Lets Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch.73-75

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Blood and Ink





IN THE THE OPHANY, Teccam writes of secrets, calling them painful treasures of the mind.

The fuck

I haven’t mentioned this before but I do like the fact that Rothfuss alludes to famous writings/plays etc at various points, and it seems to be implied that they have a noticeable effect on culture, like the popular conception of demons being heavily influenced by a play that’s been mentioned several times before. This is the sort of world building that actually adds to the setting, as opposed to just drawing maps all over the place and calling it a day.

He explains that what most people think of as secrets are really nothing of the sort. Mysteries, for example, are not secrets. Neither are little-known facts or forgotten truths. A secret, Teccam explains, is true knowledge actively concealed.

He explains that what most people think of as sandwiches are nothing of the sort. Lettuce, for example, is not a sandwich. Neither is bacon or a KFC Double Down with cheese. A sandwich, Coloneol Mustard explains, is two pieces of bread with stuff in the middle.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a self important and long winded way to explain such a simple concept before.

Philosophers have quibbled over his definition for centuries

….. Why?

They point out the logical problems with it, the loopholes,

You’re seriously going to go all the way with this?

But in all this time none of them has managed to come up with a better definition

No one cares get back to the story

Teccam explains that there are two types of secrets. There are secrets of the mouth and secrets of the heart.

This is just….. I don’t even know. How did this ever get published?

I’m just going to plough ahead because this goes on for more than a page, accomplishing nothing except to prove that Rothfuss doesn’t know what philosophers do (hint: they don’t spend centuries sitting around asking but whut r secrets rly lol). The point is Kvothe is a sad woobie panda over what he oversaw Denna doing.

The day after Kvothe followed Denna he meets up with her and she offers to show him her vagina song that she composed. This is the sort of intelligent commentary you can only get on my blog, folks.

Kvothe brings up the topic of the Mayor becoming her patron because her current one is shite but she’s having none of it.

My patron gives me other things. He knows things I need to know.


She makes him swear not to try and find out who her patron is. If her patron turns out to be any of the following people- Ambrose, Ambrose’s dad, anyone connected to Ambrose, the king, Haliax, one of the Chandrian, anyone we have been lead to believe is dead- then I’m going to blow a gasket so hard I’ll fling myself into space.

Denna asks Kvothe to swear on something and he offers “my name and all my power”.

“You are many things,” she said dryly. “But you are not Taborlin the Great.”

He better fucking not be. Actually hang on a sec, let me quote this whole bit:

“My name and my power?” I said.

“You are many things,” she said dryly. “But you are not Taborlin the


“My good right hand?” I suggested.

“Only one hand?” she asked, playfulness creeping back into her tone. She reached out and took both of my hands in her own, turning them over and making a show of inspecting them closely. “I like the left one better,” she decided. “Swear by that one.”

“My good left hand?” I asked dubiously.

“Fine,” she said. “The right. You’re such a traditionalist.”

“I swear I won’t attempt to uncover your patron,” I said bitterly. “I swear it on my name and my power. I swear it by my good left hand. I swear it by the ever-moving moon.”

I don’t know why but I have a feeling something in this conversation is going to turn out to be some kind of hint or foreshadowing when the next plot event occurs (halfway through the third book).

You know what I mean. They come and go with little gain or loss. You are the gold behind the windblown dross.

I can’t handle this dialogue

They go to a greystone they apparently found at some point when we weren’t looking.

Then she brought her harp out of its case and pulled it close to her chest, causing her dress to gather and expose a scandalous amount of leg.

Kvothe suddenly starts going on about Denna exposing her legs even though we’ve never gotten a hint that his world is that prudish before now. It’s almost like these books weren’t very well thought out.

Kvothe worries that Denna’s song will be bad and he won’t know what to say, which is actually a fairly realistically observed moment.

I’ve always found something powerfully erotic about the way a woman puts her hands to a harp



Hey, Kvothe

Come here

Shut the fuck up

The sound of it was like hammers on bells, like water over stones, like birdsong through the air

Those sounds are not in any way similar.

Kvothe claims that Denna’s song is way amazing, but then Rothfuss makes the mistake of actually including the lyrics.

Gather round and listen well,

For I’ve a tale of tragedy to tell.

I sing of subtle shadow spread

Across a land, and of the man

Who turned his hand toward a purpose few could bear. Fair Lanre: stripped of wife, of life, of pride

Still never from his purpose swayed.

Who fought the tide, and fell, and was betrayed.

Rothfuss, just because you can write well pffffthhahahaha

Rothfuss, even if you could write well that wouldn’t mean you’d be good at making up song lyrics. Fantasy Author Renaissance Man Syndrome strikes again.

Those of you who have been following along for the duration of this crazy ride and have avoided neural atrophy will remember that this is the story Kvothe heard from whats his name back in Tarbean waaaaaay the fuck back in the first half of The Name of The Wind. Yes, we’re getting some sort of advance on that plot line now, several novel’s worth of pages later. I’d get excited but if the usual pattern holds this isn’t going to go anywhere.

But Denna’s version was different. In her song, Lanre was painted in tragic tones, a hero wrongly used. Selitos’ words were cruel and biting, Myr Tariniel a warren that was better for the purifying fire. Lanre was no traitor, but a fallen hero.

I actually can’t remember who any of these guys are. Is Lanre Haliax? It’s probably not going to be relevant until the end of the third book anyway.

In her story Lanre was wronged, misunderstood. Selitos was a tyrant, an insane monster who tore out his own eye in fury at Lanre’s clever trickery. It was dreadfully, painfully wrong.

How do you know this isn’t the correct version and the one you heard is wrong? I mean okay, he kind of got a first-hand demonstration that Haliax is evil but even still. He has no reason to assume any of this is actually true.

Oh also since this story is painting their leader in a positive light her patron might in fact be one of the Chandrian. Presumably this is their plan, spread pro-Haliax propaganda very slowly with obscure unknown musicians until several thousands years pass and people are on board with them doing…. whatever it is they’re trying to do. Take over the world? Kill Tehlu?

You’ve probably heard it, in fact. Most folk have. She ended up calling it “The Song of Seven Sorrows.” Yes. Denna composed it, and I was the first person to hear it played entire.

This sort of interaction between the framing story and the past narrative would be greatly welcome if it came up more often. As it is I frequently forget that we’re actually supposed to be hearing this from future-Kvothe.

Kvothe is all shocked and stuff that Denna knows about whatever so he’s like, I can’t compliment her oh no drama drama. Denna’s patron, genealogical research, member of the court.

“Who knows? Running in the circles you do, you might have already met my patron and not even known it.”

Is it Caudicus? It better not be Caudicus.

Denna tries to prompt Kvothe for an opinion and he’s all awkward because singing the song could get her killed by the Chandrian, but he’s a fucking idiot so instead of just explaining everything he makes her pissed at him, then they get into an argument and he almost calls her a whore.

No, really.

God this book.

“You won’t shut up long enough to listen to me! I’m trying to help you!”

This is giving me distinct flashbacks to those bits in Harry Potter where Harry acts like a dick for forced drama. I have always, always hated this trope, it’s so artificial.

Half a year ago you had one foot in the gutter. Hair all shaggy and only three raggedy shirts. There isn’t a noble in a hundred miles of Imre that would piss on you if you were on fire. You had to run a thousand miles to have a chance of a patron.

Yes yes insult Kvothe more


Anyway Kvothe is an enormous pissy douchebag and they both go their separate ways. Kvothe tries to write a letter explaining everything that happened but he’s too much of an angsty little shit to get the words out.



And then the narration switches to Denna and we never have to deal with Kvothe’s bullshit again!!!!!!

Okay, no. Instead he starts reading those books of gossip and court politicking that he received some time during the last ice age.

Baron Jakis had paid several officials to avoid scandal when his youngest daughter was discovered in a brothel. There were two versions of that story, one where she was selling, and another where she was buying. I filed that information away for future use.

Maybe you can call more women whores!

I’d started a second bottle of wine by the time I read that young Netalia Lackless had run away with a troupe of traveling performers. Her parents had disowned her, of course, leaving Meluan the only heir to the Lackless lands. That explained Meluan’s hatred of the Ruh

Just in case you were still wondering why Meluan doesn’t like Wagon bros. I sort of assumed that was going to actually come up again in some way that affects the plot.

Bredon (Old Guy) is also in there, as there are suspiciously detailed rumors about him conducting some sort of pagan ritual in the woods. Hey maybe he’s the patron. That would actually be a pretty good twist.

Just when things are threatening to get interesting the Mayor enters through his creepy secret passage.


The Mayor is going to marry Meluan but he’s all annoyed because “the roads are bad” for some reason. Specifically tax collectors are getting robbed, specifically those going to the Lackless estates where that mysterious door apparently is. He’s sent soldiers but they can’t find anything. The Mayor suspects that someone in his guard is a spy so he needs to send a secret task force to clean up the problem (this sounds so much like the beginning of an RPG side quest).

The Mayor has assembled a D&D squad of a tracker, two mercenaries and an Adem warrior (super-ninja) however they’re LFM Mage 4 Int buff so he wants Kvothe to go along and wizard up the bandits. I realize this is incredibly contrived but it gets him out of the damn city so whatever.

Kvothe backs his bags and sets out on ADVENTURE!


He’s not very enthusiastic about this though because he’s hungover and didn’t sleep very well. This is probably supposed to be another subversion but at this point I just want something to happen so badly I would gladly welcome a naive farmboy just can’t wait to set out on an epic quest to defeat the Dark Lord.

The four mercenaries Alveron had assembled were waiting in a tavern two miles north of Severen. We made brief introductions and left immediately, heading north on the king’s highway.

….no descriptions or anything? Nothing?

I’ve said this before but you can really easily tell which parts of the story Rothfuss actually cares about, because he spends fucking forever on them, and which parts he wasn’t interested in because he skips right over them in a few paragraphs. The problem is that the former almost entirely consists of nothing happening.

Also, “I met up with four mercenaries in an inn”? Tell me this didn’t start out as a D&D adventure.

The truth was, he probably wanted his sweet-tongued assistant out of the way now that he had the Lady Lackless well in hand. I was foolish for not realizing it sooner.

So he sent me on a fool’s errand to get me out from underfoot

If that was the case wouldn’t he just pay Kvothe for his services and send him back to Wizard School? He didn’t give Kvothe a year long contract or anything, once he’s done the job the Mayor wanted him for he’s under no obligation to keep him around.

Then, when I ran out of money I’d be forced to return to Severen where the Maer would cluck his tongue in disappointment and use my failure as an excuse to ignore some of the favor I’d accumulated so far.

The Mayor is richer than God, if he wanted to get rid of Kvothe he could just throw a bag of money at him and send him on his way.

Then third time would pay for all, and Maer Alveron would be well and truly in my debt.

What the fuck are you talking about this doesn’t make any sense. Why does Kvothe want the Mayor any more “in his debt” than he is already? What else can the Mayor give him that he doesn’t have already? Access to libraries and shit? Kvothe hasn’t exactly been bursting with enthusiasm to hunt down information lately.

This is obviously just an authorial ploy to get Kvothe off on an adventure, but there are much better ways to do that. Kvothe could have heard that there was some Chandrian-like shenanigans going on in the Lackless lands and asked the Mayor for an adventure squad in return for his services thus becoming a proactive character instead of a reactive plot pinball who bounces from one event to the next.

I usually balk at the idea of hard and fast rules of constructing a story like the Hero’s Journey bullshit you tend to see or assigning arbitrary “acts” to movies, but I think one of the real golden rules of storytelling is that the main character must be proactive. Your protagonist has to do something, or think about doing something, or at least want to do something. Despite having a larger skillset than Batman, Kvothe by and large does  nothing. He floats through the narrative waiting for something to happen to him and it’s incredibly dull to watch.


The Players

All the world’s a terrible fantasy novel, and all the people merely D&D players.

OVER THE NEXT FEW hours of walking, I did my best to get to know the men Alveron had saddled me with. I speak figuratively, of course, as one of them was a woman

That’s the kind of thing I’d sort of expect to be stated when the characters were introduced. And if women are completely disenfranchised in this world how does one become a D&D warrior in the employ of the Mayor? It’s like the gender roles change completely between characters.

Tempi caught my eye first and held it the longest, as he was the first Adem mercenary I’d ever met.

Refresher: Adem are super-warriors from mysterious super-warrior land.

His shirt was held tight against his body with a dozen soft leather straps. His pants, too, were belted tightly at the thigh and calf and knee

And apparently they’re into bondage as well.

Everything was dyed the same bright and bloody red

This is clearly the guy you want on a stealth mission. Note that the ostensible reason for not sending regular soldiers was so no one would realize they’re in the area to root out the bandits, but I think a very obvious mercenary dude might tip someone off.

Tempi’s skin was so pale it was almost the color of cream

I wonder if there are going to be any people in this whole trilogy who aren’t white? I think it was mentioned that people from Modeg have “tanned” skin but that could mean anything.

The next guy, Dedan, is big and tough and has a huge sword so he’s obviously the Warrior class.

The lone woman of the group is Hespe.

In appearance and equipage she was a near-mirror of Dedan. The leather, the heavy sword, the slightly weatherworn and world-wise attitude

Yes but what are her stats? Did she put her starting points into Strength or Toughness?

The last guy is Marten the tracker, who is older and that’s about it. We get a brief run-down of all of these character’s equipment and then are told what their personality traits are, which is of course how you write compelling characters.

Also for some unfathomable reason Kvothe- a sixteen year old boy- has been assigned the group leader.

The Maer’s letter of introduction had described me as, “a discerning young man of good education and diverse useful qualities.” While this was perfectly true, it also made me sound like the most wretchedly useless court dandy in existence.

Insert obvious joke here.

They run across a “tinker” singing a twee little song and we’re told that they delightful “lucky” people that Kvothe likes to treat as a mobile rabbit’s foot. Given that the whole fantasy tinker archetype is based on actual cultures this is really off putting.

“Things aren’t so bad that anyone would dream of laying hands on a tinker

I kind of assumed an unarmed, unguarded salesman with tons of valuable loot and probably quite a lot of money on hand would be an obvious bandit target, but I guess there’s some sort of honour system here.

Kvothe buys a bunch of stuff off the guy and asks him to deliver a note to Denna.

So, we’re now (finally) out of the Vintish stage of the book. What did we accomplish in these chapters? Kvothe had an argument with Denna, discovered that her patron knows about the Chandrian’s history and received some sort of vague clue regarding an artifact or something in the Lackless lands. Astute readers will note that all of this could have been accomplished in a single chapter.


38 thoughts on “Lets Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch.73-75

  1. Tim

    “I think one of the real golden rules of storytelling is that the main character must be proactive. ”

    Well, one key turning point in traditional screenplay structure is when the lead stops reacting and starts acting, since usually the main story conflict is supposed to take them by surprise. Kvothe more reminds me of a blank-slate videogame character who has all his actions dictated to him from external sources because the writers don’t trust the player with the heady task of thinking.

  2. Tams

    So if Meluan’s sister is Kvothe’s mom. Then that would mean that Kvothe is a Lackless. I am going to assume that whatever the artifact the Lackless family was keeping around(the one mentioned in a previous post), is going to come up again for plot reasons, for sure.

    Also, I guess that’s why Kvothe can’t open that box, in the framing story, due to having lost his powers?

  3. katz

    Everyone in this party sounds like Dante from Devil May Cry.

    And since we’re on the subject of warriors, the worst world-building omission of all: Fucking guns! It seems like it’s somewhere in the 16th-19th centuries, right? Guns were in use during that entire period. They can make sympathy arrow-catchers and what not, but nobody has ever thought of making a sympathy gun? Kvothe actually used sympathy to kill something by launching a piece of metal at it, but doesn’t think for a second “Hey, this is a way more efficient way to kill people than concentrating really hard at them until they catch on fire or something.”

    Between that and magnets, this culture has some pretty glaring blind spots.

        1. ronanwills Post author

          To a depressing number of people fantasy isn’t fantasy if it doesn’t involve swords and elves and shit.

          I remember reading a YA book that was set in a world of roughly WWI era technology. It had all the fantasy trappings you could ask for, with magic and supernatural creatures and a big wall with undead behind it that now that I think about it is remarkably similar to the Wall from Game of Thrones, but it also had cars and telephones. I’d really love to see more of that. There’s also a video game called Valkyria Chronicles that’s set in basically fantasy-Europe and is about fantasy-WWII that does something broadly similar

      1. TACJ

        Neal Stephenson’s Baroque trilogy is basically 17th/18th century historical fiction told-as science fiction, and contains a small number of ‘fantasy’ elements. It’s pretty good.

      2. q____q

        I have font memories of Abhorsen, let’s reread and see how bad it is. Btw, prequel is coming 2014.

        Mh, I actually haven’t really ever thought about the implications of the „two lands in different stages of technological development“-setting in the Abhorsen trilogy.

        I think Nix did realize that it’s a problem when you have one „medieval“ country sitting next to a „modern“ country because the magic barrier between them somehow lets things produced with „modern technology“ deteriorate very quickly (paper, cars(?), weapons(?) etc.) when they cross the border. So Modern Country could not just go to Old Kingdom with a panzer division and conquer the place … I’m not sure about airplanes though, I think you’d have time to bomb fantasy land before the airplanes dissolve. But maybe you could not even cross the border (I remember that you can cross the border with the magical fantasy gliders, though)?

        The problem is, it should still be possible to smuggle *the knowledge* (plans, mechanics) of pistols, guns, car’s etc. into fantasy land and then just build the weapons there (in secret) and conquer the place that way. Or is there some kind of magic that prevents technological advancement?

        Anyway, I think it is pretty unrealistic to say „Here’s Medieval Fantasylandia and next to it we have Modern World and they just live alongside without really influencing each other.“ It’s still a pretty cool idea, though.

      3. Tim

        Eh, Valkyria Chronicles isn’t quite the same, the “magic” is just the not fully understood properties of a material that combines the characteristics of uranium and crude oil. The ancient race just knew how to use it better and had some built-in ability to manipulate it, but that “magic” is replicated with technology several times in the series (Maximilian does it at the end of VC1, for a start, with a doofy powersuit).

    1. magpiewhotypes

      Well, he does have an entire culture of mercenaries who wear bondage gear around, because when you’re in a hand-to-hand fight there’s nothing better than giving your opponent lots and lots of easy handholds!

      Maybe their world just has some sort of magic spell on it that keeps people from being good at fighting.

      1. katz

        Due to a mix-up that the Maer assures him was pure accident, Kvothe has been appointed leader of a group of BSDM enthusiasts.

    2. Sam Hanawalt

      I theorize that part of it is an overriding sense that guns, above all things, are symbols of an industrial age. I feel like they represent, to a fantasy writer, a more impersonal, unfeeling time–not just in the sense of killing at a distance with no regard for social station, but of a general technological milieu that isn’t conducive to the tales that fantasists want to tell. A Song of Ice and Fire might be beyond brutal, but it is up close and personal (that might not be a good example).

      That’s my theory on why guns aren’t so common in fantasy, regardless of how silly a reason that is (since guns predate industry by some centuries). Guns are utterly common in modernity and so it’s hard to leave behind our latter-day associations, irrespective of how different guns actually can be.

      1. ronanwills Post author

        Didn’t Tolkien have a beef with the industrial age? Maybe authors are just regurgitating his agrarian fantasy-lands just like they regurgitate so many other elements of his books.

      2. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

        Guns are also the weapons that transformed the nobility and royalty from killing machines into do nothing, good for nothing celebrities.

        Given that learning how to use a gun is a lot easier than a sword I think many Tolkien regurgitaters shy away from them because it makes everyone involved less badass. So guns disappear because it’s less exciting if the character that has been built up into an unstoppable badass can be killed by anyone with a gun. If all you have are things like swords once the main character has become, the latest version of, the best sword fighter in the world it’s a lot easier to keep them that way. In other words it’s just more wish fulfillment since the average fantasy reader/writer doesn’t want their self-insert to be beaten once they’ve gone through training.

      3. Reveen

        When muskets first started being used was also when wars started getting really, really brutal. Not that I really expect most bush-league fantasy writers to know that. What I wonder is why the guns haven’t been picked up by the le gritte dark fantasy crowd.

        I’d like to see Tyrion Lannister get the business end of a cannon.

  4. zephyrean

    > Just in case you were still wondering why Meluan doesn’t like Wagon bros. I sort of assumed that was going to actually come up again in some way that affects the plot.

    Uhm… it kind of does. Meluan’s sis is Kvothe’s mom.

    1. braak

      Wait a minute, though. When do they confirm that? Not in this book, is it?

      Also, DOES that have anything to do with the plot?

      Which part was the plot, actually?

  5. Andrea Harris

    Wait wait wait. Wait. A band of adult, experienced mercenaries makes Kvothe, a teenage n00b, their leader because of a letter complimenting him? OH HELL NO. Had Rothfuss never heard of the concept of Mary Sue/Gary Stu?

    As for his being unhappy to be hustled out on a quest thing because he hadn’t slept enough plus hangover, it’s hardly a subversion. JRRT had Bilbo oversleep because of the wild Dwarf party the night before and end up stumbling down the road without his cloak, etc. And he did nothing but grumble and complain about wanting to go home, blah blah… Actually, protagonists who are raring to go on fantasy quests are rather rare, most of them are shown as being happy and content on the farm/in the Shire/in the palace, etc., and only machinations from others (from Gandalf-like machinations for reasons or because the hero has some innate quality that makes him the only one who can Save The Day) can shake them out of complacency and into the plot. The Reluctant Hero, of course, is both a paean to ordinary people doing their duty and to the religious idea of a higher power guiding our lives onto the right path that we’re too dumb to see for ourselves. It’s not only not a “subversion” of the hero story, it’s one of the basic underpinnings of Western civilization.

    A real subversion might be something like a hero that’s reluctant to be sent on a quest, and all his misgivings turn out to be on the nose and the result of the Quest is disaster for everyone and the failure of the Good guys to win. Or better yet, it would be the Good guys in fact being the Baddies, the Orcs are just people who were rejected for their looks and customs and so justified in their anger at the pretty Elves, and so on… The Denna song does show a promising trend towards that one, but I have the feeling that she’ll just turn out to have been so, so wrong because she didn’t listen to Kvothe Stu.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      To be fair to Rothfuss I think the intention was that the Mayor basically told them that Kvothe was the leader of the expedition. Why he would think Kvothe was suitable for this even if Kvothe had exaggerated his tracking skills earlier, or why the mercenaries would accept him as a leader so easily, is another matter entirely.

  6. q____q

    Well he wasn’t very good at keeping that promise, was he? What does he not have in the framing story? His name and all his powers (and something something with his hands and the moon, whatever).

      1. braak

        Oh, and see, he uses the sword with his right hand.

        Well, I suppose Rothfuss can have SOMETHING out of all this.

  7. Reveen

    It’s a rare shitty novel when the fact that the patchwork plot is not only obvious, but you can clearly see the seams. We don’t even have any indication that Kvothe has any sort of combat experience, or that the mercs have any reason to give this smug redheaded scarecrow the time of day. Atleast earlier when Kvothfuss needed a new skill he learned it in record time first.

    And now, after watching Kvothe act like a wad in civilized social situations for a book and a half, we get to see how he acts when it’s time for violence to become involved. I mean, Rothfuss is such a clever and subversive writer, surely he wouldn’t resort to clearly evil bandits who are okay to kill for EXP right? Right?

    Well, I suppose it’s too much to ask for the bandits to kick his ass. Here’s some consolation. Kvothe getting his ass kicked by fire.


    I’m sure the artist (who is by no means bad, don’t get me wrong) intended this to be sad and or dramatic. Pfffft, ha.

  8. Sam Hanawalt

    She makes him swear not to try and find out who her patron is.

    Clearly Denna knows naught of Kvothe’s investigatory skills.

    I imagine that if he ever applies himself to the question of answering this mystery, we’ll be getting the answer right around six hundred thousand words later and Denna will already have wrapped up her relationship with the patron and killed all the Chandrian on her lonesome.


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