The Gilded Cage
Kvothe is stuck in his rooms again since he needs to be on hand in case the mayor has a sudden attack of Mayoricide and requires the sort of expert medical attention that only a sixteen year old boy can provide. I kind of thought the whole assassination plot would be an opportunity for the story to start moving along a little more quickly, but I guess not.
Kvothe goes to the Mayor’s room and sees that the birds are still alive, further eroding his credibility on the whole “Caudicus is trying to kill you” front. I know I said this was a case of actual drama but it’s quickly starting to drag now. It would be one thing if the Mayor reacted to the accusation by ordering Kvothe to be arrested and he had to prove he was right on the spot, but the way it’s set up here we’re just back to Kvothe moping around except with the vague threat of the Mayor not trusting him. I really don’t get Rothfuss’ need to constantly pad everything out so much, let’s just get to wherever this is going. I can appreciate a story that focuses heavily on the character’ day to day life, but their day to day life has to actually been interesting for me to care and Kvothe is one of the most boring fucking characters I’ve ever read about.
Kvothe heads back to Caudicus’ to get more medicine.
Caudicus returned just as I was idly considering stealing one of his gold rings.
Okay that’s actually pretty funny.
Kvothe drank some of the Mayor’s tea earlier, which he had been putting laudanum in to counteract the ophalum, or something so now he’s high as a kite. I believe this is the third or fourth time Kvothe has been drugged. He almost makes a faux pas when Caudicus asks him to pass the acid (I would really love to hear his excuse for putting that in the medicine) and Kvothe reaches for the bottle; he had been pretending to be uneducated and somewhat dim-witted so Caudicus would let his guard down. Luckily he manages to save the situation by claiming that he’s memorized the order of ingredients after watching Caudicus several times.
But he’s still raised suspicions so he figures he should make a run for it the following day if the birds don’t start dying. It just occured to me that Caudicus could wave this away fairly easily by claiming that the birds died because they have a much lower body mass and were overdosing on the stuff. Even if the Mayor countered by ordering Caudicus to start drinking it he could just say that the medicine will have a negative effect on a healthy person. Anyway, Kvothe starts sneaking around the gardens to formulate an escape plan.
While looking around Kvothe notices light coming from the window of Caudicus’ tower and decides to have a snoop.
The other person came into view, and even from this steep angle I could recognize the portly, unassuming figure of Stapes.
Kvothe reads more about the Lackless family, revealing that they’ve had a more or less continuous run of bad luck during their entire history. I wonder if this could be due to Chandrian-related ancient family heirlooms?
Kvothe stops reading about them and ponders the conundrum of the anti-Mayor plot some more. He’s now got two respected members of the Court against him and the Mayor seems far more inclined to take their side of the conflict than his. Given this dire, edge-of-your-seat intrigue the obvious course of action is for Kvothe to sit quietly in his room some more so the Mayor won’t think less of him. I swear Rothfuss could have an impending meteor impact in one of these books and he’d turn it into a reason for Kvothe to faff around doing nothing.
So it turns out that Kvothe is going to wait obediently for his superiors to call on him…. until he isn’t.
An hour after lunch, I decided I was no longer interested in currying favor with the Maer. If Alveron wished to trust his treacherous manservant, that was his business. I’d be damned if I would spend one more minute sitting idle in my room, waiting by the door like a whipped dog.
That was…. sudden. Unfortunately it turns out there’s now a guard outside his room who politely informs Kvothe that he’ll be “escorted” if he leaves his rooms. Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, Kvothe sticks it to the Man by sneaking out through the gardens instead, just like that time Mom and Dad said he couldn’t go to the Phyrewulf concert with Chad from 12th grade (I get all of my information on American adolescents from pop culture, which I assume is 100% accurate about everything).
I’m joking, but this really does feel like I’m reading about a teenager who’s been grounded, except that scenario would be more interesting because it might involve some sort of actual dramatic consequences beyond an old man not liking the protagonist as much as he did previously. Couldn’t the anti-Mayor conspiracy try to kill Kvothe or something? Won’t someone try to kill Kvothe already?
Also Kvothe isn’t sneaking out to do anything interesting, he’s just wandering around looking for his Waifu some more. He finds her and they sit around eating grapes. Denna tells him that her abusive mystery-patron has finally agreed to solidify their relationship into full patron-musicianship, which presumably means she’s got mad bank now. Kvothe is naturally not pleased that such a sketchy dude is hanging around with his waifu.
“I don’t know why you’re carrying such a grudge against him.”
….. because he beat you up and left you unconscious in front of a burning building where like 20 people got murdered, which he appears to have had something to do with? Seriously is Kvothe emitting some sort of field that makes Denna stupid in his presence? She’s come out with some extremely moronic statements since they became platonic not-lovers.
It turns out Denna doesn’t actually remember telling Kvothe this since she was high on ophalum at the time (a lot of people get high in these books) so she assumes he was talking about some other time he beat her up, which she tries to explain away as an accident.
Did I tell you that? There I was without a scratch on me and everyone else at the wedding dead as leather. You know what small towns are like. Even after they found me unconscious they thought I might have had something to do with it.
This is still the flimsiest excuse I’ve ever seen. I really have trouble believing Denna would have swallowed this and not just told him to fuck off, but then she seems to vacillate wildly between strong and confident and being a meek broken bird for Kvothe to heal with his might man-hands.
I put my head down and shook it like an ox worrying its yoke
I know mediocre authors frequently have this habit of writing body language as if they’ve never interacted with another human being before, but this blows all other head-shakings and eye-narrowings out of the water. Try to imagine how you’d react if you were in the middle of a conversation with someone- about an extremely emotional subject no less- and they actually did this.
“He beat you.” And as I spoke the words I felt a terrible anger come together inside me.
We’re really going here, then?
A cold anger builds up in Kvothe, an anger that had always been there, like ice building beneath the surface of a whatever.
She gave me a look that was all sweet fondness and mingled pity. It was the sort of look you give a puppy when it growls, thinking itself terribly fierce.
Seriously though this part is frustrating because it’s the one time the book seems to have some semblance of self-awareness about Kvothe’s douchiness….. but he’s clearly in the right about this and we’re obviously supposed to realize that Denna is making a sort of Stockholm-like knee jerk defence of Mystery Patron.
I decided to let it go rather than risk driving her away
If it’s bothering you that much you could just put your Denna-stalking skills to good use and find out who Mystery Patron is, then blackmail him or threaten him or just fucking kill him. Problem solved. But no, once again Kvothe’s reaction to a bad situation is to sit on his hands and ignore it.
I’m doing some research for him, looking into old genealogies and histories.
Why that sounds remarkably similar to what Kvothe is doing! What a coincidence. Once again our hero fails to pick up on this.
Denna has a bruise from, er, falling (ugh) and Kvothe offers to take a look at it for her.
Denna laughed at my discomfiture. “If I let anyone play doctor with me, it would be you, my Kvothe,”
Uuuggggghhhhh this dialogue so bad
Kvothe goes back to his rooms and discovers that there are now two guards on his door, who insist on following him at all times. Kvothe infers during a conversation that they were sent by Stapes- apparently a servant can order soldiers around in this palace- and marches off to the Mayor’s rooms to get rid of them.
(I’ve been calling him “The Mayor” this whole time because I legitimately can’t remember his real name even though it comes up several times per chapter)
But unfortunately the Mayor is super pissed because he thinks Kvothe lied about the whole assassination plot.
Hey, here’s an easy way to solve this problem- the Mayor’s health improved dramatically after Kvothe convinced him to stop taking his medicine; the Mayor interprets this as his illness waxing and waning as usual. They could easily settle this by just having him not take the medicine- which he claims to hate, remember- for a while longer. If the symptoms come back, it’s not poison. If they don’t, Kvothe was right and it was the medicine that was doing it.
Anyway, the Mayor is pissed and kvothe realizes he mis-judged the situation badly.
I was helpless as a child with a willow-switch sword.
you cannot escape our influence, puny author
I know those awesome cardboard tubes that come with rolls of kitchen tissue haven’t been invented yet, but do they not have sticks or planks of wood in this world? What if you don’t live in an area with willow trees nearby, do you not get to have a childhood?
Just then Stapes conveniently shows up looking guilty as hell about something. In a twist I legitimately didn’t see coming it turns out the birds died the first night after Kvothe started feeding them the medicine, but Stapes has been replacing them in secret.
Every time I looked there would be another one lying in the bottom of the cage like a little cut flower
Stapes goes on a glurge-tastic little speech about the birds giving up their souls for the Mayor and then bursts into tears, which convinces both the Mayor and Kvothe that he was actually just replacing the birds because he knew the Mayor liked them and had nothing to do with the murder plot. I can’t say I’d be so quick to let him off the hook, particularly since Kvothe saw him suspicion-talking with Caudicus. I guess I’m happy that for once someone who took an irrational dislike to kvothe turned out to not be totally evil.
Dagon, the soldier dude from way back when Kvothe first met the Mayor comes in and the Mayor orders him to arrest Caudicus. When Kvothe points out that Caudicus is an arcanist and therefore possessed of multi-faceted spooky magics (paraphrasing) the Mayor casually tells Dagon to bind him in iron and cut off his thumbs.
So as far as I’m concerned the Mayor is evil at this point. I fully admit I’m a total liberal bleeding heart, particularly when it comes to people in authority and the way they treat those who are less powerful, but I really can’t listen to a character give an order like that and maintain any level of sympathy for them.
As if to prove I’m being a wimp about this, a guard bursts into the room and announces that Caudicus has summoned some sort of deadly spirit/creature and run off. I wasn’t aware that Arcanists could do that, but apparently they can. Maybe it’s a spider crab! Maybe the Chandrian are involved!
It turns out that Caudicus holy shit how long is this chapter? I’m up to 2000 words here, and I’ve been going pretty light on the commentary.
Anyway it turns out Caudicus changed the flavour of the Mayor’s medicine like a mr. clever pants evil wizard to see if he’d stopped taking it, reasoning that the Mayor would ask him about the change in taste
Not only sitting in the Maer’s presence, I was sharing a meal with him in his private chambers. This news would be rumored through the estate in under ten minutes
Book, seriously, stop. I get it, Kvothe gained a reputation through these wacky adventures I’m reading about. You don’t need to keep pointing it out.
The Mayor tells Kvothe that he’d ordinarily throw lands and titles at Kvothe for saving his life, but he can’t let the fact that he was nearly assassinated get out to the public as it would interfere with his attempts to marry what’s her name.
However, if I were to do such a thing, there would be need of explanation.
Um, no, there wouldn’t be. You’re basically the king, you can do whatever the fuck you want.
If can’t give Kvothe land and titles can he at least give him tons and tons of money so I never have to read another Kvothe Need Money sub-plot again? Please?
This was exactly what I had been hoping for. With the Maer’s resources, I could make a concerted search for the Amyr. He could get me access to monastery archives, private libraries, places where important documents hadn’t been pruned and edited as they had in the University.
Oh I guess this sub-plot actually had a point after all. Except not really because Kvothe could have just gained the Mayor’s trust with the marriage plot and come to the exact same situation.
As I stepped outside the Maer’s rooms, Stapes surprised me with a sudden, wordless embrace. The expression on his face couldn’t have been more grateful if I’d pulled his family from a burning building. “Young sir, I doubt you understand how much I’m in your debt. If there’s anything you ever need, just make me wise of it.”
Holy fuck this is excruciating. I really thought for a second that Kvothe might actually have to face some consequences for his character flaws, but nope it’s just another we-love-Kvothe circle jerk.
Stapes gives Kvothe his silver ring, which is basically one step removed from having solid proof that he’s a personal friend of the mayor according to Vintas’ political system, and also a strange black and white ring that Kvothe has never seen before.
And then, mercifully, the chapter ends.