Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 68-70

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The Cost of a Loaf

Kvothe and Denna traipse about having a grand old time and frolicking in the sun together, almost prompting me to get that Anakin/Padme image out again.

I flattered her outrageously and without hope, because only a fool would hope to catch her.

She’s a woman, not a fucking deer. You don’t “catch” her.

Kvothe offloads his feelings for Denna into letters and songs to Meluan so the Mayor can sex her up. I really have trouble believing that childish, inexperienced feelings of first love between teenagers would translate to a middle aged noble man trying to court an adult woman.

And in that letter or song I said all the things I hadn’t dared to tell Denna during the day. Things I knew would only frighten her away.

Why does Kvothe think she’s “running away”? She’s been portrayed as confident and out-going in all of her interactions, why does he think she’s afraid of getting into a relationship? Of course this is just to tie into Kvothe’s Nice Guy antics- he’s not like all those other guys who are trying to “catch” Denna. Oh he still wants to of course, more than anything, but he has too much respect for her to actually do it. Even though he knows she a) has feelings for him, b) thinks he doesn’t reciprocate them and c) would presumably be extremely happy to learn that he does. It would be one thing if Kvothe was just too scared to ask her out (although nothing we’ve been told about his personality explains why he would be), but his attitude here is just nonsensical. My feeling is that Rothfuss has some narrative reason for wanting to string the romance sub-plot out for as long as possible (Rothfuss appears to want to string every sub plot out for as long as possible) and he’s just chosen to go about it in an extremely clumsy way.

Kvothe hypocritically criticizes Denna’s latest scam-boyfriend for being “desperate”, then Denna mysteriously vanishes again. I hope we’re going to get some sort of explanation for why she keeps doing that.

Even then some foolish part of me hoped she would greet me at the top, rushing into my arms again with her wild enthusiasm.

Who’s desperate now?

Later that night in my rooms, I sweat and cursed and crumpled my way through twenty sheets of paper before I arrived at three brief, half-tolerable paragraphs which I gave to the Maer to do with as he wished.

I’m almost tempted to say this is deliberate, but the book has displayed such a staggering lack of awareness so far I’m not willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

I pressed on until every sound my lute made grated like a knife against teeth.

These are actually excerpts from Rothfuss’ diary after his first breakup. Later on he sets his gnome hat on fire.

Kvothe is too angsty about Denna to proxy-woo Meluan so he tells the Mayor he’s uncovered another plot on his life to buy some time. I realize this is probably supposed to be a ~subversion~ of our expectations by having Kvothe actually make up a fake assassination plot shortly after being wrongly accused of doing the same thing, but all I can think of is how much more boring a not-assassination plot is going to be than the actual assassination plot was.

“A spell, you mean,” Alveron said. “He means to conjure up a sending and set it to bedevil me?”

Tehlu anyway, spells and sendings. It was easy to forget this intelligent, subtle, and otherwise educated man was little better than a child when it came to arcane matters.

What, the magic runes you use to do magic with don’t count as spells? And what about that crazy ghost thing Caudicus conjured up to kill those soldiers? Rothfuss, your characters are magic wizards in wizard school learning magic, stop pretending otherwise.

(Actually wait maybe it was a sympathy trap or something and the soldiers just thought it was a spirit. Whatever, it’s still magic)

He probably believed in faeries

I’m loling so hard here, let me tell you. I really hope Kvothe encountering his first fairy prompts him to stop being such an elitist little shit all the time (judging by the way he acts in the framing story I’m guessing the answer is no).

Kvothe does the voodoo-doll style thing that we’ve seen multiple times before to demonstrate how Caudicus could theoretically get to the Mayor. Still not sure why this doesn’t count as a “spell” but whatever. Kvothe offers to make one of those anti-Sympathy charms he had earlier and takes the opportunity to extort the Mayor out of a formal patronage for Denna. I know that’s pretty dishonest but Denna is clearly in a bad situation and unable to extricate herself due to Mystery Patron’s influence so I’ll give Kvothe this one.

The Mayor considers getting someone in to sex up Meluan for him while Kvothe is busy, but Kvothe manages to dissuade him.

If a few days pass with nothing from us, she will be disappointed. But more importantly, she will be anxious for the return of your attention.


I considered making a comparison to playing a fish on a line

This is a really creepy and weird way to portray relationships. It ties straight into common Nice Guy and PUA thinking in which getting into a relationship is a matter of pushing the right buttons to compel a woman to have sex with you.

The same is true of women. Some cannot bear it when a man clings to them. And they all appreciate space to make their own choices.

“Women appreciate their own space and freedom” is great, but note that this is being used to justify stringing Meluan along and toying with her emotions so the Mayor can make babies with her. Also, how does Kvothe know all of this if he’s so inexperienced? I’m going to keep coming back to this because it’s seriously dumb.

Kvothe is given three days to make the charm. A reminder that the current source of drama in the story is whether or not Kvothe can scam an old man long enough to get over his angst over his waifu running off. Those Chandrian sure seem to be a long, long way off.


Such Madness

The fact that the plot is taking this long to get going is madness, I agree.

Kvothe buys materials for the Mayor’s Gram while pining over Denna. I find it kind of strange that he’s not even slightly pissed off or at least curious that she keeps vanishing without even warning him.

As I’ve already said, a gram is not particularly difficult to make if you have the proper equipment, a schema, and an Alar like a blade of Ramston steel

“Blade of Ramston steel” is a euphemism for something, if you know what I’m talking about.


I feel like I’ve read the phrase “Ramston steel” somewhere before but google searches just turn up references to the books.

Kvothe makes the Gram without much fuss and then goes to face his writers block. Hm. Relationship troubles leading to writer’s block, I wonder if we’re getting some insights into Rothfuss’ mind here.

Ten hours I spent there, and the only act of creation I accomplished was to magically transform nearly a gallon of coffee into marvelous, aromatic piss.

Okay that was actually pretty funny.

Denna reappears after seven days just as suddenly as she vanished.

I didn’t ask her about her unexplained disappearance. I’d known Denna for more than a year now, and I understood a few of the hidden turnings of her heart. I knew she valued her privacy. I knew she had secrets.

Okay, dude, that’s all well and good but I think if your extremely close friend mysteriously disappears for a week without telling you anything you’re perfectly entitled to at least ask where they’ve been.

This becomes a moot point shortly after when Denna meekly apologizes for vanishing and implies that she can’t tell him why.

That was the difference between me and the others. I did not clutch at her, try to own her. I did not slip my arm around her, murmur in her ear, or kiss her unsuspecting cheek.

Ugh shut the fuck up Kvothe. You realize you can comfort her without also trying to get her to touch your Ramston steel right? It’s odd that Kvothe insists he can’t try to “catch” Denna but also doesn’t seem particularly interested in being her friend.

But then I thought of the faces of the other men when they realized Denna was leaving them. I thought of all the others who had tried to tie her to the ground and failed.

What the fuck is this bullshit, “tie her to the ground”? Maybe they just want to be her boyfriend. Maybe you should just try to be her boyfriend instead of treating her like a rabbit you’re trying to eat for dinner.

And if that meant she wasn’t entirely mine, what of it? I would be the one she could always return to without fear of recrimination or question.


But there was always a part of me that hoped for more

Holy shit this is exactly the Nice Guy mindset to a tee. You want to put your lute in her vagina stop pretending you’re trying to be her BFF.

We spent countless hours discussing the craft of it. How songs fit together. How chorus and verse play against each other, about tone and mode and meter.

I’m not a music person at all, but could any musically minded readers tell me if this sounds like the way people discuss music or if Rothfuss is writing about something he doesn’t understand like with the science aspects.

Kvothe explains that Denna is new to music but this makes her music strange and wonderful, because music is a city, and Denna walks through the walls like a faerie creature because no one has told her not to. This comes across as rather patronizing and also facilitates the myth you see frequently that becoming an expert in something just closes your mind and makes you dogmatic so we should all pay attention to amateur physics buffs who think they’ve falsified relativity or built a perpetual motion machine. It also rather reminds me of amateur writers who pretend to be defying genre conventions when in reality they just have no idea what they’re doing.


Oh and Kvothe manages to sufficiently woo Meluan so the Mayor can initiate Operation Babby. That was…anticlimactic.

Even so, I can take only a small piece of credit for the letters and songs. And as for the poem, there is only one thing in the world that could move me to such madness.

Rothfuss, you realize this poetry thing is making Kvothe look like an ignorant shitkicker right?



Kvothe goes to hang out with his waifu some more.

I felt an upwelling of joy at the simple pleasure of being able to find her when I went looking.

There’s clearly some reason why Rothfuss is hammering on with this portrayal of Denna as a flighty animal to be captured, even down to making it so that Kvothe has to search for her every time he wants to meet her. I’m really curious what the deal is with this because it’s getting seriously annoying.

Denna’s mystery patron called her to a meeting at midnight, which he apparently does often.

Some part of me suspects he might simply be some lonely noble, bored with ordinary patronage.

I’ve been assuming there’s something interesting up with this guy but knowing Rothfuss this is exactly what it will be. The sub-plot will be resolved by Kvothe, Denna and the patron sitting around a table chuckling and twinkling their eyes at each other.

“In that case,” I said, “I have something to show you. It’s a surprise. You’ll have to trust me.”

I can’t come up with another euphemism for Kvothe’s wang right now so you’ll have to insert your own joke here.

Kvothe leads her toward a dark barn away from the city and makes jokes about seducing her which frankly comes across as a tad sinister.

“You obviously have me mistaken for a fourteen-year-old farm girl named …” Her mouth worked soundlessly for a moment. “Something rustic.”

….. Why fourteen in particular?

It turns out Kvothe isn’t going to try and molest her despite all appearances to the contrary, he just wants to sneak her into the Mayor’s gardens so they can go for an illicit stealth stroll.

She grinned at me. “You know my secret heart so well.”

Jesus Christ this dialogue

They have a glurgetacular walk through the gardens with lots of flowers and moons and stars and shadows the colour of Denna’s hair, and then this happens:

“You could put your arm around me, you know,” she said matter-of-factly. “We are walking in the gardens, alone. In the moonlight, such as it is.” Denna looked sideways at me, the side of her mouth quirking upward. “Such things are permitted, you realize.”

Yes, dear God, please. Start fucking each other like rabbits so this romantic plot tumour can finally go somewhere. Maybe Kvothe can tell Denna about his Chandrian woes and they can go on adventures and solve mysteries. Anything.

Unfortunately someone comes along before the boning can commence and they have to run. It turns out it’s the Mayor and Meluan, strolling among the roses furiously eye-banging each other.

Kvothe offers to introduce Denna to the Mayor and it turns out she didn’t actually believe that Kvothe was working for the Mayor, but now she knows he is, hooray.

“It was more exciting when I didn’t know I had permission,” she admitted with a little regret in her voice.

“It always is,” I agreed.


I’m not saying this is intentional or anything but you could, if you wanted to, read some fairly creepy subtext in this given all the Nice Guy stuff we’ve been encountering lately.

Once again the plot is going nowhere fast, but I have good news! By my reckoning we’re just about at the halfway point!




19 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 68-70

      1. Hannah

        I know this comment is very late to the party, but in all fairness to Mr Rothfuss the names he uses for his kids on the internet are pseudonyms.

  1. katz

    Okay, here’s what bugs me so much about this book being a “subversion” or a “deconstruction”: He’s just saying that because he wants every time he does something other than the thing you’d most expect to be treated as a brilliant innovation instead of basic fucking competence. No story, however traditional, always handles every single plot point exactly the way you’d expect: Switching up the formula is how you make the story actually interesting and everyone does it. The Princess and the Frog had the girl turn into a frog after kissing the prince and you didn’t hear them promoting it as a deconstruction of the fairy tale.

    But actually subverting or deconstructing something requires you to understand the original formula and how it works, and That’s Hard.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      This is what got me as well in the first book. When Kvothe talks about how this is *real life* and not like a *stupid story* and therefore *this* is going to happen instead of that other thing he’s operating under the assumption that fiction is way more rigidly formulaic than it actually is.

      1. braak

        And I think similarly peculiarly, the Kvothe in the stories keeps talking about how “this isn’t a STORY”, but the things he’s talking about are all features of modern literature, not the literature of Olde Time Dayes that he seems like he ought to be familiar with.

        It’s just very weird, reading an epic fantasy and having a dude in the actual setting keep reminding you that it’s not really an epic fantasy.

        “Okay, man, well what the hell IS it then?”

        1. ronanwills Post author

          I think what we’re seeing here is the grandiose sense of self-importance that tends to afflict amateur writers. I’m just amazed so many people appear to actually think Rothfuss is doing something interesting or clever.

  2. braak

    We spent countless hours discussing the craft of it. How songs fit together. How chorus and verse play against each other, about tone and mode and meter.

    I’m not a music person at all, but could any musically minded readers tell me if this sounds like the way people discuss music or if Rothfuss is writing about something he doesn’t understand like with the science aspects.”

    I mean, it’s like a similar passage featuring auto mechanics: “We spent countless hours discussing the craft of [automotive mechanics]. How [cars] fit together. How [engine] and [transmission] play against each other, about [horsepower] and [drive trains] and [wheels].”

    Yes, those are all, technically speaking, component parts of music, and certainly two people who knew a lot about music could have a long conversation about modes. In fact, a writer who had gone so far as to read the wikipedia article on “mode” could probably write at least two or three paragraphs about the idea, and, were he so inclined, probably even use it to construct an interesting metaphor about the themes in this scene or chaper or story.

    In order to write the quote, I suppose all he’d have to do is ask his friend who plays the guitar, “Hey, Jeff — what are some good music words?”

    1. braak

      Kvothe doesn’t, I don’t think, have a lot of formal musical theory training, but mode is still used very often when learning fretted stringed instruments (i.e., lutes), so maybe that’s how he knows about it. It is pretty fascinating, and at least fascinating enough that, if Kvothe DID know something about it, it might have come up some time before.

      Do you suppose there are no other musicians at Wizard School? Does it have a formal music theory class? Music theory was one of the four topics in the Quadrivium in Renaissance Dayes; I wonder why the University on Kvothesylvania doesn’t teach it?

      1. ronanwills Post author

        “Kvothesylvania” XD

        Imre is portrayed as akin to Music Central but I’m actually not sure if any other students are into music like Kvothe is.

        I could be totally wrong but I’ve always gotten the feeling Rothfuss himself isn’t into music and is ascribing the interest to Kvothe as a “cool” affectation. It just doesn’t come across like someone writing a topic they’re interested in themselves

      2. braak

        It’s hard to say, but I know that when I first learned about modes, and I discovered that C Major had all the same notes as A Minor (C in the Ionian and Aeolian modes, respectively [I think]) and they just sound completely different because of which note you start on, it definitely blew my fucking mind. For weeks I couldn’t not tell anyone about it. “Hurr, durr, guys, did you know about this?”

        I am suspicious that he has any interest in music at all, if he’s going to have it be a major part of Kvothe’s character and then he can’t seem to find a single interesting thing to say about it.

        (For one thing, this dummy loves world-building so much — in modern music theory all the modes have Greek names, so how come he hasn’t devoted a chapter to the different names and their fake etymologies in this setting?)

        1. ronanwills Post author

          “Aeolian modes”

          Wait, the Inn Kvothe always plays at is called the Eolian. COINCIDENCE????

          Well maybe, “Eolian” is a pretty cliched fantasy-type name for something.

      3. braak

        Well, “Aeolian Hall” is also a pretty famous music hall in London, where the Beatles recorded “A Taste of Honey” in the 60s.

    2. Raethe

      This pretty much hits the nail on the head. There’s nothing technically wrong here but it’s so vague and nonspecific that it really doesn’t indicate whether or not the author actually knows a thing about music.

      Also–though this is probably BECAUSE it’s vague and nonspecific–it sounds awfully stiff and formal. It’s totally possible to have technical and detailed conversations about music without using all the formal terminology, which is mostly what my musically-inclined friends and I do (of course, my training has been informal. People who are classically trained might differ on this). Which you’d think is what Denna and Kvothe would be doing, if Denna isn’t formally trained in music. As someone else pointed out there’s no indication that Kvothe is formally trained either.

      (Also: Hi. I usually lurk but you were soliciting comments from musicians, so boo!)


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