Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 114-115

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Before we begin today’s post, let’s all take a moment to appreciate this comment by one Fibinachi, which pretty perfectly sums up a lot of the problems with these books.

Also you may notice I’m covering less material and writing these somewhat less frequently. This is due solely to the fact that the Adem section is so monumentally dull I’m actually having trouble writing these posts. But we’re nearing the end now! I will prevail!

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FOURTEEN

His Sharp and Single Arrow

My single arrow is the sharpest there is, if you know what I mean.

Anyway Kvothe is sad because he can’t play his lute (for like the fourth time) since the Adem think it’s vulgar to lay music in public. Why he doesn’t just play in his room in private isn’t explained.

All of this martial arts business is great and all but I feel like we’re forgetting something. Yes, Denna, but something else as well… something important, I just can’t…. quite…..

“Vashet,” I asked. “Do your people have stories of the Chandrian?”

Oh that’s right, the plot! How silly of me!

Vashet rebukes Kvothe for asking about things that aren’t relevant (oh Vashet, if only you knew how right you were) and Kvothe drops it because of course he does.

“What is the purpose of all of this?” I gestured between the two of us

You were the one who wanted to learn all of this shit, you tell me.

Vashet says she was assigned to teach him as a sort of convoluted method of exonerating Tempi- if Kvothe is fully Of The Lethani then he’ll retroactively be one of the Adem and Tempi won’t have taught their ways to an outsider, or something. Even Kvothe admits this doesn’t make a whole of sense.

Mercenaries are highly respected in Adem society, blah blah more world building. If Vashet thinks Kvothe is worthy she’ll sponsor him to take a test to go Full Adem but if he fails things will get “complicated”. They go and meet Shehyn again, who wants to tell Kvothe yet more world building regarding the origins of the Adem. I’ve said this before, but the plot of these books- as far as they actually have one- mainly consists of Kvothe bouncing around from place to place and being fed chunks of information.

Just a quick reminder, by the page count on my ereader edition we are currently on 1617/2140. In other words we’re coming pretty close to the climax here, and this Adem storyline doesn’t seem like it’s going to be wrapping up any time soon.

Anyway, the Adem back story. So they were founded by a dude called Aethe, which I guess makes them aetheists. Aethe was an archer who wanted to be the best archer, so he practiced archery until he was so awesome he could hit a piece of silk blowing in the wind. One day a woman named Rethe came to him and asked to become his student.

At first Aethe doubted she possessed the strength to draw the bow.

Gee I wonder why that was.

At this point the Adem were not Of The Lethani and so they fought each other lots, a way of life dedicated to ass kicking apparently acting to eliminate all internal conflict.

Eventually Aethe formed a school to teach more people how to be awesome at archery, turning out master assassins. Man, a society full of awesome archerssassins sounds way more interesting than the Adem. One day Rathe and Aethe disagreed on something and the argument became so heated that she challenged him to a duel. But when it came time to take their places Rethe didn’t bring a bow and sat on the ground, ensuring Aethe would hit her in the abdomen instead of going of going for a less dangerous leg shot. Enraged, Aethe totally pulled off a wicked shot to the heart.

Then

um

this happened:

“Still seated, arrow sprouting from her chest, Rethe drew a long ribbon of white silk from beneath her shirt. She took a white feather from the arrow’s fietching, dipped it in her blood, and wrote four lines of poetry.

“Then Rethe held the ribbon aloft for a long moment, waiting as the wind pulled first one way, then another. Then Rethe loosed it, the silk twisting through the air, rising and falling on the breeze. The ribbon twisted in the wind, wove its way through the trees, and pressed itself firmly against Aethe’s chest.

“It read:

Aethe, near my heart. Without vanity, the ribbon. Without duty, the wind. Without blood, the victory.

I think someone’s been watching a few too many Wuxia films.

This is apparently so emotional and not at all fucking stupid that it makes Vashet weep. Rethe lived for three days with the arrow sticking out of her chest, during which time she dictated “nine-and-ninety” stories that laid down the foundation of the Lethani. She claimed there was one final story more important than all the others, but then died before she could tell it.

With that apparently vital information behind us Shehyn invited Kvothe to watch some Adem fighting.

I was thinking about secrets and how people longed to keep them. I wondered what Kilvin would do if I brought someone into the Fishery and showed them the sygaldry for blood and bone and hair.

Yeah that’s…. not generally how universities or knowledge in general work. Apparently how to do magic is some sort of closely guarded secret known only to the elite who are inducted into wizard school, even though if there was a magic formula that lets you melt people’s bones or whatever that shit would be all over the place within days. “Information wants to be free”, as the frequently mis-applied phrase goes.

Kvothe gets around to asking what exactly would have happened if he hadn’t been accepted into the Adem, how they would have kept him from teaching other people what Tempi had told him.

She took a deep breath. “You could be prevented from teaching by removing your tongue or putting out your eyes,” she said frankly. “To keep you from using the Ketan you might be hobbled. Your ankle tendon cut, or the knee of your favored leg lamed.” She shrugged. “But one can still be a good fighter even with a damaged leg. So it would be more effective to remove the two smallest fingers from your right hand. This would be …”

So the Adem are violent assholes? Yes? No? The fact they’d so casually maim someone just to preserve their secrecy doesn’t seem to prompt any reaction from Kvothe beyond “gee I’m glad that didn’t happen”. Note that it’s fairly heavily implied this is still on the table if Kvothe doesn’t pass his fighting exams. And I thought my college finals wee stressful.

Then, coming over a hill, I stumbled almost literally onto a naked Adem couple tucked away in a grove of trees.

Ah, there’s that supposed Adem free-spirited sex having. Given how Vashet described it I’d have expected them to be going at it in public and walking around naked all the time but as actually described they come across more like some sort of dour monastic order.

Kvothe is lining up at the fantasy cafeteria when he noticed a mercenary and a ten year old girl staring at him (apparently kids go to Lethani School along with the adults, I guess?) and he realizes he’s been humming under his breath nervously while trying to get the image of Vashet cutting off his fingers out of his head, which is of course a big faux pas.

He considers running away to prevent any finger chopping then sits with his Shaeaeaeaead around him and has a good mope. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Kvothe is so fucking passive most of the time I can’t help but roll my eyes at him becoming even more passive.

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN

Storm and Stone

Kvothe awakens from a troubled sleep realizing that the only way out of his predicament is to become awesome at Ademing, so he throws himself with gusto into training.

But first we need to get more long-winded descriptions of Adem-town!

In most parts of the Commonwealth, or anywhere in the Four Corners for that matter, a family living in a small cottage with only a few sticks of furniture would be viewed as unfortunate. One step away from paupers.

Pretty sure in the sort of technological level this book takes place in that would have been the norm.

Anyway the Adem all have nice houses with glass windows and metal stoves for heating. Apparently mercenary work pays very well, who would have thought?

A lot of Adem houses are actually built straight into cliff sides or hills, with only windows or doors indicating their presence which I guess means the Adem use the same building principles as Minecraft players.

Vashet adjusted her sword on her shoulder, then eyed me speculatively. “Sit and listen,” she said formally. “And I will tell a story of a time long gone.”

But we just got a story

Why is so much time being spent on the Adem? Kvothe is just going to end up leaving to return to not looking for the Chandrian, this is completely pointless.

Thankfully this one is pretty short and just says that the Adem were uprooted from their homeland a long time ago and came to present day Ademre because they had nowhere else to go. The land was rugged and barren and so they became hella mercenaries to make a living.

After this mercifully brief story time Kvothe and Vashet head off to watch some Adem fighting in a meadow.

She explained how each school had standing accounts with the Cealdish moneylenders. That meant far-flung mercenaries could deposit the school’s share of their earnings anywhere people used Cealdish currency, which meant anywhere in the entire civilized world.

So apparently the four corners is the entire “civilized world” according to the people living there. I wonder what exactly Kvothe means by that- in the extremely narrow way that Europeans through much of modern history would have used it, disparaging even technologically advanced nations as “uncivilized” if they’re not culturally and racially European, or are the four corners literally more advanced than anywhere else? I want to know about some of the other parts of the world.

Speaking of world building, here’s a lesson in Adem economics:

“It is not so much, when you think of it. For years, the school feeds and clothes you. It gives you a place to sleep. It gives you your sword, your training. After this investment, the mercenary supports the school. The school supports the village. The village produces children who hope to someday take the red.” She made a circle with her finger. “Thus all Ademre thrives.”

The question that obviously comes to mind here is how much does it cost to raise an Adem child and train them to the point that they’re ready to go out and start making money. That’s obviously a concern with having kids in real life, except in real life the parents work to support their children rather than expecting the offspring to pay them back in adulthood. What would happen if the newly minted mercenary couldn’t find work, or was killed on their first assignment?

 “Knowing this, perhaps you can begin to understand what you have stolen,” she said. “Not just a secret but the major export of the Adem. You have stolen the key to this entire town’s survival.”

Okay, if literally their entire economy was based on martial arts I can see why you wouldn’t want it getting out the rest of the world but I still contend that keeping information like this a secret would be impossible. You’d get nobility kidnapping an experienced Adem and forcing them to teach their troops how to be awesome at fighting.

Kvothe watches some Adem teens fighting. He is somehow now good enough to be able to expertly critique their skills.

“They fight like puppies. They are young, and boys. They are full of anger and impatience. Women have less trouble with these things. It’s part of what makes us better fighters.”

Welp, here we go. To summarize the following conversation:

Kvothe: “woaoah women are better at fighting? But men are bigger and stronger!”

Vashet: “Ah ha ha, but you see, men are hot headed and get into fights easily whereas women are calmer and more controlled.”

Kvothe: “ZOMG”

Back in the real world a gnome-hatted figure takes the stage to accept his Real Feminist reward as confetti rains down.

Right then. First of all, this doesn’t excuse the fact that most of the women in the trilogy are helpless blushing waifs, nor does it excuse the fact that Rothfuss has engineered a society in which women are forced to make an independant living either through prostitution or cheating men out of their money with the promise of sex. Secondly, “women are wise and calm and serene” is blatent gender essentialism and is the root of a lot of negative stereotypes. It also (to me at least) veers very close to an idea male writers seem to have of a matriarchy necessarily consisting of elitist women casting men as brutish oafs (I’m looking at you here, Robert Jordan). Note that Kvothe’s society is blatantly patriarchal and yet you don’t see men constantly referring to women as weak and helpless; the way Adem society (or the Aes Sedai or what have you) is presented reeks of a fear of demasculization dressed up in the guise of progressiveness.

Eventually Shehyn steps up to fight.

Her frame was more delicate, too, her small face and shoulders making her look almost childlike. But the pronounced curve of her high breasts and round hips beneath her tight mercenary reds made it obvious she was no child.

OH PATRICK ROTHFUSS NO

Seriously. Why? Why all of the child-like women? What is going on here?

Anyway after a long and impressive fight the younger woman just about manages to win. Kvothe, who as we’ve established is a fucking idiot whenever it’s convenient for him to be, asks if this means Shehyn’s opponent will take her place as head of the school but Vashet points out Shehyn is old and you can’t really expect her to always win against radical teens.

Back at the fantasy cafeteria Vashet sits next to Kvothe, which she doesn’t normally. Kvothe asks to fight someone on his level.

“That is like throwing two virgins into a bed. Enthusiasm, passion, and ignorance are not a good combination. Someone is likely to get hurt.”

Wait, what? Has the idea of non full contact sparring never occurred to them? And this is a catch 22, he can’t fight someone his own level until he gets good enough not to hurt them but he’s unlikely to actually improve to that stage just by getting his ass handed to him by more experienced fighters. I’ve dabbled in multiple martial arts and in all of them I was paired up with other newbies to spar by the end of the first lesson.

Eventually Vashet relents and offers to find someone on Kvothe’s level for him to fight. Now I happen to know where this is going and let me tell you, we’re in for a serious treat in the next chapter. This is going to be awesome, just wait and see.

But you’ll have to wait till the next post. LOSERS.

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36 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 114-115

  1. Dr. Henry Pancakes

    I know this is way super old but I’d just like to take this time to point out that the Adem are a society where:
    1.the people are sandy-haired with blue/green eyes
    2.the live on a land the didn’t want to but had to because no one else wants it and no one else would take them after some major cataclysm
    3.consequently the have become a martial arts society in which
    4. the woman are valued as highly as the men and in some instances more highly and
    5. they only have contact with outsiders on their own limited terms….
    But lest you think to yourself, “hmm this sounds uncannily like the Aiel from The Wheel of Time series,” Patrick Rothfuss assures us several times on his blog that he has NEVER read that series. In fact, although he is a great lover of the fantasy genre and all manner of erudite and his friend are admittedly the same it appears that not only has he never read the series no one he knew had ever read the series and certainly no one had mentioned to him how oddly similar these two societies were. He mentions that in his blog. Several times.

    Reply
  2. katz

    Describing how their economy is supposed to work just throws the logistical difficulties into sharp relief. Hired hands of any sort are a rather expensive resource because you have to provide room and board–and I imagine the fancy Adem aren’t eating turnips and sleeping in a hay loft–plus, in this case, medical care and supplies like arrows. And on top of that, the actual pay for the mercenary him- or herself. And on top of that comes the money that he or she will bring back to Ademre.

    And that last bit of money has to support everyone who isn’t a mercenary–children, retired/injured people, parents or whoever takes care of young children, trainers, cooks, builders, tavern wenches, doctors, armorers, smiths, and so on. None of them have any way of creating value; it all comes from the mercenaries. So it’s likely that every mercenary needs to support three or four people in addition to him- or herself.

    Since people in other countries know that the Adem have no other way of supporting themselves, they’re in a position to do some price-fixing, especially those closer to Ademre. The mercenaries need to get jobs and bring that money back or else Grandma starves; they can’t wander around for ages looking for the best offer.

    Of course, if you’re an Adem, you’d have a lot more viable options if you didn’t have to send all that money back. After all, you’ve already got your training, and if you never come back, they’ll just think you died. There ought to be a massive class of ronin-style mercenaries who have left the order.

    And surely at some point the Adem would notice that, even if they’re being paid generously, the other guy still has a lot of money left over, and they’ve got elite ninja training and he doesn’t. And if you just killed (or held up) the guy, you’d get all of it. Without having to follow his caravan around for weeks. What I’m saying is, they should be highwaymen, which is what actual militant cultures from not very fertile places did.

    Reply
      1. braak

        Let’s add “Amazon highway robbers” to the list of “things briefly considered by Rothfuss that would have been more interesting than what he actually wrote about.”

        Someone should make a website, there’s at least for or five really good fantasy novels to be written out of this stuff.

        Reply
  3. katz

    For every mention of the curve of a woman’s breasts, I demand at least one reference to a man’s bulging package. Fair is fair.

    Reply
    1. Sevansl Canzate (@Chackludwig)

      “Their men, eyes like burning coals, hands that were made to carress, to hold and tend to your every need, firm in their stride, their bulge forming a curve like a present waiting to be ripped open… Ademre was indeed the a place where a woman -or a man of fine taste- who liked to let her eyes wander could do so unashamedly and not be dissappointed. Unlike in Vintas, where such a thing was unimaginable and reason enough to be fined more than 2 Talents, here she could press herself up against a lad’s scar-riddled, warm body, engulfed in sweat and the steam of the bath house and admire the true, untainted beauty of a dancer fresh upon the field, without being scorned for it. Now, while the Adem might tell you, out of pride, that their wealth is owed to their mercenaries, masters of their craft, they lie in doing so. It is a matter of shame for them, that they owe their prosperity to the visitors from all over the civilised world -tanned Cealdans, pale Vintish, dark-skinned, flat-nosed Eghabi from beyond the Stormwal or even the odd Wagon scum, high cheekbones, beady eyes and all, it matters not- who spend good money to taste the love of a man from Ademre. They might tell you that lust is not something to be ashamed of in their culture, and they might not even lie. But they cannot help but feel shame regardless, because they sell their bodies, be it as lovers or as killers, because they have nothing else to sell, neither ores nor livestock -as they have already sold whatever land they have. Now, to a Chronicler like me, the Adem seem not like a tribe of noble warriors, nor like one of paid lovers -whores, if you insist-, but like people who had everything taken from them. People who have even lost hope.”

      Where’s MY fantasy lit award, nerds?

      Reply
  4. Signatus

    Apparently, there are only two forms of societies possible; Patriarchal, and matriarchal. Both consist in humiliating the oposite gender, treating the “main gender” as superior and wiser in every aspect, while the other is weak and needs to be controlled. Females are treated in P.Societies as weak and feeble, while males in M.Societies are brutal and savage beasts unable to control their primal urges.
    I’ll focus on the second as the first has been sufficiently covered many, many times. As anyone who is a woman, or anyone who’se been in contact with women, both genders are pretty capable of some very nasty things, from treason to vengeance. I won’t say women in particular are more prone to cold retribution, but I’ve seen many do terrible things to ex boyfriends, ex husbands, etc. (I’ve seen men resort to some terrible things as well, trying to incapacitate their wives to get the child’s custody and even kidnapping the kid).
    So the assumption that women are wise creatures in control of their natural, primordial, animal urges is just stupid. As a sack of hormones, we (yes, I am a woman) are no more different that werewolves, where once a month we feel the need to howl over stupid things that, at other times of the month, seem insignificant. We are no more in control of our bestial nature than males are, and, for Heaven’s sake, we are the same species. With our slight differences, but our ethology is the same.

    Now, I know what Rothfuss was trying to do here. Smack everyone who called him sexist by portraying a matriarchal society. He failed miserably as this vision is closer to being sexist than a deffense of the female gender. Since I do like the Adem, I preffered looking at this from a “flaw” perspective. Societies are not perfect utopias, so I’d rather believe this is a flaw in it.

    Anyways, it seems funny how truly egalitarian societies don’t even try, because they don’t consider any gender to be relevant at all. For example, in the Dragonlance books (and in most Epic Fantasy to be honest), gender is not something even taken into consideration. Females and males alike take up arms, work at inns, ride horses, ride dragons, etc, and nobody in the whole book raises an eyebrow at it.
    The true gender equality comes from not even trying. It happens by simply not caring about what the other gender is, by placing the person in front of etiquettes.

    Authors who try too hard to portray societies while attempting to do some sort of social commentary, fail at it because they tend to overlap the side they favor and villianize or stupefy the contrary. I can’t favor a society that believes men are stupid and women are wise, like I won’t favor a society that does the contrary. Both movements imply discrimination against a collective.
    (However, this is my vision, and I am a radical egalitarian activist.)

    Anyways, at the end of the day, there are more societies than the two simplistic models normally portrayed.

    Reply
      1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

        The Wise Man’s Fear does seem to be a response to many criticisms would or at least should have faced after publishing The Name of The Wind. Tahmasp Qoli Kvothe manages to get out of the university, goes on an adventure, meets more fantasy creatures and learns important skills instead of just angsting about money while pinning after Denna around the university. It is a true measure of Rothfuss’ skill that he manages to do this without advancing the plot any more than he did in the first book or even changing the tone of the story.

        Reply
    1. welltemperedwriter

      So the assumption that women are wise creatures in control of their natural, primordial, animal urges is just stupid.

      At this point it so happens that I’m training entirely with men, and I’m pretty much the angriest and least patient of the lot of us.

      The reasons for this are why I took up martial arts in the first place.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        I used to have a very bad problem with road rage (while I was studying, I worked as a delivery service girl). Managed to get that under control after months of meditation and relaxation excercises.
        The fact that I was totally stressed out didn’t help me keep my temper cool.

        Reply
    2. Austin H. Williams

      On the other hand though, the failure to account for gender as a factor in creating societies either to one direction or another can (and often does) evince shoddy worldbuilding, and authors/creators who are either too timid or too unintelligent (or both) to address the very real way that gender affects civilisations.

      Further to that, many books that do not appear to treat gender still often (mostly?) betray the gendered constructs of the society that the author comes from, and will be full of awful, gendered tropes.

      Not addressing gender is not the same as successfully addressing gender. The latter can be done, and should be something authors strive for and be rewarded for when done thoughtfully and effectively; the problem is that it rarely receives such a treatment.

      Reply
  5. zephyrean

    @Ronan, “You’d get nobility kidnapping an experienced Adem and forcing them to teach their troops how to be awesome at fighting.”
    You forget that Kvothfuss is the only human in existence brilliant and rationalist enough to learn to establish two-way communication with the Adem. Plus, every noble magickal ninja wirth their shuriken will die before teaching their art to an outsider, and the theoretical kidnappers won’t be “of the Lethani” and thus won’t meet the alignment prerequisites for the Adem Mercenary prestige class. When you notice a plot hole, go for the cheapest cliche.

    (Sometimes even that is of no help. An elite gang of supernatural assassins, which is what the Chandrian effectively are, can’t possibly have a goal that is better accomplished by attacking tax collectors than by assassinating their target straight away. Concerning Felurian, her being stuck raping peasants for centuries and falling for a virgin teen is not just stupid, it can’t possibly happen because there are fairy kingdoms full of Orlando Bloom lookalikes to have sex with, we know this because there’s a hawtt fairy prince (or the son of a fairy prince, lern2English, Rothfuss) right in the framing story. The universe revolving around Kvothe’ magic wand doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the fact that Rothfuss failed to actually write it into the world’s specs, has to resort to author fiat overrides and is still hailed as the best writer since Shuruppak.)

    Reply
  6. lampwick

    Okay, a minor point, but — if it was the most important story of the hundred stories, why didn’t Raethe just tell it first?

    Reply
    1. Austin H. Williams

      She had to work our way up to it. When we finally get to the part about Kvothe facing the Chandrian in the last ten pages of the fourth book, he’ll cite this as foreshadowing and an excuse. /2deep4u

      Reply
  7. Marcus Livius Drusus

    …“That is like throwing two virgins into a bed. Enthusiasm, passion, and ignorance are not a good combination. Someone is likely to get hurt.”…

    The notion that there has to be a more experienced partner that introduces the other to sex is extremely annoying to me, especially in fiction. In bodice rippers it’s the rugged hero with his pure virginal love interest, and with Rothfuss and the like, scores of older hot woman dying to sleep with the nerdish hero. In either case – irritating.

    Reply
  8. ghosthelwig

    Here’s what I don’t understand. Kvothe is supposed to be one of the Adem by the end of this, right? So why is he spilling their secrets if it’s so important to their culture and livelihood that no one knows anything about them? If he’s truly one of them, wouldn’t he refuse to talk about it? This is actually one time where Rothfuss would have been perfectly justified in skipping over large sections of “the action,” but instead we’re treated to every moment in exacting detail.

    So all I’m left to assume is that Kvothe is an asshole. After all, he was perfectly willing to learn what he wanted from the Adem, purely to satisfy his curiosity (since there’s really no other reason he should even be here, IMO), but he doesn’t respect their culture at all. Despite being indoctrinated in it, he doesn’t consider himself an Adem, or else he wouldn’t be explaining all this to outsiders.

    Although I’m willing to bet this is more of an author fail than anything else. I don’t think Rothfuss actually thought through what he was doing. He doesn’t write this story like it’s truly a tale being told to two people (if it was, I doubt Kvothe would have gone into such detail over his first sexual experience, for instance). He writes it like any other book written in first person. But technically, that’s not at all how this book should be handled, given the situation he’s chosen for it.

    I would have a bit more respect for this series if in the end it turned out Kvothe was a liar. It would explain the Adem (he never actually met them, just used them to further his reputation), the sexual prowess (of course he’d lie about that, no one wants to admit their first time sucked, and if this were the case he probably never even met fairy girl)… But I know that’s not what this story is going to be. And anyway, it would probably deeply annoy his actual fans if it turned out the entire story was fiction within fiction. But at least that would kill some of the many plot holes.

    Reply
  9. ghosthelwig

    Here’s what I don’t understand. Kvothe is supposed to be one of the Adem by the end of this, right? So why is he spilling their secrets if it’s so important to their culture and livelihood that no one knows anything about them? If he’s truly one of them, wouldn’t he refuse to talk about it? This is actually one time where Rothfuss would have been perfectly justified in skipping over large sections of “the action,” but instead we’re treated to every moment in exacting detail.

    So all I’m left to assume is that Kvothe is an asshole. After all, he was perfectly willing to learn what he wanted from the Adem, purely to satisfy his curiosity (since there’s really no other reason he should even be here, IMO), but he doesn’t respect their culture at all. Despite being indoctrinated in it, he doesn’t consider himself an Adem, or else he wouldn’t be explaining all this to outsiders.

    Although I’m willing to bet this is more of an author fail than anything else. I don’t think Rothfuss actually thought through what he was doing. He doesn’t write this story like it’s truly a tale being told to two people (if it was, I doubt Kvothe would have gone into such detail over his first sexual experience, for instance). He writes it like any other book written in first person. But technically, that’s not at all how this book should be handled, given the situation he’s chosen for it.

    I would have a bit more respect for this series if in the end it turned out Kvothe was a liar. It would explain the Adem (he never actually met them, just used them to further his reputation), the sexual prowess (of course he’d lie about that, no one wants to admit their first time sucked, and if this were the case he probably never even met fairy girl)… But I know that’s not what this story is going to be. And anyway, it would probably deeply annoy his actual fans if it turned out the entire story was fiction within fiction. But at least that would kill some of the many plot holes.

    Reply
  10. Austin H. Williams

    “What would happen if the newly minted mercenary couldn’t find work, or was killed on their first assignment?”

    THIS has been the question burning in my mind all through reading about this episode, and more to it, if I were writing the damn story, this is the point where I’d step back and say, “This isn’t really a practical way to run an entire society, is it?” I mean, for fuck’s sake, the Swiss were still mostly farmers, even at the height of their military export!

    Reply
    1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

      Yeah, those descriptions of how women are child like but manage to have the figures of an adult woman seem like he’s trying to have the best of both worlds. Or perhaps Rothfuss just figured that his readership would include a large number of pedophiles and wanted to reward their faithfulness.

      Reply
      1. Andrea Harris

        The “childlike woman, big brute man” is a thing in American culture. It’s a way for American men to have their manlycakes and eat them too, because the supposed ideal is the Brute Male is tamed by the Delicate Childwaif Female to be a Better, More Civilized Man. It’s the whole “women are the ones who civilize us” thing, which leads to all sorts of other areas of American culture like the fear of domestication, which intersects with the fear of not getting married which leads to the Brute Male dying alone amidst a litter of whiskey bottles and dirty laundry (because Real Men don’t clean up after themselves, that’s what motherswivesgirlfriends are for)…

        Anyway, as concerns the Adem and their economic system: their objections to strangers like Kvothe getting in on their Lethani game sounds just like American complaints about immigrants coming here and “stealing all our jobs.”

        Reply
    2. Reveen

      To be fair the “sexy yet childlike” crap has been mega-popular for describing women in prose for, shit, centuries really. It’s one of those things writers haven’t gotten over from the 1700’s. From how strongly Rothfuss cops to that crap I’m surprised no one has died of consumption yet.

      To be unfair, why is each and every single woman in these books get that description? Nobodies tall, nobodies big boned, it’s like there’s some kind of fucked up breeding program is going on in this setting. So much that I can’t really believe that Rothfuss is merely parroting century old stereotypes.

      Reply
      1. rmric0

        “So much that I can’t really believe that Rothfuss is merely parroting century old stereotypes.”

        Actually, I can totally believe this because Rothfuss comes across as a strangely lazy and uninspired writer. What better way to skip a few steps then to have all of your characters cast from the same couple of molds?

        Reply
      2. braak

        Nobody is fat, either. It seems extra weird, because I don’t know if Rothfuss has ever looked at women, but not all women have pronounced hips. Some women have narrow hips, some women have small breasts, &c. It’s like he uses “boobs and hips” as a shorthand for femininity, without even any respect for why “feminine” should be the primary characteristic of every female character.

        I mean, whatever. It’s pretty much straight-up fantasy character description: hair color, eye color, skin color (if it’s exotic), shape of the eyes (almond, if they are elves or some analogue for east asians), boobs and hips if they’re female.

        We keep giving him shit for writing something like Dragon Age: The Book, but his character description has very little to do with what his characters are like, and very much to do with which wireframe model you’d use to render them.

        Reply
      3. Sevansl Canzate (@Chackludwig)

        Indeed, we never get any description that makes a Ceald feel distinctly different from an Aturan or an Adem, or a Wagon Bro. It’s funny because in my native language, “fantasy” is synonymous with “imagination”, which the genre is severely lacking it seems.

        And don’t insult Dragon Age by comparing it to Rothfuss, they at least had the decency to tell us that the Horn Bros you meet don’t represent ALL Horn Bros.

        Reply
      4. braak

        @Sevansl oh, man, that’s true, Dragon Age took at least a moderate amount of effort to indicate that their world had some depth of character to it. Which is more than one of the most lauded fantasy novels of the 21st century can say.

        Reply

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