let’s read the wise man’s fear ch 61-62

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CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE

Deadnettle

After Denna happens Kvothe goes back to his rooms and deposits his lute.

So I just noticed something that’s been bugging me ever since the first book- how few cuts there are. By “cuts” I mean passages of time that are skipped over without being described. For example, at the start of this chapter Kvothe goes back to his room, drops off the lute, goes to the Mayor’s room and sees him with his blanket pulled down, noticing how thin and sickly he looks. Rothfuss could have just started the chapter with Kvothe by the Mayor’s bedside. We can reasonably infer that he returned to his room and dropped the lute off without being told.

It sounds like a small complaint, but I think this is why so much of both books feel like they consist largely of Kvothe walking to and from places. We always have to be told “and then I went to the workshop” “and then I walked to the Eolian” “and then I walked back to wizard school” “and then I walked back to the Eolian again” and it gets old very quickly.

Anyway Kvothe is worried all of a sudden that the Mayor won’t live through the night, even though he didn’t seem all that sick a few hours ago. He cajoles the Mayor into taking some custom made medicines and leaves him to sleep. On the way out Staples glares at him and Kvothe realizes that Staples is assuming he’s taking advantage of the Mayor in some way.

If he did die, who would be blamed? Certainly not Caudicus, trusted advisor. Certainly not Stapes, beloved manservant….

Me. They would blame me. His condition had worsened soon after I arrived. I didn’t doubt Stapes would quickly bring to light the fact that I’d been spending time alone with the Maer in his rooms. That I’d brewed him a pot of tea right before he had a very traumatic night.

See, actual drama! Things happening!

CHAPTER SIXTY-TWO

Crisis

Crisis on Infinite Kvothes

Kvothe goes into town to buy stuff and look for Denna because she inexplicably gave him the name of the street she’s staying at but not the name of the specific inn so he’s once again reduced to puttering around in her general vicinity hoping to run into her.

I really wonder why Rothfuss wrote their relationship this way. Is there some reason why they can’t just meet up like normal people and interact with each other? Is something plot-important going to happen between them and he’s trying to stretch it out for some reason?

Kvothe meets up with Old Guy to play some more fantasy-chess and gets told that the Mayor once hung a dude from an iron gibbet for banditry, which got some people all riled up. I guess these ye olde fantasy times aren’t quite as grimdark as the ye olde fantasy times of Game of Thrones, where this sort of thing happens more or less all the time. Also if we’re supposed to read from this that Kvothe’s society largely rejects harsh or cruel societal attitudes than it contradicts a lot of what we’ve been told already, like how no one blinks an eye at wizard school  students getting horribly mutilated by whipping for relatively small offences. I know the two aren’t on the same order of magnitude but societal attitudes about certain topics have a tendency to change in parallel, eg the rise of the women’s suffrage movement was about a lot more than just voting rights and encompassed more general ideas about gender and sexual equality. I just find a society in which hanging someone from a gibbet is seen as going way too far but whipping people- or indeed just hanging people at all- is so normal that literally no one even questions it.

It’s pretty clear Rothfuss hasn’t actually sat down and thought about what the people in this world are like in terms of their attitudes and mind-sets. Students at wizard school get whipped just so Kvothe can prove what a badass he is and this business with the gibbet is obviously in there as part of an explanation for why people are trying to move against the Mayor. Likewise, women are disenfranchised and powerless (so Denna can be a poor broken bird in a gilded cage for Kvothe to rescue) until they’re suddenly not (so Kvothe can interact with hot women like Devi and Fela who want to bone him). One minute Kvotheland is ye olde gritty grimdark world where the rule of law is absolute and IRON AND BLOOD RAARRRR and then the next it’s more or less indistinguishable from 21st century America. Parts of the books feel like they take place in entirely separate worlds, as though Kvothe is accidentally travelling across dimensions without realizing it.

This just contributes to the sense that the book’s world is being made up as the story progresses. At least with books like Game of Thrones, Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter and (to an extent) Wheel of Time the authors established a reasonably consistent world early on and stuck with it, something that genre fans tend to place a premium on.

Old Guy gives a little spiel about political standing and ranks that seems to be laying groundwork for explaining how Ambrose could become king in time for Kvothe to king-kill him  (from what I’ve seen this has been heavily speculated to happen in the third book, a prospect the fans don’t seem very pleased about) then departs so Kvothe can tune his lute in privacy.

Only then did I realize what my hands were trying to tell me. If the Maer was still alive, he would have called for me by now.

I’m pretty sure if the Mayor died you’d have heard about it.

It turns out Kvothe was just being irrational because he gets summoned to the Mayor’s rooms, where it turns out the Mayor is feeling better but the birds are still alive, leaving the question of whether he was being poisoned in limbo. Even though if Kvothe was correct about Caudicus spiking the medicine with Ophalum he would have experienced withdrawal symptoms in the night, something Kvothe makes a point of not asking about for no reason.

A rectangle of sunlight washed over him, lending his skin a frail translucency and making his disarrayed hair shine like a silver crown around his head.

Um. Okay. Rothfuss is a monarchist, I guess?

Kvothe goes to fetch the Mayor’s latest batch of murder-medicine and hits on the idea of asking Caudicus about the Chandrian because- we are told- residents of Vintas (Vintners?) are naturally superstitious. All of them, apparently, including well educated high-society doctors. Note once again how the whole Chandrian thing just pops up randomly and largely consists of Kvothe searching through libraries and asking people to tell him things, as opposed to doing anything interesting.

One could barely even stoop to calling it folklore. It’s superstitious bunk, and I don’t waste my time with it. No serious scholar would.

aaaaaaaahhhhh I still don’t understand what this plot point is for, apart from slowing the story down. Why do the Chandrian have to be obscure legends? It would be so much more exciting if they were more active in the world. I know I’ve harped on this before but it really feels like one of the biggest flaws in the trilogy.

Instead of telling him about the Chandrian Caudicus tells him more about the Lackless family, after giving another speech about Names and how important Names are does anyone remember those Earthsea books?

A thousand years ago the Lackless family enjoyed a power at least as great as Alveron’s

[…]

I’ve seen other histories that mention the Loeclos a thousand years before the fall of Atur

Wait, so you know the details of this one family stretching back more than a thousand years but the Chandrian have been completely erased from history? How? Don’t give me that bullshit about them intentionally destroying the records either. Did they blow up the planet or something?

Here it is. The family was called Loeclos or Loklos, or Loeloes. They all translate the same, Lockless

Lockless as in handle-free mystery doors, okay. Incidentally Kvothe didn’t seem to notice the little hint about the Lackless family heirloom being behind a door with no lock somehow being connected to the door in the Archives. If you’re going to introduce mysteries in your story make sure the characters don’t fail to notice things a half-attentive reader will pick up on.

So the Lockless family became the Lackless family? What reason could a family have for changing its name

Emigration to a new country, marriages, alliances, language drift? I’d be pretty shocked if a family name from more than a millenia ago had survived completely unaltered into the modern day. Apparently the actual reason is that there was some sort of falling out among the family and they splintered apart.

In Atur they became the Lack-key family. They were numerous, but fell on hard times. That’s where the word ‘lackey’ comes from, you know

Just…. stop putting sentences onto pages. Please.

Caudicus offers to give Kvothe the inside scoop on the Jakis family (Ambrose) but he refuse so as not to break character and instead just waits for the latest batch of regicide juice to be made.

This was barely even chemistry. Mixing a medicine like this was closer to following a recipe than anything

You’ve never actually done any chemistry, have you?

Apparently the way Caudicus is introducing the poison is by adding acid into it, which dissolves a small amount of the lead bowl. Kvothe describes the acid as “aqua fortis” which wikipedia tells me is the alchemical name for nitric acid (even though we’ve been told that alchemy and chemistry in this world are completely seperate oh fuck it). Nitric acid reacts with lead to form lead nitrate, a toxic compound which is classified as a carcinogen so the Mayor is probably fucked already if he’s been drinking this stuff for a while. It also causes acute lead poisoning, so this is a pretty clever plan assuming Caudicus doesn’t over-do it. Hooray for semi-accurate science! Although I do have one quibble:

When it bubbled and steamed in the lead bowl

Wouldn’t this seem kind of suspicious? Even to a non-chemist surely pouring some kind of bubbling, sizzling liquid into something that’s supposed to be medicinal would raise a few eyebrows, and he’s making no attempt to conceal what he’s doing. Also not all nitric acid does that but whatever. Maybe it’s fantasy-acid.

All the while I watched Caudicus for some telltale sign.

How about the fact that he’s pouring nitric acid into a medicine. Do you really need any further proof than that?

Kvothe comes up with the idea that Caudicus is actually a charlatan who’s poisoning the Mayor by accident (it’s fucking acid anyone would know not to give it to someone to drink) but he has a guilder indicating he’s a trained arcanist so I guess not.

The plot thickens! Slowly. But at least it’s going somewhere now. I can pretty much guess what the ultimate destination of this particular plot arc is going to be though, so I wish it would just get on with it.

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19 thoughts on “let’s read the wise man’s fear ch 61-62

  1. Pingback: Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 72-71 | Doing In The Wizard

  2. katz

    Highly unsurprising that this was originally an RPG setting. It’s a typical beginner’s problem: Thinking that world-building consists of making a list of inconsequential details and that good world-building means having a really long list. There’s no groundwork of ideas or overarching societal narrative(s) to hold it all together.

    And all the painstakingly recorded details are…exactly the same as pop-culture ideas about medieval Europe. Come on. My first RPG setting was an isolated demiplane being invaded by demons in hopes of making it a base in the demon-devil war and that was more original than this.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I really don’t understand how authors can approach a stereotypical ye olden fantasy times setting with any degree of enthusiasm. Just thinking about that shit makes my eyes glaze over, if someone actually forced me to sit down and draw maps and work out the currencies and languages I’d probably kill myself. It’s just absurd to see writers slave away for years and years on this massive, detailed setting and them at the end produce something that’s identical to everyone else’s.

      When it comes to world-building I often feel like it’s better, particularly if the main attraction is the world and not necessarily the story you’re telling in it, to go for a smaller, more self-contained location like a single city, a town, a ship or even just one building. Trying to create an entire world goes back to what I said ages ago about authors assuming that they can do everything Tolkien did and biting off way more than they can chew.

      Reply
  3. Zenobious

    “This just contributes to the sense that the book’s world is being made up as the story progresses. At least with books like Game of Thrones, Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter and (to an extent) Wheel of Time the authors established a reasonably consistent world early on and stuck with it, something that genre fans tend to place a premium on.”

    The sad thing is that Rothfuss actually *has* spent an inordinate amount of time world-building. As far back as his college days, he had completed enough of the setting to run pen-and-paper RPGs in it for his buddies. In an article I read about Rothfuss’s books, one of said buddies brags that this setting was intricately worked out, down to the crop rotations and exchange rates for coins — the latter of which is heavily featured in the novels, of course.

    So it’s not that Rothfuss is making the world up as he goes along. No, it was a labor of love done years before the first book was published. One must instead conclude that he’s simply terrible at world-building, and takes most of his cues from derivative genre fantasy — including RPGs. I think this will be most clearly seen in the upcoming “hunt the bandits” sub-plot, which reads like a really bad D&D adventure in the woods.

    I think your comment about mindsets is spot-on, though — Rothfuss appears to have put absolutely no effort into understanding pre-modern mindsets. They only appear, seemingly out of nowhere, in the form of simple caricatures to satisfy modern nerd prejudices. “Oh, and now the evil religious fanatics show up to ruin things for Good People!”

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      “down to the crop rotations and exchange rates for coins”

      Actually I take it back, now I’m glad we didn’t get more world-building.

      Reply
      1. Zenobious

        Someone even wrote a currency converter for the whole world’s fantasy money, with Rothfuss’s input on exchange rates:

        http://blog.patrickrothfuss.com/2012/12/secrets-currencies-in-the-four-corners-world/
        http://www.brinkofcreation.com/KKC-CurrencyExchange/CurrencyExchange.html#

        Currency is so important to Rothfuss that he’s also working with some dudes who make fantasy coins to bring his money to life! Pre-order your very own limited edition Cealdish jot right now!

        http://www.shirepost.com/wp/patrick-rothfuss/

        This worldbuilding is a marvel — it explains all the wrong things, in excruciating detail. If ever there was a time to re-read Requires Hate’s “fantasy worldbuilding is terrible” post, it is now.

        Reply
        1. ronanwills Post author

          But….. the only currency we actually see is talents! Everything just costs like 1, 2, 5 or 20 talents. He put that much effort into the world’s money and it still feels shallow and unrealistic.

          I just had a thought, maybe the book was initially chock full of world-building minutiae and his editor made him take it all out.

          Reply
      2. magpiewhotypes

        How many of us know what the exchange rates for our own currencies are? No cheating by using the Internet.

        It’s just not a detail that would be part of most characters’ lives, unless they traveled often or were actual moneychangers (and then you get into other economic issues that are way beyond my limits of knowledge). Meanwhile, characters don’t seem to have any sort of organized religion or social structure (apart from “the class system is bad, yo!”).

        Reply
      3. braak

        re: coins

        Of course, the problem isn’t at all the exchange rate between fantasy currencies, it’s that the standard currency doesn’t have any consistent exchange rate with goods and services. Kvothe pawns his lute for a semester’s worth of college tuition? What? A month’s room and board is half the cost of a book? What is even going on here?

        Reply
        1. ronanwills Post author

          The economy appears to be operating on the logic of an adventure game- give this NPC your lute to solve the “get a room” puzzle, trade book for expensive lute etc.

          Reply
      4. braak

        Heh. Actually, an economy that straight-up WAS based on RPG puzzles would be kind of funny. That seems like a Terry Pratchett book that never happened.

        Reply
      5. katz

        Actually, an economy that straight-up WAS based on RPG puzzles would be kind of funny.

        Or other types of video games. Shops that only accept payment in wolf pelts! Coins stored individually in breakable vases!

        Reply
  4. Reveen

    I’m actually starting to admire the grace and fluidity that goes into Kvothfuss’s incompetence. Showing him on his way to the Mayor instead of starting that way butters us up to be surprised when things actually get kinda interesting, then the Chandrian get brought up to reminds us why we’re reading the book and we get lulled into a false sense of security for when it veers off into complete nonsense.

    Who else has taken hack writing to levels of such simplicity and elegance? Like a gentle summer storm.

    … That last line, by the way, will come back to haunt you.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I’d say it’s more like a dancer fresh upon the field.

      (I’ve gotten a sneak-preview of the roiling horrors that await)

      Reply
      1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

        Ye gods such terrible metaphors. I can only assume they must have something to do with Felurian. Also what do they even mean? How is a summer storm different from any other seasons? Is it warmer? And what does dancing in a field mean? What does it mean?!?!?!?!

        Oh wait, it means Rothfuss is an unimaginative hack imitating Tolkien-esque language because reasons. I bet it’s all a subversion of our expectations. See how he deconstructs purple prose. You’d expect a story to have good writing but this is real life where things turn out real.

        Reply
  5. Andrea Harris

    That cute bit about “lackey” after all the clumsy attempts at doing a Tolkienish Real Fantasy Language thing would have made me throw the book straight into the garbage. It’s like Rothfuss isn’t even trying and had no idea how fourth-wall-breaking that sort of stuff is. Bad world-building indeed.

    Reply
  6. q____q

    If you’re going to introduce mysteries in your story make sure the characters don’t fail to notice things a half-attentive reader will pick up on.

    Especially if this character is DESCRIBED as a genius all the time (mh, maybe that’s a very obcsure way to please the reader?).

    Reply

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