Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 138-140

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Fourteen more chapters to go! The Great Work is almost complete (until the third books comes out).

Kvothe has five hours to kill before meeting the Mayor again. I can’t help but notice that a lot of these books seem to consist of Kvothe having [X] hours to kill before something happens.

He goes to Denna’s last known location on the off chance she’s still there (she isn’t).

“Ah,” he said, giving me a knowing look. “The girl. Her name Dinay?”

I nodded, knowing Denna changed her name as often as some other women changed their hair.

If one of Denna’s jilted paramours came after her- and she must be fairly sure this is a real possibility, given her habit of constantly moving around- I’m fairly certain they could track her down with a fake name that obvious. It’s kind of like Kvothe using the alias Kote, you’d think at least one person would be like “hey have you ever noticed that you look a lot like Kvothe, and also your name is suspiciously similar to his, and also you’ve got this weird sword hanging up on the wall that no one’s ever seen before, and you know all this stuff about medicine and crap that an Inkeeper probably wouldn’t, and you seemed to know what was going on when that possessed dude showed up at the Inn last night?”

Except no, the ordinary people in Kvotheland exist solely to a) irrationally praise Kvothe, b) irrationally hate Kvothe or c) irrationally trundle off and spread wild rumours whenever Kvothe so much as farts in an impressive manner.

As it turns out Denna left a note, predictably apologising for their last encounter even though that was totally Kvothe’s fault. She’s gone off on an errand for her patron for a few months, but this was before Kvothe went off galavanting so she could be back soon. Be still, my heart.

I can’t help but notice that Kvothe is still not as concerned as I’d expect about the whole “Denna is getting beaten up by her patron” thing. In fact Kvothe seems to have a curious blank spot regarding the patron in general, as he seems to have more or less given up trying to find out who he is. He was all into doing that before he found out about the abuse and when he didn’t have any moral justification to violate Denna’s privacy like that, but now that he’s got an actual imperative to hunt the guy down and put a stop to it the matter seems to have slipped from his mind. I guess we couldn’t have Kvothe actually do anything exciting, now could we.

Back at the Mayor’s pad, he initially assumed Kvothe was exaggerating about the number of bandits him and the mercenaries killed and that their leader was invincible, because I guess the Mayor isn’t a credulous jackass like everyone else. Kvothe manages to convince him in the end.

Meluan (the Mayor’s main squeeze, in case you’ve forgotten) arrives, apparently with a question she wants to ask Kvothe.



Are we going to find out more about that door thing? Because I stopped caring about that about fifty chapter ago.

Meluan and her elegant neck come in, accompanied by two serving boys with a big chest which is presumably filled with tic-tacs or something.

“I am pleased to have the chance to meet with you again … my lady?” I made the last a question as I wasn’t sure how to address her. The Lackless lands used to be a full earldom, but that was before the bloodless rebellion

The what?

Her marriage to Alveron complicated things too, as I wasn’t sure if there was a female counterpart to the title of Maershon.

The title of what?

Meluan considers herself to owe Kvothe a great debt for helping the Mayor to woo her (I kind of expected her to be pissed when she learned all those songs and stuff were written by someone else but whatever). It turns out the chest is lockless (do you see) and she opens it by means of trickery.

The open lid revealed another chest, smaller and flatter. It was the size of a bread box, and its flat brass lockplate held a keyhole that was not keyhole shaped, but a simple circle instead. Meluan drew something from a chain around her neck.

Is this Kvothe’s mystery chest that Bast was looking at earlier? Because I’ve been on the edge of my fucking seat about that, let me tell you.

The second chest contains a dark wooden box, which I guess is where the tic-tacs are. Meluan claims that they don’t know how to open it or what’s inside. I’ve never gotten this business with unbreakable doors or whatever, presumably it’s not indestructible. Hell it’s made of wood, just get a really sharp saw or something and cut it open.

There are faint carvings around the lid of the mystery box.

“It might be a Yllish story knot.”

A what now?

Apparently the box is three thousand years old (Kvothe correctly guesses this based on absolutely nothing, as far as I can tell). Can any wood experts in the audience tell me if this is feasible? It also has iron and copper in it or something. Again, I have no idea how Kvothe can tell that just by looking at it.

The Mayor quite sensibly suggests just cutting the box open, which horrifies Meluan as it’s apparently “the very root of their family”. It’s been around for three thousand years, someone would have gotten curious and just smashed the damn thing by now.

Shall we meet tomorrow to discuss the Amyr? Second bell?”

I had risen to my feet with the Maer. “If it please your grace, I have another matter that warrants some discussion.”

No fuck you, Amyr time.

Anyway Kvothe wants to tell the Mayor about him killing the Bandit Bros and Meluan is like “yeah kill more Edema Ruh” and Kvothe is like “wait they weren’t actually” and she’s like “totally were lol” and in the end Kvothe announces that he is in fact one of the white red-haired wealthy entertainers, that most persecuted and down-trodden of minorities.

Needless to say Meluan doesn’t take this well, and the Mayor is pretty peeved after Kvothe makes some intemperate remarks because Kvothe is an arrogant manchild who doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up.


Just Rewards

The next day Kvothe gets a letter from the Mayor saying that the Mayor is totally cool with Kvothe’s Wagonness but for Meluan’s sake he wants Kvothe to leave the city (bet you wished you had asked about the Amyr now huh). He also gives him three letters as rewards for all of his services, none of which give Kvothe permission to snoop around libraries looking for plot relevant information.

Second, a letter of credit enabling you to draw on my coffers for the payment of your tuition at the University.

Thank sweet merciful Christ, finally.

I am rapidly losing interest in this plotline so in summary: Meluan sends Kvothe a wooden ring which Bredon tells him is super bad news because it means meluan hates him a whole lot. Kvothe gives all the rings he’s been sent back but Stapes insists he keeps the bone ring that he gave Kvothe five hundred years ago.

Kvothe dawdles in his rooms, feeling cheated that the Mayor didn’t give him a full patronage. I can’t remember why that’s important.

Lastly I belted on Caesura and worked my shaed into a long cape. Those two items reassured me that my time in Vintas had not been entirely wasted

I beg to differ, Kvothe.

Kvothe ambles around getting into shenanigans for awhile before making his way to the docks to return to wizard school.

It strikes me that you could excise the entirety of the bandit/Felurian/Adem sections from this story and apart from Kvothe’s fancy cloak and his sword these last few Vintas chapters would slot onto the end of the previous ones effortlessly. The Lethani appears to have made no lasting impression on Kvothe, all of the characters introduced in this part have been unceremoniously left behind and Kvothe’s character hasn’t changed at all. Even murdering all those people doesn’t seem to have affected him for more than a few days. The only thing of real note that happened was the Wagon Bros incident, which just served to cause the Vintas arc to wrap up slightly earlier than it would have otherwise and provided yet another arbitrary road-block to Kvothe finding out more about the Chandrian.

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Rothfuss really had astonishingly little in the way of an actual plot when he wrote these books. There is clearly some important piece of information or guidance that Kvothe is going to find to point him toward actually advancing the story, but that can’t just be allowed to happen because this has to be a trilogy of brick-sized fantasy tomes and so the plot must be constantly dangled in front of Kvothe’s nose and then pulled away at the last second.


23 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 138-140

  1. redsilkphoenix

    Maybe the wooden box has been treated/soaked in magic chemicals that greatly retard it’s decomposition rates? There’s any number of shellacking practices from ancient times to right now that can lengthen the useful life of wooden things; could something similar have been done to this ancient box? Or am I overthinking this here?

    As for the Felurian/Adem no-strings-attached sex bits, I think it would have been more subversive for all those older women to pursue Kvothe BECAUSE he was a 16-year-old youth. You know, the same way all those middle-aged and older men in most of fiction all pursue the 16-year-old nubile girls because of the girls’ youth. Or would that idea be way too disturbing to the Rothruss fanboys?

    1. Gowan

      Too disturbing, I guess. After all, they want to imagine themselves as having sex with hot young women, but they want to imagine themselves as having sex with hot young women at every age. They wouldn’t want to settle for 40 year old women after they themselves turn 30. Which would absolutely happen if all Adem were attracted to men ten years younger than themselves.

  2. Sevansl Canzate (@Chackludwig)

    Why exactly do SFF authors believe they have to spit out these “brick-sized tomes” anyway? Most of the really good ones aren’t even that long, hell the source material (LotR) is a novella compared to this. This dude teaches English, how did he miss the “quality over quantity” mantra?

    1. Signatus

      Been asking that myself. I see a tendency as of late to create brick sized books and tell very little story. For example, in a Dance with Dragons, the book is well over a thousand pages long and yet very little actually happens, most of it being fillers. That this comes from the same dude who wrote A Game of Thrones is quiet depressing.
      Rowling also went down that path. The larger her books got, the worse the story got. The last one was a horrid mutation of otherwise a story that had so much potential for an epic ending.
      I always put LOTR as an example. In little more the size of Wise Man’s Fear, he wrote a complete story, and Tolkien did write some pointless chapters like the Tom Bombadil ones.

      It seems authors are starting to believe quantity is better than quality. That the publishers are actually publishing this is also part of the problem.

      That’s why I like Jim Butcher. I am very aware of its many problems, like sexism (although not as evident as in Rothfuss books, at least here women are useful, they orbit Harry, but they kick asses while they do), and that Harry is an evident self insert. But at least Jim can craft a plot, and he can do it in 300 pages.

      I’m not afraid of big books. I’m currently reading Fall of the Giants, and I’ve read The Swarm, but if you’re writing a big book, at least put a plot in it.

      Anyways, as for this last chapters, I didn’t dislike that Qvothe got all offended about his bloodline being mistreated. He acted like a teenager for once in both books. Teenagers have greater difficulty of logic thinking as the part they’ve got most developed in their brain is the emotional part (which explains many of the reckless stupid things they do).
      What I would like to know is why these middle class, wealthy and talented white musicians are so hated and persecuted. I don’t think its been said, only that they are because… it wasn’t cool otherwise, I guess.

      At least Rothfuss seems to have closed the money issues questline, It only took him close to 2000 pages. I guess nobody told him that typical heroes in fantasy books don’t explain where they get their money from because nobody really cares. We want to see them cracking Lord Dark’s minion skull, not have them moaning because they can’t pay for a bed in the tabern.

      I would have guessed the lady whatever would be mad upon discovering the lie. Someone already wrote that plot, and he did it way better in Edmond’s Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac.
      The fact that she has fallen in love with a lie should have angered her somehow, it would have been the logical response, but people in this world seem to exist only to be as naive as a child. It is a wonder they have managed to create something close to a civilization, considering how easily fooled they are.

      But, at this point, it is pretty obvious the world exist solely to orbit around Qvothe.

      1. Austin H. Williams

        “Anyways, as for this last chapters, I didn’t dislike that Qvothe got all offended about his bloodline being mistreated.”

        Well observed. Unfortunately, this still doesn’t pave over the gaping holes we have about the identity, profession and reputation of the Wagon Bros. Like, if he had “them eyes,” wouldn’t a dedicated Wagon-bro-phobe like Meluan have distrusted him immediately? And wouldn’t she kinda’ be given over to distrusting outsiders, especially ones with musical instruments who go about writing poetry?

        “I guess nobody told him that typical heroes in fantasy books don’t explain where they get their money from because nobody really cares.”

        In some defense of money as a plot device, it can work as a great motivator and/or MacGuffin – IN A STORY WHERE THE PLOT IS FOCUSED ON THAT MOTIVATOR/MACGUFFIN!

      2. NR

        I think GRRM’s problem with aDwD is that he actually cared about travel distances and travel time making sense. He wrote himself to a little bit of a hole in A Feast for Crows and then needed to have some characters faff around while others caught up so they all converge on Mereen. It didn’t need to be quite as large as it was to accomplish that but characters do actually change and, you know, do stuff. However, he really should’ve found a way to keep up the relevance of all his characters in relation to the purported central conflict (at the Wall) rather than having it appear that he’s gotten distracted. But then again, I love well-done politicking so I’m not exactly complaining.

        As for Bombadil, his section could obviously have been shorter but his inclusion is justified. If he symbolizes primordial nature, then his contrasting opinion on the Ring and its negligible effect on him is both interesting and also further helps the reader understand the essence of the Ring by showing, rather than having yet another Gandolf monologue.

        But Rothfuss……. Ugh.

      1. Signatus

        I don’t really think so. Not even if he got payed by the word would it be that profitable. Jim Butcher writes a book per year, Rowling spent two years aproximately per book. It took Rothfuss 7 years to write down The Name of the Wind, and four more years to write A Wise Man’s Fear.
        COmparatively, Storm Fron (Jim Butcher) was published in 2000. In that time, Jim has written 14 books (the 15th is to be released this december), a bunch of short stories or something (I haven’t read those) AND The Codex Alera which consists of 6 other books. That’s more books and words than Rothfuss has written in the same timespan.

      2. Austin H. Williams

        It’s not just money – it’s also market demand.

        For some reason (perhaps some rotted residue from being forced to read the Iliad in grade school) large swaths of fandom equate “unnecessarily long” with “epic” and “epic” with “good.”

        Ever since Tolkien, shit fantasy authors the world round have thought that the way to be “better” than Tolkien was to make something even longer, slower, more complicated and wordy. It’s like they saw the most critically frustrating aspects of Tolkien’s oeuvre, and thought, “THIS is why I love these books!”

        And then you look at the sales for people like Rothfuss, Jordan, Donaldson, Martin, etc., and you start to wonder if you’re taking crazy pills…

      3. Signatus

        That’s a ver good observation, Austin. You are indeed correct, and I’ve wondered myself whether I might be the weird one who likes a well crafted story before pages and pages of fluff.
        A more direct example of that you mentioned we can find in Paolini’s Eragon. The author himself believes he is some sort of reincarnation from Tolkien, and if my memory is correct, compared his writing to that of Tolkien, and the guy who wrote Beowulff (who I don’t remember who he is right now, and I’m too lazy to google with this tiny laptop).
        Long story short, his books are not good, as they rely on endless pages of purple prose and bland cardboard characterization. The plotholes in that thing are so huge you can drive planets the size of Jupiter through them.

      4. Austin H. Williams

        The guy who wrote Beowulf is simply referred to as “The Beowulf Poet.” But mind, if you’re trying to be like the Beowulf Poet, and you do not have a grasp on Old English, alliterative verse, meter, historical culture, etc., you’re only setting yourself up for…

        For, well, being like Rothfuss. Which, again, is evidently quite a good thing considering how much of this fecund waste he’s been able to foist upon the book-buying public.

        But you’re right – Paolini is perhaps the most prime example of everything that’s wrong with fantasy nowadays. At least they generally have the good sense to slant the marketing towards a younger audience for those stories.

        I still feel sorry for the kids who had, say, Tolkien, Pullman or Lewis – who despite their troublesome aspects, are at the very least competent writers – and then instead found themselves reaching for Eragon. Or The Name of the Wind, for that matter.

  3. katz

    Oh, so you do give someone a ring for bad things, too. Why on earth would they be beholden to accept said ring? And if they didn’t accept it, what would be the point?

  4. cetaillefer

    “In fact Kvothe seems to have a curious blank spot regarding the patron in general, as he seems to have more or less given up trying to find out who he is. He was all into doing that before he found out about the abuse and when he didn’t have any moral justification to violate Denna’s privacy like that, but now that he’s got an actual imperative to hunt the guy down and put a stop to it the matter seems to have slipped from his mind.”

    This is another one of those kernels of potential interesting twists – the weird tree monster satisfies someone’s curiosity about something they yearn to know, only the act of learning about it also makes them colossally indifferent and the protag must either 1) figure out that’s the issue to break the spell or 2) overcome the incredible amounts of inertia the spell places on them through sheer willpower. scratch that, rothfuss’d just stuff it up, I’ll write it

  5. rmric0

    “Can any wood experts in the audience tell me if this is feasible? It also has iron and copper in it or something. Again, I have no idea how Kvothe can tell that just by looking at it.”

    Wild guessing, or he’s like one of those Antiques Roadshow guys and is going off the wear on the piece and its style. Greek earthenware, for example, can typically be dated to the style (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pottery_of_ancient_Greece). IIRC the “story knots” have come up before, and they’re some kind of dead or archaic language (which would help in the dating). But we never see Kvothe studying archaeology or the visual arts, so I don’t know how he’d really make a well-educated guess.

    “Kvothe announces that he is in fact one of the white red-haired wealthy entertainers, that most persecuted and down-trodden of minorities.”

    This has actually been my only bugbear with your breakdown of these books so far. The Wagon Bros aren’t simply ersatz Romani, they’re also ersatz European Jews. Which kind of puts a whole new level of groans on top of the series’s obsession with counting talents.

    1. braak

      I’m also interested to know just how long a wooden object is expected to LAST. I’m not sure of the numbers off-hand, but it’s typically the residue from decayed wood that you find at the very old archaeological sites. (There are exceptions, but these are usually in very hot, very dry climates where the wood isn’t as much subject to rot.)

      Maybe three thousand years, I guess, I don’t know. I’m suspicious of it.

      Though, has the Lockless family been around for three thousand years? Or are they a younger family that just found a very old object? If they did just find it, how can they be sure it’s really that old, or not a fake or something?

      I don’t know, who cares. Probably there’s nothing in it anyway, because SUBVERSION.

      1. rmric0

        I guess it depends on the wood, the particular kind of object and how it’s cared for (like everything else). If the conditions are right, I could imagine that something could last indefinitely. My cursory internet search tells me that the oldest wooden artifact is a 400,000 year old wooden spear found in a cave in Germany (http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/behavior/oldest-wooden-spear). So a 3000 year old mystery box seems at least somewhat plausible if you’ve got a consistent chain of people looking over it.

        The latter questions I have no idea, because Rothfuss’s idea of adding depth and history to a world is saying “this thing is 3,000 years old.”

    2. Elspeth Grey

      Actually, I rather suspected that the Cealds, they who have beards and are only associated with money, were the ersatz Jews.

      Of course, I thought that because of more or less the same anti-Semetic stereotypes, so. Fail all around, Rothfuss!

  6. zephyrean

    > I’m fairly certain they could track her down with a fake name that obvious.
    I suspect it’s magic. Change your name slightly, become magically harder to find. Change your name to a less fancy spelling, become a regular guy. Change your name to something else, become literally another person.

    > as he seems to have more or less given up trying to find out who he is.
    Well, he kind of swore by several not-unimportant things to not try to find that out (which doesn’t excuse him for not trying any of the other solutions to Denna’s money problems).

    > Can any wood experts in the audience tell me if this is feasible?
    (Credentials: pledging to a kickstarter.) Yes and no. There are super old rare woods collected in specific places that a woodworker can identify on sight from prior experience (as in “this is 50k yr old wood from New Zealand bogs, I can tell by some of the pixels”), but Kvothe’s world doesn’t have carbon dating, so nope.

    > Thank sweet merciful Christ, finally.
    No. No. No. When you see how he uses that letter, your head will hurt.

    > Kvothe gives all the rings he’s been sent back
    Kvothe hands out the rings to (drumroll) local whores, which would be all-around commendable if Rothfuss could just stuff his misogyny back into his pants for a moment, please.

    1. braak

      I kind of liked the letter-scam, even though I’m not sure the logistics of it quite jive. It’s one of the bare handful of times that Kvothe’s reputation as a sort of subversive trickster is actually deserved.


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