Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 76-78

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I get the feeling Rothfuss is having increasing trouble coming up with chapter titles, which is perhaps in indication that using chapter titles for a book with over 150 chapters might not be a good idea.

The gang decide to stop and camp for the night. As is the fashion with these books I have no idea what kind of location they’re in because nothing is described at all apart from the implied presence of trees. Kvothe makes a fire but he’s doing it wrong so Dedan (the big guy) gets all sarcastic at him.

“Dedan,” I asked, “what do you know about me?”

He gave me a blank look

“You know one thing about me,” I said calmly. “You know the Maer put me in charge.” I looked him in the eye. “Is the Maer an idiot?”

See, I could accept this if Kvothe was actually super-capable and he just needs everyone else to recognize it, but they are actually correct in their assessment that he’s inexperienced and doesn’t know what he’s doing in the wilderness (let’s just sail right past the fact that Kvothe was able to survive alone for six months when he was only twelve, apparently he forgot all of that in the mean time). A much more reasonable response would have been to just say “actually the Mayor made a mistake putting me in charge, I’ll let one of you take over and if you keep it quiet when we get back I’ll make sure you get paid extra”.

I’d also have an easier time taking all of this seriously if Kvothe wasn’t sixteen. I know teens and even pre-teens can often look way older than they are, but there’s a limit. Kvothe might be able to pass for an adult but he’s still going to look exceedingly youthful to be an experienced mercenary.

To be fair Kvothe has some tricks up his wizard sleeve, as he magics a fire into existence and everyone is like “hey brah was that magic” and he’s like “ya I’m a cool dude”.

Then I saw Marten and Hespe wearing the same expression, native Vintish superstition written clearly on their faces

Kvothe keeps banging on about Vintish people being superstitious but we have yet to get any explanation for why that is. Apparently they just are.

As they journey through the featureless void over the next few days Kvothe tries to draw Tempi (the Adem warrior) into a discussion. He mentions the Lethani (the Adem martial art/philosophy) but Tempi won’t talk about it. Also he has pale grey eyes. His eyes are pale grey. Have I mentioned how pale grey his eyes are? Because they’re pale grey. And he fidgets a lot and sweeps his hand through his fair hair. While fidgeting, and looking away with his eyes, which are pale grey. While he fidgets and sweeps his hand through his hair. And looks away. With his eyes. Which are pale grey.


Pale greyennysworth

The Knights of Cliche arrive at a big inn after ten hours on the road. No mention is made of what the landscape they’re passing through looks like or any other details that indicate they’re on an epic journey as opposed to just taking a stroll down to the shops.

Dedan took a deep breath. “Can you smell that? I tell you, there’s a woman in this place could cook a stone and make me beg for more. Sweet Peg. By these hands, I hope she’s still around.

“By these hands”

He made a curving gesture, showing the double meaning of his words as he nudged Marten with an elbow.

A “curving gesture”? What, like when characters in old cartoons do that hourglass shape with their hands to indicate they think a woman is hot? Because people in real life don’t actually do that. I’m picturing little dotted lines appearing in mid-air.

I’ve brought up the theory before that parts of these books were written years apart, and this strikes me as something that Rothfuss might have churned out in his teenage years. The purple prose is mostly gone, but it reads like amateur internet fiction.

Hespe is for some reason pissed off at Dedan for expressing the desire to sleep with someone so Kvothe expels the tension by pointing out that they can’t waste their money.

Marten smiled ruefully at the suggestion. Hespe’s eyes were for Dedan, who continued glowering in my direction. Tempi fidgeted, his expression unreadable as ever.

See Spot run. Run, Spot, Run.

I really get the feeling Tempi was the only one of these characters Rothfuss actually cares about, the rest are just filler.

Tempi glanced at me with his pale eyes, fidgeted, and looked away.

Have I mentioned that his eyes are pale? And he fidgets. And looks away. With his pale eyes.

Also “fidgets” is kind of an unfortunate choice of word since I’m picturing Tempi sort of twitching constantly now.

Then I sat down, bone weary and wondering what I could do to get Dedan to stop acting like such a little swaggercock

The dude made one mildly rude comment about you and talked about having sex with someone. This isn’t exactly scintillating interpersonal drama.

I looked up to see a woman’s face and well-advertised bosom framed by a tumble of bright red curls. Her skin was white as cream with just the barest hint of freckle. Her lips a pale, dangerous pink. Her eyes a bright, dangerous green.

Well, we could spend an entire blog post unpacking this paragraph. Let’s skip right over the bosom and get to the way mediocre white authors have this tendency to express beauty in terms of relative whiteness. “Dude, she was like, totally pale. Like, deep-sea fish pale. She was literally transparent. Way hawt”. What the fuck is “dangerous” pink and “dangerous green”?

The barmaid immediately expresses her desire to bone Kvothe because he is for some reason irresistible to the opposite gender. Is he releasing pheromones or something? Needless to say his seduction-field has never garnered attention from another guy. The other bros in the bar think that Kvothe was the one who initiated the boning attempt but she turned him down, just as she had turned down all of these men who apparently regularly frequent an Inn in the middle of nowhere. Because Kvothe is so awesome that women who turn down everyone else want to bone him the instant they lay eyes on him.

I guess I shouldn’t harp on about this too much, since I happen to know that it’s going to get much worse soon.

Marten (old dude) comes over and tells Kvothe that Dedan and Hespe are in love but but they don’t realize the other returns their feelings, which I guess is why she was all bent out of shape earlier. I don’t think Hepse has spoken a single line of dialogue so far so it’s a bit hard to care about this.

Tempi was easy to spot in his mercenary reds. He was facing the hearth, watching the fiddler tune his instrument. There were several empty glasses on the table in front of him, and he had loosened the leather straps of his shirt. He eyed the fiddler with a strange intensity

I think the implication here is that Tempi wants to touch the guy’s fiddle, but the way he’s been staring at people makes him seem like a serial killer getting ready to cut someone head off.

As I watched, a serving girl brought him another drink.


One of his hands moved smoothly to the curve of her waist and rested there. She didn’t seem to mind.

Nope, I guess all the major characters in this book are straight as a lute handle.

Dedan starts loudly talking about their mission to hunt down “lawless damn ravel bastards”, “ravel” being Rothfuss’ twee little slur for the wagon bros. Kvothe has him brought over to the table to tell him that this is supposed to be a sneaking mission.

“Oh,” I said, as if a thought had just occurred to me. “Could you do me a favor?” He nodded and I gestured him closer. “I’m worried Hespe might end up talking about our job for the Maer. If the bandits hear we’re hunting them, things will get ten times harder.” A guilty look flashed across his face. “I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t mention it, but you know how women like to talk.”


No seriously, how does that solve the problem of Dedan being an idiot?

Before this Kvothe asks Dedan about the red headed women who was coming on to him earlier and he tells Kvothe (with lots of grinning and chortling and eye-twinkling) that she’s way out of his league and only one man in a thousand could ever hope to be attractive enough to sleep with her and God this is such a juvenile wish fulfillment fantasy.

Believe me though, it gets worse. Oh, does it get worse.


Another Road, Another Forest

Another meandering, pointless chapter.

The dudebros (and Hespe) set off again into the woods, having saved and replenished their health at the Inn.

Now that I was watching more closely, I spotted the marks of

infatuation on Dedan. The way he said Hespe’s name. The coarse jokes he made when talking to her. Every few minutes he would find an excuse to glance in her direction. Always under some pretext: a stretch, an idle glance at the road, a gesture to the trees around us.

Despite this, Dedan remained oblivious to the sporadic courtship Hespe was paying him in return

What the fuck is wrong with these people? Why is everyone in this book completely oblivious?

Tempi continues to be weird.

The few questions I put to him were still met with awkward fidgeting, nods, shrugs, or shakes of the head

He’s like bad writing personified.

If you remember (you probably don’t) the deal with the Lethani is supposedly that the Adem store up their words to burn them as energy later. No, it doesn’t make any more sense in context. I’m already dreading whatever idiotic cod-philosophy gets wheeled out to explain how it actually works.

The truth was, after catching glimpses of what Elxa Dal and Fela could do by calling on the names of fire and stone

Has anyone else noticed that that thing with Kvothe calling the wind at the end of the first book might as well not have happened? It hasn’t actually come up again and even Kvothe doesn’t seem to remember he did it.

Marten wouldn’t eat meat that had the barest bit of pink to it

I thought I was the only one who did this! Marten and me are bros.

But in terms of odd behavior, Tempi was the prize winner of the lot. He wouldn’t look me in the eye. Didn’t smile. Didn’t frown. Didn’t speak.

But he does do lots of head shaking and fidgeting and looking away with his eyes. His PALE GREY eyes.

Since we left the Pennysworth, he had made only one comment of his own free will. “Rain would make this road another road, this forest another forest.”

The thought of having to read any more of this guy’s dialogue is already making me feel tired.

In order to “develop” these characters Rothfuss assigns them stock personality traits that don’t really match up with anything we actually see of them. Marten is argumentative and stubborn except when we actually see him talk to anyone, Hespe is “lazy” just because I guess. It’s a real sign of a lazy or poor writer when they don’t even understand their characters as well as the reader.

And then there was Tempi, a hired killer who wouldn’t look me in the eye or hold a conversation

For fuck’s sake we get it.

After five days of walking they get to the place where the attacks were happening.

A twenty-mile stretch of twisting road that ran through the Eld: no towns, no inns, not even an abandoned farm. An utterly isolated stretch of the king’s highway in the middle of an endless ancient wood. The natural habitat of bears, mad hermits, and poachers. A highwayman’s paradise.

I have to wonder why anyone thought it would be a good idea to build a road here, or that it would be a good idea to transport tons of tax cash-money along it. This makes perfect sense for an RPG where you need to give the players an excuse to fight bandits but not for a cohesive fictional setting.

Kvothe comes up with a plan to search the forest that doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me. Admittedly I know jack shit about scouting and militarying  but it hinges on the assumption that the bandits will have worn a trail from their camp to the road, which isn’t necessarily the case. If Kvothe, who has no experience with this at all, realizes that always taking the same route to and from a camp will leave a trail then surely experienced bandits will have thought of it as well.

Then again Kvothe seems to have some sort of innate skill when it comes to this stuff, as we’re repeatedly told that the other adventure pals are surprised at how awesome he is at coming up with plans. Remember in the first book how Kvothe wasn’t really that awesome, it was just that everyone else in the world was a credulous fool who immediately started spreading wild rumours the moment they saw something out of the ordinary? Well now it seems Kvothe really is just inherently great at everything.

Dedan snorted. “Hell, I’ve thought about it once or twice.” At a look from Hespe he snorted

snort snort snort snort

Look at this pig I found

2013-08-18 17.11.21

His name is Jeremy and he is a very dapper pig

Tempi fidgeted a little, but didn’t say anything. He looked at me briefly, then broke eye contact, glancing down and to the side.


Also please for the love of God tell me he’s not supposed to have some sort of social anxiety disorder or Asperger’s or something.

 I’d tried to draw the Adem into a conversation several times with the hope of discussing the problem with him, but it was like trying to have a chat with a cat.

You mean he keeps rubbing his head against you and he likes climbing onto your shoulders? Maybe the cats Kvothe hangs around with aren’t as awesome as my cat.

Anyway dedan insults him so Tempi walks over to him and starts picking a fight.

You? Always talk. Chek chek chek chek chek.” He made a motion with one hand, like a mouth opening and closing. “Always. Like dog all night barking at tree. Try to be big. No. Just noise. Just dog.”

And he’s, uh, a Hollywood Russian I guess?

Dedan tries to shove him away so Tempi lightly swats him on the side of the head.

It wasn’t even hard enough to move Dedan’s head, but we could all hear a soft paff sound, and Dedan’s hair puffed out like a milkweed pod someone had blown against.

I’m really having trouble picturing this scene in any way that doesn’t resemble a Loony Tunes cartoon.

They start fighting and Dedan turns out to be lighter on his feet than you’d expect, and they man-bond over their rough-housing (but not in like a gay way because cooties). During this thing Tempi slaps Dedan across the face.

What’s wrong with you? Did you just slap me?” He peered out at Tempi from behind his hand. “You fight like a woman.


Then he gave the first smile I had ever seen from him and gave a small nod and shrug instead. “Yes. I fight like a woman.

Oh God I can see where this is going don’t do it nooooooo

Fortunately that particular bit of fail is delayed for the moment (it will come up again)

Kvothe trues to talk to Tempi about his bright red clothes and he starts fidgeting and looking away and Oh god how long is this chapter

I don’t need to tell you how infuriating it is to try and have a discussion with a person who won’t look you in the eye

…. is it? I’ve never gotten the impression this is that big a deal. Hell Denna spends half her time blushing and staring at the ground when Kvothe is around.

So our band of heroes turn out to be a pack of one-dimensional cliches, to no one’s surprise. Who will survive the upcoming battle against the bandits? Will anyone care? How many chapters will Rothfuss string out the search for? Will whats-his-face and The Woman find true love?

2013-08-18 17.11.04

Jeremy is fed up with this bullshit


30 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 76-78

  1. Ross Geller

    Holy shit. You’re hella annoying. You misunderstand so much, and you have a holier than thou attitude.

  2. Kip Manley

    “You know one thing about me,” I said calmly. “You know the market decided I wrote a fantastic book.” I looked him in the eye. “Is the market an idiot?”

  3. braak

    So, I actually want to look at that fight with Dedan and Tempi, though. When I read these books, I was blinded by whatever force it is that makes them seem likable, but EVEN THEN it seemed like there was something weird about it.

    Is it really the case that in the fight, Dedan, like, winds up a haymaker or something, and then stops halfway through it to jab at Tempi? Is that what Rothfuss describes in there?

    1. ronanwills Post author

      Yeah, he starts with a really heavy punch and then half way through starts doing really agile light jabs.

      1. braak

        But, in the middle of another punch, right? Halfway through the punch, he suddenly punches with a different punch? How is that even possible? What does it LOOK like?

        That was what nagged at me, trying to figure out what Rothfuss saw in his mind when he wrote that.

  4. katz

    Chapter titles are one of those “resist the temptation” things, IMO. It’s so easy to think that they’ll make the book so much more compelling and give it so much more character, or else you thought of one or two titles that you really really want to use and didn’t consider what you’re going to do about the rest of the chapters, or you’ve gotten so wrapped up in your first chapter that it feels like a work in itself…but no. It usually just feels like the content of your chapters is insufficient to support them.

  5. zephyrean

    “Kvothe keeps banging on about Vintish people being superstitious but we have yet to get any explanation for why that is. Apparently they just are.”
    Stock racial trait. Cealdish = merchant, Vintish = superstitious, Modegan = hawtt.

    “I guess I shouldn’t harp on about this too much, since I happen to know that it’s going to get much worse soon.”
    That red-haired barmaid is the woman from Kvothe’s upcoming icing-on-the-shit-cake misogynist soliloquy. So IT HAS BEGUN.

    “No seriously, how does that solve the problem of Dedan being an idiot?”
    It does. He’s apparently enough of an idiot to get offended if told to shut up. So Kvothe formulates the suggestion in a way that will spare Dedan’s feeeeelings. (It actually works IRL with children.)

    On the poetry hate thing: my country’s only professional filker expresses a similar incoherent dislike of poetry that doesn’t manifest in any way but these random outbursts. I suspect both she and Rothfuss saw that twee quirk in a fantasy novel and thought it cool enough to adopt.

    1. sonamib

      That red-haired barmaid is the woman from Kvothe’s upcoming icing-on-the-shit-cake misogynist soliloquy. So IT HAS BEGUN.

      You mean THAT soliloquy, where women can either be a symphony or a simple song and by the way Kvothfuss is totally not a misogynist? I don’t even dare think about it.

  6. Marcus Livius Drusus

    About the campfire issue – it seems that Rothfuss was just searching for something for Kvothe to botch up, and chose the first thing that came in mind. But when you think about it, it makes no sense, because Kvothe grew up travelling with nomadic-esque people, and you’d think he’d learn to build and light a fire at a pretty young age.

    1. pnb

      Did nobody actually read the chapter? He always intended to light the fire using sympathy, and therefore did not need to bother building the fire “the right way”. The mistake he mentioned is not considering how the other mercenaries might react to the sympathy.

      I agree there are several things to complain about throughout the books, but a lot of the things mentioned seem to be very minor, or just plain “I didn’t understand what I just read, so I’ll complain a bit”

      1. neremworld

        Why would he need to build a fire differently if he’s going to light it with sympathy? You don’t build a fire because of a specific way of lighting it. You build it so it will burn in specific way.

  7. rmric0

    I would like to know just what qualifies as superstition in a world with a school for witchcraft and wizardry. And why does a wizard look down on people for being superstitious (apart from being an asshole)? That’s like a doctor deriding people for believing in medicine.

    1. Reveen

      Being wary of some punk who can toss around magic fire = superstitious.

      Make’s sense! An enlightened man of science wouldn’t quake in fear of a mere forest fire!

    2. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

      Well for a while in The Middle Ages The Catholic Church claimed witches couldn’t exist. superstition is relative and it makes sense that a pretentious asshole like Kvothfuss would regard anyone who doesn’t have the same understanding of magic as he does as being superstitious. Basically it’s yet another way for the wealthy and well educated to look down on their social inferiors for not being as wonderful as them.

  8. Orryia

    “Dedan,” I asked, “what do you know about me?”

    He gave me a blank look

    “You know one thing about me,” I said calmly. “You know the Maer put me in charge.” I looked him in the eye. “Is the Maer an idiot?”

    Oh, this the kind of thing I used to write when I was twelve. Though even then I’d be embarrassed when I came back to read it two months later. I knew that it was wish fulfillment (even before I knew the term), and I’d certainly never try to publish it.

    Jeremy is a pretty cute pig. It would be nice if you kept him around, but I guess that would fall under the category of animal cruelty.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      Unfortunately Jeremy lives on a farm and will likely be sausage quite soon, but on the internet he can live forever!

  9. Reveen

    I guess Rothfuss was going for the broody, mysterious, asshole thing with Tempi there. But I just kept expecting him to get caught snorting from one of those old-timey cocaine bottles, what with all the fidgeting.

    Looks like were heading right towards Pat’s loud, proud, statement of dude-feminism. How did it never occurred to him that slaps=fight like a woman makes the concept dead on arrival?

    1. welltemperedwriter

      How did it never occurred to him that slaps=fight like a woman makes the concept dead on arrival?

      It doesn’t even make sense in context. Slapping is something you do to provoke or insult, it’s not a real fighting move. (Aside from boxing someone’s ears, I guess, but I wouldn’t call that a slap.)

      So the totally obvious implication here is that Tempi is a woman in disguise, right? But if she’s a professional fighter she’s not going to slap someone. It’s a waste of time. Women who train in fighting (I happen to be one) aren’t going to bother with that.

      And if Tempi’s a dude after all then it all makes even less sense.

      1. braak

        The thing with the Ademre is that they turn out to not be actually very great, but this particular bit ISN’T all that bad, and really does seem to be something that seems weird and strange because we don’t fully understand the culture that it comes from.

        Also, regular fighters DO slap each other, usually when they’re playing or “roughhousing”. It’s a way of asserting superiority without having to have to actually hurt the other person.

      2. welltemperedwriter

        Also, regular fighters DO slap each other, usually when they’re playing or “roughhousing”. It’s a way of asserting superiority without having to have to actually hurt the other person.

        Fair point. This excerpt doesn’t read that way to me, though–and it wouldn’t have occurred to me to cast it along gendered lines.

        1. ronanwills Post author

          There’s a reason he agrees to the “fight like a woman” thing that ties into the Adem’s culture. You’ll see.

  10. Andrea Harris

    Re looking people in the eye bullshit: I hardly ever look people in the eye. It feels intrusive and, I dunno, rude. Supposedly the US is “look me in the eye when you say that” central but I’ve hardly had other people bother me about it so it doesn’t actually seem to be a big deal in real life, but it comes up in fiction all the time for some reason.

    As for that lonely road through the forest – it could work if it was an old road that used to be a well traveled route until something (plague, war) happened to depopulate the countryside, but it was still a useful shortcut to get to some place. Otherwise yeah, it’s very contrived and goes with the poor worldbuilding in this book.


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