths at the slightest provocation.
I’m giving you my story with all the grubby truths intact.
Dude, I have more “grubby truths” than you do and I’m the most mundane person alive. The fake versions of your life are more interesting than the real one.