Patrick Rothfuss Reread

Rothfuss Reread: The Wise Man’s Fear, Part 6: Tangled Up

Welcome to my ridiculously detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 29-34 of The Wise Man’s Fear but also contains extensive spoilers for the whole book and the whole of The Name of the Wind — these discussions assume you’ve read all of both books. These posts are full of spoilers please don’t venture beyond the cut unless you want them. 

Abbreviations: NW = “The Name of the Wind”. WMF = “The Wise Man’s Fear”. D3 = Day Three, the forthcoming final volume. K = Kvothe or Kote when I can’t figure out what to call him and I’m feeling Kafkaesque. MT: Myr Tariniel. “D” = Denna

Useful links: The Sleeping Under the Wagon post, in which there are lots of theories. The re-read index. The map.

In last week’s comments Greyhood suggests about Auri:

It may be that someone has learned her name, and she is doing precisely what K. is doing with Kote. It’s probably what Cinder would love to be doing too so that Haliax doesn’t have power over him. Auri is changing her name. Auri doesn’t mind telling things about what she is doing (why are you on the roof?) but about her identity (how do you know that?).

This is why she is so happy a Namer has reNamed her.

This all ties into the Clinks bit. She’s hiding. And she has now allowed for the idea that K. and her are hiding together. (We’re safe now.)

So Auri would never have a frame story. K. likes telling. He’s forcing the crisis. He wants to be found. And he knows the result will probably be death (but not necessarily).

Isn’t that lovely? That really fits so well with what we know of Auri and Kvothe and what we’ve been thinking and talking about with names and the frame as well. I’m promoting Greyhood to Re’lar for this impressive insight.

So, on with the read.


Chapter 29 is “Stolen”

His lute.

Still being attacked through malfeasance by Ambrose, Kvothe goes to his room in Ankers and finds his lute is missing. It’s a short chapter, and it’s interesting that it’s set off alone as a chapter, when all there is in it is Kvothe looking for his lute and failing to find it. We already know how important it is to him. He feels as if someone has stolen his heart out of his chest.

The thing this incident reminds me of — D stealing the lute to buy the case — is O Henry’s famous Christmas story “The Gift of the Magi” where the girl sells her hair to buy a watch fob and the guy sells his watch to buy a hair tie.


Chapter 30 is “More Than Salt”

It’s his metaphor for D, but it also reminds me of the salt the peddler had in the frame that they didn’t buy and wished they had. We take salt for granted, it’s nice that they don’t.

Elodin’s class contuinues to make no sense to Kvothe because he can’t see through the metaphor. This is the class where he makes it really explicit with the “quit grabbing at my tits” one. Kvothe continues to be really dense.

After class he’s in a foul mood — he had been coping with everything, but the loss of his lute is too much, because he cannot live without music. He goes and has lunch at Ankers, and Rothfuss demonstrates his casual superiority to many American fantasy writers by showing he knows what a rasher of bacon is. (In one of Martin’s books somebody eats a “whole rasher of bacon” which would be notable only in somebody recovering from a bad illness, since a rasher is a slice.) And Anker gives him a note and he has missed dinner with D, but he skips Siaru and goes to Imre to look for her. As usual he finds her just when he has given up looking, crying over a letter in a garden.

Who is the letter from? I can’t even guess.

They both acknowledge that they are not okay, and offer to help each other, which is nice — it’s more genuine than either of them normally are with each other. Kvothe’s summary of the problem is “My bad luck got tangled up with my bad decisions” which covers it nicely. And in moments they’re back into clever banter — he’s her safe harbor in an endless stormy sea, her shady willow on a sunny day and so on, they’re trading metaphors. Then she takes him to see the new lutecase, waterproof and well designed, with a secret pocket. (Kvothe swears by “God’s body” which is definitely Tehlin. Maybe he picked it up in Tarbean.) And he feels sick because the case is lovely and the lute is stolen, then the shop-man brings out his lute, and he starts to cry.

While she is apologising, she says “I can never find you when I go looking” and we have already observed that the same is true for him with her. Could this be magical, and if so, what kind? It’s like a curse, but where would curses fit in these magic systems?

She also says:

This happens to me all the time. I try to do something good but it gets all tangled up.

Kvothe identifies with this, but it seems to me that while this has happened with stealing her ring it doesn’t happen to him very often — most of the time things work out for him.

And then he breaks into poetry:

You are my bright penny by the roadside. You are worth more than salt or the moon on a long night of walking. You are sweet wine in my mouth, a song in my theoat and laughter in my heart.

For somebody who protested he knew nothing about courting girls he’s doing OK! But it’s all deniable rhetoric. And he buys her dinner and walks back to University later happily, with his lute.


Chapter 31 is “The Crucible”

(It’s funny how this is such a commonplace metaphor when I can’t think of any other alchemical or chemical metaphors at all and I got told off for using them when I was writing poetry in school.)

With his lute back, everything is easier. Since we’ve been all about the metaphors, in a meta sense this is about writing.

Kvothe visits Sim in Alchemy. Sim has new hobnailed boots. And we haven’t seen this plan before we’re being plunged into it, which is quite unusual for these books, where we normally get everything in order and the planning before the execution. There’s no explanation of why Kvothe needs something magical that will protect his hands from heat. But I love Sim being assertive here and making Kvothe realise he knows nothing about alchemy.


Chapter 32 is “Blood and Ash”

Blood needed to make a gram, and ashes of the fire, and also Master Ash though he isn’t mentioned?

Here we are in the middle of the plan — in the forest to the north of University, with pale moonlight filtering through the bare trees. There’s a campfire in a fire pit Kvothe had dug a few days before. And “everyone else” is there, Mola and Fela, Wil and Sim. Wil and Sim look tired from watching over Kvothe. And Kvothe has finished his gram. Sim tests it with a mommet and a pin, Kvothe pretends it hurts. Then they try again, with his Alar relaxed, which feels weird after keeping it up so long. The gram goes cold against the attacks but nothing gets through. Sim mentions Devi, Mola asks for details, Kvothe explains to her about Devi. Still no explanation to us (or Chronicler and Bast) about the plan. The gram works and Kvothe sleeps in his own bed.


Chapter 33 is “Fire”

In Ambrose’s inn.

A kid shows up with a note from D, and again he can’t make dinner with her. It’s very clever how the kid has been looking around the docks for somewhere called Anchors — we’ve had “Ankers” in front of us for ages without thinking of that. He sends the boy back with another note.

And he’s off to gather wood and make a huge blaze in the forest. Fela shows up looking gorgeous, and we discover that the plan involves her having dinner with Ambrose — poor thing. Then Mola shows up with Devi, who wants a piece of Ambrose. Kvothe apologises to her. She lends Fela earrings. Mola says he and Devi are a lot alike. Devi gives Fela advice. Wil asks if all women secretly know each other — Devi says all the women have to live in one wing of the Mews and there are only a hundred of them, how can they not know each other? This is the kind of detail that makes perfect sense and which Kvothe hasn’t mentioned and might not have known.

The ear-rings are emerald tear-drops which “a sweet young boy” used to settle a debt. I think that wasd Geoffrey and they were D‘s. Sim gives something to Fela. Kvothe explains to Devi to set the mommet on fire, trying wax first and then clay.

Kvothe and Wil go into the Golden Pony, where Kvothe has been going for two span to establish a pattern. There’s a cry of “Fire!” Kvothe runs upstairs and opens the door to Ambrose’s room with a siege stone, which he explains he has made in the Fishery. He throws Ambrose’s clothes out of the window. Sim, outside, stomps on things with his hobnailed boots, which will break a clay mommet. People come in and throw water on things. Wil fakes bandaging Kvothe’s hand, which isn’t burned because of Sim’s stuff. Ambrose rushes back and accuses Kvothe of stealing, Kvothe pretends he doesn’t know whose rooms they are.

Then back in the forest Fela comes back and explains how Ambrose rushed off, and she followed and was scornful at him, and she asks Sim to improvise Eld Vintic poetry about it, which he does. Wil and Sim talk about how they have made things better — Sim by adding trashy women’s clothes to Ambrose’s clothes in the courtyard, Wil by dropping a poem about Ambrose’s “powerful affection” for Hemme. Devi asks what Kvothe did, and he says nothing but destroying the mommet. Wil mentions that he kicked over the chamber pot. He shows them that he found the pawn slip for the ring. And he tells us, but not them, that he found it in Ambrose’s purse, where there was also six talents — enough for a night out for Ambrose, or to repay his debt to Devi for him.


Chapter 34 is “Baubles”

Kvothe redeems the ring, using Ambrose’s money that he stole. In a case he sees D‘s emerald necklace, and immediately guesses that she sold it to buy his lutecase. And then he looks for her and can’t find her, what a surprise.

And we’ll stop there and start next time from Chapter 35.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently Among Others, and if you liked this post you will like it. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.


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