Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 129-132

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Interlude—Din of Whispering

Back for another session with the three assketeers, I see.

Bast is all stricken because Kvothe said Voldemort’s name. I mean, the Chandrian’s names.

“And why is that?” Kvothe prompted in his best teacher’s voice. “Because some things can tell when their names are spoken,” Bast swallowed. “They can tell where they’re spoken.”

No wait, I was right the first time.

It turns out that they can in fact track people who say their names- that’s how they found Kvothe’s troupe- but not just from saying it once.

“No. Names are the key. Real names. Deep names.

So here’s an issue that hasn’t been addressed yet- what is the deal with all of this “true name” business? Apart from ripping off Earthsea, I mean. If I remember correctly in those books the thing with the DEEP NAMES was an integral part of how the world worked, but here it just sort of comes up for no apparent reason.

Besides, if what you say about the Cthaeh is true, then things will end in tears no matter what I do. Isn’t that right?

Wait, seriously? That’s actually going to affect the plot? It was so goofy and stupid I just assumed it would be a throwaway encounter. There’s some more blathering and Chronicler was at wizard school and knows the name of iron? Did they say that in the first book? I totally forgot. Anyway back to the story.


Wine and Water

Kvothe gets to do sex with Penthe one more time and then mercifully, finally leaves the Adem.

Still, it felt good to be back on the road again, heading toward Alveron and Denna.

Hey Kvothe I wonder how many times Denna has been beaten up while you were dicking around having sex with fairies and ninjas? Also what about that whole rivalry with Carceret, that seemed like it was going somewhere.

After a few days on the road Kvothe wanders across some Wagon Bros. Still amazed he never actually went looking for any of them after his family was killed.

After a brief bit of tension where they draw swords and threaten to kill Kvothe until he reassures them that he’s a Wagon Bro as well.

I laughed too. “One family.”

“One family.” He shook my hand

One family! Unless your parents and everyone you’ve ever known is brutally murdered before your eyes, in which case no point looking for us to take care of you I guess, just fuck off to a big scary city somewhere.

Naturally the scene that follows this is twee as all fuck, and I am quickly finding myself praying for another Chandrian attack.

This is a good opportunity to take a look at how weird the names in these books are- the Wagon Bros Kvothe meets have names like Tim, Anne and Otto, then you’ve got names like Alleg and Kete (both of which are apparently actual surnames) and then…. Kvothe. His name sticks out completely like a sore thumb but no one ever seems to notice.

“Excellent,” I said after tasting it, seating myself on a convenient stump. He tipped an imaginary hat. “Thank you. We were lucky enough to nick it on our way through Levinshir a couple days ago.

So the Wagon Bros do steal stuff? I don’t see why they’d need to since they’re apparently all extremely well-off compared to the townsfolk they’re entertaining.

The other Wagon Bros ask Kvothe if he’ll travel with them and he explains that he needs to get back quickly (that months-long detour in Ninjaland was fine, but now it’s urgent) and says he’ll make a decision in the morning.

“Honestly, Anne,” Alleg asked after his second bowl. “Did you lift a little pepper back in Levinshir?”

Why are you stealing shit you have enough money for expensive musical instruments

Also why hasn’t Kvothe ever mentioned this before now?

I’m going to stop typing in italics now

There’s a whole lot of joking and laughing and and one of the Wagon Bros goes off and starts vomiting mysteriously, then

Kete returned a minute later, leading a pair of lovely young girls. One had a lean body and face, with straight, black hair cut short like a boy’s. The other was more generously rounded, with curling golden hair. Both wore hopeless expressions and looked to be about sixteen.

“Meet Krin and Ellie,” Kete said, gesturing to the girls.


Alleg smiled. “They are one of the ways in which Levinshir was generous to us. Tonight, one of them will be keeping you warm. My gift to you, as the new member in our family.”


I looked from one to the other. “That’s a hard choice. Let me think on it a little while.”


“Girls,” Alleg chided. “Don’t you know that things will get better as soon as you start cooperating?” Ellie took another slow bite, then stopped. Krin stared into the fire, her back stiff, her expression hard.


“Don’t,” I urged. “They’ll eat when they get hungry enough.” Alleg looked up at me curiously. “I know what I’m talking about. Give them something to drink instead.”

I, uh,

Kete sniffed in agreement. “Little bitch came at me when I untied her for her bath,” she said, brushing her hair away from the side of her face to reveal scratch marks. “Almost took out my damn eye.”

“Did a runner, too,” Anne said, still scowling. “I’ve had to start doping her at night.”

Okay, okay hold up.

What the fuck is going on here?

Reading ahead, Kvothe non-lethally poisoned the food and the ale the Wagon Bros were partaking…. before he knew the two girls were there. How did he formulate the plan to save them if he didn’t even know they were there? Or did he just poison all the Wagon Bros for the hell of it and it surreptitiously turned out to be useful? Do Wagon Bros usually engage in human trafficking? I mean they must, or they wouldn’t assume Kvothe would be okay with it. Why is Kvothe acting so condescending to the “girls” and treating them like children when they’re at most like two years younger than him?

Wait, where did he get the poison from? When did he put it in the food? Did he do it before he arrived, and the description we got of his arrival just didn’t mention it to facilitate the surprise?


Black by Moonlight

Okay whateverI actually thought for a second we were going to get a big twist where the Wagon Bro culture was all fucked up and Kvothe just hasn’t mentioned it before now, but nope he’s here to ride in and save the two “girls” from their captors.

 I reached out to brush a strand of hair from Krin’s cheek. To my surprise, she opened her eyes and stared at me. Not the marble stare she had given me before, she looked at me with the dark eyes of a young Denna.

Isn’t Denna like seventeen as well? Was there a massive time skip while I wasn’t looking?

Kvothe gives the two some herbs to send them to sleep then prepares to unleash the fury on the Wagon Bros. Boy it’s a good thing there are no children in the camp or this might have gotten awkward!

Kvothe uses a combination of his sick-wicked sword skills and magic to kill everyone in the camp, most of whom are unarmed and cut down while trying to flee. Kvothe, our noble hero. But he does get stabbed in the stomach for his trouble.

What exactly is the point of this scene? To show that Kvothe is some sort of stone-cold badass? Because he isn’t. That’s totally incongruous with how his character has been portrayed up till now.


The Broken Circle

Turns out Felurian’s cloak blocked most of the damage from the stab wound so hooray, Kvothe will live.

He makes a metal brand in the shape of a broken circle and burns it into the back of the hand of each member of the corpse pile he made the previous night. This is to send a message that they broke the rules of their culture, although the Wagon Bros are so rare it’s likely a non-Bro will just come across them and be like “those wagon people are fucking crazy”.

Oh and remember all those questions I asked up there about how the rest of the Wagon Bros must do this stuff too or they wouldn’t assume Kvothe would be comfortable with the whole sex-slave thing? Well turns out they were probably just thieves who murdered the wagon’s original owners. Except they acted exactly like Wagon Bros and knew all of the Bro customs well enough to fool Kvothe, soooo

These were not Wagon Bros. But they made themselves out to be. They did things no Bro would do, so I am making sure the world knows they were not part of our family.

I guess this is the No True Bro fallacy.

Turns out one of the thieves isn’t quite dead so Kvothe tortures him a bit for information.

“Ruh bastard,” he cursed at me with blunt defiance.

Wait, what? What’s that? Ambiguity? Moral complexity? PFFFT nah let’s just have the bad guys be really super evil all the time.

Kvothe offers one of the not-girls the brand and she sticks it into the dude’s chest. I’ll give her a pass on doing this, but not Kvothe.

And then the chapter ends well that was a fucking pointless bit of grimdark nonsense


34 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 129-132

  1. Reveen

    Jesus wow this is such a crock. I guess Rothfuss wanted Kvothe to have a super badass dark side to make him more of an anti-hero, so he has him kill a bunch of bandits for daring to ape his culture. But oh no, he was too chicken to actually introduce some moral complexity so he threw in the rape to make the cold murder spree against defenseless people okay.

    It’s easy to forget that vanilla non-Grimdark fantasy is just as likely to go with rape as a bludgeon to get a point across. I have a feeling that if Rothfuss actually bothered to write things happening the book would be a lot more fucky with this stuff.

  2. braak

    What the first book needs is actually a re-write, rather than an edit. Look, watch this, though:

    Let’s say the whole book was set up as an inverted Canterbury Tales. Instead of pilgrims heading to Canterbury, it’s the train of refuges heading away from Imre, towards some imagined sanctuary in the mountains. In the meantime, they fend of various factions of armed men — never sure who represents the King’s men, who are loyalists to the old king, who are bandits in disguise, who are demons in disguise — and also demons.

    Chronicler is ther eto collect the stories of as many people as he can, because that’s his calling in life — he figures he’s going to die, but at least he can leave behind a history of how the Wars began, and how they affected people. So, he gets peoples’ stories.

    Instead of interviewing Kvothe, he actually interviews a whole bunch of other people — Devi, Denna, Bast, maybe some kid from that orphanage in Tarbean, one of Kvothe’s dumb friends. Kvothe is a secondary character in all of these interlocking stories, of varied importance; sometimes he’s central, sometimes he’s ancillary. Sometimes he’s mythologized, sometimes the secrets of his trickery are revealed. One of the people that Chronicler talks to actually IS Kvothe, in disguise, with a better alias than his own actual name; this guy is constantly pointing out holes in the stories and explaining the truth behind them.

    These stories all lead up to the assassination of the king and the beginning of whatever dumb faerie war is happening here. Crucially, there are a couple ways you could handle this. For example, Denna could have been responsible for it, but Kvothe purposefully took responsibility for it in the public imagination to protect her. The last story reveals how the others, which had all been leading up to how Kvothe committed the asssassination, are revealed to be false.

    Alternately, and this is actually kind of my favorite: Kvothe isn’t a real person at all. In a sort of Murder on the Orient Express ending, Chronicler figures out that the characters he’s talking to were all in on it, and made up the character of Kvothe to cover their tracks.

    1. braak

      You simultaneously use the stakes in the framing story (instead of: “There’s a war!” “So what, listen to this story about all the chicks I boned”) AND take advantage of the principle theme: the difference between story and reality is heightened by telling the same story, or parts of the same story, from multiple perspectives.

      (This also lets you do a lot of fun aesthetic flourishes, like giving each individual story its own voice, though I don’t think those are really essential.)

    1. Sevansl Canzate (@Chackludwig)

      Volunteers for the position of editor? Just add a grin every paragraph and make sure there’s a scene where Kvothe (which means the Bladder-of-a-Thousand-Gallons, the Twiddlestick and the Equinox, but only once a year) identifies Denna solely based on the shape of her breasts.

      1. ronanwills Post author

        In that case we all collaborate on a parody version and release it at the same time.

        (I have actually toyed with the idea of doing a sort of “fan” edit of the first two books- ie cutting out all the chaff and combining them- but then I realized that if you cut out the chaff there were would literally be almost nothing left and also I’d be sailing right into territory that could potentially get me sued. If I’m sufficiently bored before the third book comes out I might post up a basic story outline for what the books would be like if they had an actual story).

  3. katz

    Every time there’s an interlude I go “Wait, weren’t they getting attacked by demon spiders and zombies and stuff? What happened to that?”

    1. ronanwills Post author

      The apocalypse is coming, but slowly enough that they can sit around a bar for three straight days grinning and winking at each other.

      1. braak

        “What if the framing story was actually a refugee caravan, that had to stave off demonic adversaries or loyalist troops or highwaymen, while in the intervening periods, everyone sat huddled together in misery while Kvothe told the story about how all of this was ultimately his own fault?”

        –question not asked by Rothfuss’ editor.

        1. ronanwills Post author

          No no, it’s way more fun if they’re just sitting in a cozy bar dicking around and drinking cider.

    2. braak

      “Didn’t a demon just try to possess one of us? Is listening to this story about how many chicks you boned as a teenager really the best use of our time?”

      1. Fibinachi

        “Shouldn’t we get some guys to bring news to the Repentant King? Hit up the local fort? Shore up some defenses? Maybe have the mayor do a speech, mention that the blacksmiths son was killed and there is a good chance that fey are attacking? Hell, let’s not call them fey, I’m the Chronicler, I’ll just say they’re evil migratory animals from down south, and you can back me up, and people’ll be belive us because they don’t want to die

        Kvothe grinned, grinning, as he grinned. Winking merily, the many-named thrice silent magic hero opened his mouth in a silence of two part – the silence of dental-work, which is the sound made before the drill is pushed into teeth, the hushed gasp of held breath and expectant fear, and the silence of an open mouth a moment before someone speaks – the silence all too soon broken by utter idiocy.

        Grinning, Kvothe replied: “I’ll cut you. Swear I will. So I was macking on this hot chick down in the College, trying to get her some fey-loving with my swordskills in exchange for money, since I was broke again…”

        With great self control, Chronicler tried once again. “Respectfully, I really must repeat my point, Master Kvothe – people have actually died. We could help calm a lot of fears, and maybe save, like, the entire town. Figure it’s kind of the thing we should be doing, as heroes. An entire band of highway robbers were brutally murdered, and we don’t know how many of them possessed by these spider things! They could be heading towards us this very moment. Please, for the love of everything that is holy, stop grinning and help me save these people!”

        Kvothe replied with a mirthless grin silence of great expression Edem Ru Adem syempathy silence of parts three ever loved someone like piece of music playing you don’t know, you just don’t know, you just don’t understand, grinning, grinning. He grinned.

        “IF you interupt me one more time, Chronicler, I will feast on your eyes and chew on your liver. With fava beans. This entire damn town could burn to the grund and everyone in it die horribly, while I stood there laughing, because this is my story! And I want to tell you of that one time I had a threesome with Denna and her identical twin sister Denni, and invented a cure of cancer at the same time!”

  4. Signatus

    As much as the Magic College bored me to sleep. As much as I rolled my eyes with Felurian’s sex fantasy chapters. As much as I hate each and every moment Denna appears on scene, and as much as I despised the pointless and childish Maer’s courtship of the Cardboard Cut Noble Woman nº 27, this was by far the worst thing I’ve ever read, ever… and that is including Twilight, which is a collection of awful things.

    This two or three chapters, and the few that follow, are just like the whole Trevon chapters in the first book. Pointless fillers that don’t move the plot and only serve to make the book bigger.
    But it’s worse.

    This book is big enough. There was no need for these last section, but the execution is just terrible.

    First of all, how convenient it is that the middle class-persecuted ethnic group (which is as credible as a 3 euro bill), are full of cliched esthereotype that no one of their group ever is. They are thieves, mugglers, rapist bastardas to the eyes of the population (albeit being respected artists, which makes no sense), and when a group appear portraying exactly those estereotypes, they are not real Ruh, they are fake, because real Ruh are touched by the angels or something. So pure and pristinous they are uncapable of any sort of evil, because music or whatever.
    Of course, you can’t have your “noble savages” cutting the throats of children, and raping the women of a rival tribe. We, the good guys, never do those sort of things. Only evil guys do it, and evil guys are not even from our nation…

    The second thing is that, in two friggin books, both close to 2000 pages long, there has not been even a glipmse of any more Ruh. They are as rare as unicorns. If I read one more time “they were artist, but they were not Ruh”, I’ll burn the book.

    The third and that is the part that totally irked me, is how Qvothe turns, all of a sudden, in some sort of frozen cold killing machine for no explanation. That is BAD BAD WRITING. I’ve seen RPG noobs stay more in character than this guy who says he spent 7 years creating this trash.
    A person does not suffer such a dramatic personality shift all of a sudden and for no particular reason, not even when angered or offended. You may yell, insult, cry, or even get into a fist fight, but normal people don’t turn into vengeance murder antiheroes just because. This is so OC, I don’t understand how the editor didn’t just toss this into the trash, it’s glaringly terrible.

    Following that, there is also the implications. It makes no sense, from a moral perspective, that a person would just go into a cold murderspree and shut down all sort of human empathy to the point of ignoring the pleads and cries of other human beings. Not only that, but (MINOR SPOILERS), Qvothe continues his journey with the rescued girls, and way into that Sidequest, he remembers he should be feeling something for killing those people, and Rothfuss creates the lamest “OMG What Have I Done” guilt scene I’ve ever seen, only to forget completely by the next page.

    I was so annoyed at this part of the book, I even woke up my bf to rant about it.

    Bad writers like this guy and Paolini tend to create sociopathic main characters and expect the rest of us to root for him because he’s the hero. The thing is, Qvothe was an arrogant, prideful asshole, but not a sociopathic psycopath. This is like reading something written by a totally different person.

    Terrible, just terrible.

      1. braak

        Hahah, actually, wait, what if that had been the moral? Like, Chronicler had heard about the famous Ruh massacre, and that everyone had attributed it to Chandrians?

        Let’s put that one on the list, too.

      2. Signatus

        If Qvothe ended up being a Chandrian, or THE Chandrian who killed his parents, that would be an awesome twist. But I don’t think so. Rothfuss seems focused on making him the dramatic hero estereotype.

    1. Fibinachi

      Ah, don’t worry about it. See, what happens is that in times of moral ambiguity, Kvothe falls back on being poisoned by that anti-alignment chemical Ambrose had someone slip into his drink. It conveniently removes all his mental barriers (Except the one to rape someone, because A Good Guy Wouldn’t), and nicely let him utterly, coldly and with great calculation murder the hell out of a bunch of people.

      Because he’s a hero! And this is his story, dammit! And he can just straight up poison a bunch of people!

      1. Signatus

        I completely forgot about Ambrose’s poison, too much BS going on in this books to keep track of it all. XD
        I think Rothfuss himself forgot about it as it doesn’t get mentioned any more after a few chapters.

  5. zephyrean

    “One had a lean body and face, with straight, black hair cut short like a boy’s. The other was more generously rounded, with curling golden hair.”
    Note how the tomboy girl is a tough survivor and the girly girl is a spineless victim. Because being girly is bad. Next chapter, Rothfuss wil share more of his profound insight on rape trauma.

    > Except they acted exactly like Wagon Bros and knew all of the Bro customs well enough to fool Kvothe
    They didn’t. Hence “Wine and Water”. They are ebul ebul racists and behaved like they *thought* Wagon Bros should behave, and Kvothe immediately caught on but didn’t tell the audience anything. And if you the reader didn’t catch on, YOU ARE THE RACISTS, JOHN.

    > I guess this is the No True Bro fallacy.
    No, just dramatic posturing. Kvothe lasted more than a whole chapter without narrating his thoughts and now has to make up for it.

    1. braak

      Also, the characteristics important when describing a rape survivor are her haircut and the shape of her tits. Good job, Rothfuss. Very feminist.

  6. braak

    I think the deal with the Wagon Bros is that when you come to a Wagon Bro camp, they’ll offer you wine, and you’re supposed to refuse it and ask for water instead. And if you refuse the wine three times, then they’ll know you are a True Wagon Bro, and welcome you as one of the family.

    The thing is that a sort of cultural shibboleth like that actually makes a lot of sense for a persecuted minority; cultures that have a long history of persecution and hostility (like the Romani, on whom the Eczema Ruh are clearly based), can often be insular and paranoid about outsiders.

    But the OTHER thing is, it’s not clear at all that the Wagon Bros really ARE a persecuted minority. There’s some talk about pogroms in the past, and there’s an ethnic slur (“ravel”, except weirdly, no one ever seems to use it), but aside from that, the Wagon Bros are basically just the same as medieval travelling theater companies.

    Romani caravans did not get the finest beds in the towns they came to, they didn’t get the use of the town hall for their performances; if they were lucky, they got a few days in a field somewhere before they were driven off.

    What this smacks of is Rothfuss trying to give Kvothe the “glamour” of being a persecuted minority, but without any actual understand of (or interest in exploring) what it means to be a persecute minority. As far as he’s concerned, being a Wagon Bro is cosmetic, like red hair or shifty green eyes.


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