Mar 1 2011 9:30am

The Road to Tinue: Spoiler Review of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick RothfussI can’t recommend reading The Wise Man’s Fear without reading The Name of the Wind first, because this is one of those cases where what you have is the middle third of a story. What I do recommend if you like fantasy and you haven’t read The Name of the Wind is that you go to however much trouble it takes to get hold of a copy this afternoon, and you start reading it this evening after dinner, because these are extremely good books. What The Wise Man’s Fear does that the first book couldn’t is demonstrate that Rothfuss can sustain this story and make it work. I am confident now that the third volume when it eventually appears will work and will complete the story.

What’s so good about these books isn’t that they are particularly original, it’s how well they’re done. Rothfuss has built a really three dimensional fantasy world, with layers of history. Against that he’s telling the story of one hero, or maybe villain, Kvothe, who is really smart but who screws things up the way really smart people do. There’s a frame story in which Kvothe is telling his story, and then there is the story he tells, in first person and close up. Rothfuss really uses this device to make sure we know things ahead of time and that we both know and do not know other things. Additionally, the whole thing can be seen as a meditation on the nature of storytelling and legend-making. What this is is an extremely immersive story set in a flawlessly constructed world and told extremely well. I don’t want to criticize it and analyse it—I don’t want to step that far away from it. I want to sink down below the surface of it and become completely immersed. If I want more (want more!!!) it isn’t because of narrative tension, it’s the same way I want to run more hot water into the bath because I don’t want to get out yet.

Spoilers for The Wise Man’s Fear below. Go here for my spoiler-free review.

I like the world for having bits on the map where we’re not going to go, and Rothfuss for telling a story of the world that isn’t a group of adventurers going on a quest. I like the little asides—the way people ask “how’s the road to Tinue” for “how are things going” and how there are different cultures and habits and different currencies. Rothfuss really does this well. It also has humour. It’s not funny in the way of most allegedly funny fantasy, which draws on things outside the story to make a silly gag. It’s also not dead serious and humourless the way a lot of fantasy is. It contains humour arising from the characters and situations, so while sometimes it’s tragic, at other times it’s funny, just like real life. This is impressive because it’s rare.

From now on, this post is going to be full of spoilers and speculation. Really, spoilers starting here, no mushy half-measures, I’m talking about the plot here. Go read the book first. It comes out today (March 1st). I promise I will keep paying attention.

I wasn’t expecting The Wise Man’s Fear to spend so much time in the University, when we know from the framestory that Kvothe has so many things to become famous for. The Name of the Wind covers Kvothe’s life up to sixteen, this book covers another year... or two. The confusion is because Kvothe spends some time in Fae, which is three days in the outer world, but some considerable time longer as his body experiences time.

The book begins with Kvothe still at the University, still in an ongoing feud with Ambrose—and I have a theory about Ambrose, which is coming later. He still has no money, he’s still seeing Denna when he isn’t looking for her and not finding her when he is, he’s still singing at the Eolian. Ambrose gets Denna’s ring and Kvothe gets hurt trying to get it back and Ambrose does malfeasance trying to get at him and Kvothe has to make a gram to protect himself. It’s all lovely and it all fits seamlessly onto the end of The Name of the Wind, and just when I started to wonder if we were ever going to get anywhere, Kvothe is tried under the Iron Law for speaking the Name of the Wind against Ambrose at the end of the last book.

We don’t get an account of the trial, because we’ve already had one in the frame story, and Kvothe says everyone knows how he learned Tema overnight and defended himself. But after the trial he has to leave for a while, and suddenly—he’s shipwrecked on the way but he doesn’t bother describing it—he’s in Vintas, at the court of the Maer Alveron, learning a new culture, saving Alveron’s life and helping Alveron court Lady Lackless. Remember Lady Lackless? She’s the one he sang a song about as a little boy, a song his mother stopped him singing because it was mean. Remember his mother was a noblewoman stolen away to become Edema Ruh? Well, Lady Lackless had an older sister stolen away by the Ruh so she hates them. Also, when he first meets her she looks terribly familiar. Is she his long lost aunt? Only time will tell.

Also in Severen is Denna. I don’t like Denna, but I like her better in this book. For one thing, she gets a Bechdel moment when Kvothe overhears her talking to a girl she’s rescued from rape in an alley about the miserable alternatives that exist for women like them. That made her a lot more human. Then I think she’s actually caught up in something magic. She’s knotting Yllish braids into her hair. And the never finding her thing? Kvothe continues to act like an idiot around her, but it helps that other people point this out to him. In Severen, she learns the harp and writes a song that has Lanre as hero, and of course Kvothe offends her by critiquing her history instead of praising her artistry. This is my favourite scene ever with Denna because I can so exactly see myself making this same mistake. Mostly, people want you to tell them their thing is good, and not what’s wrong with it. I really empathise with Kvothe here.

Alveron sends Kvothe on a mission into the vast untracked woods of the Eld to stop some bandits who are preying on tax collectors there. He takes with him an Adem mercenary, two ordinary mercenaries, one male and one female, and a tracker. They squabble their way through the woods for some time until they meet the bandits, who are being led by Cinder, the black-eyed Chandrian. They defeat the bandits by some fighting and a lot of difficult magic, but Cinder disappears.

On their way home they run into Felurian, who has been mentioned sufficiently before this that we know who she is—a kind of lorelei who seduces men and kills them with sex or drives them mad with love. Kvothe follows her into the Fae, but manages to get away—partly by cleverness and partly by magic, by speaking the name of the wind and perhaps her name as well. The cleverness consists of telling her he can’t complete his song about her without something to compare her to—he’s using her vanity to keep the story hostage. “His own best trick” he calls this when Chronicler tries it on him. She makes him a cloak of shadow, and he has an encounter with an evil tree that is malign and can see the future, the Chtaeh. This scares Bast.

The most interesting thing that happens with Felurian is their conversation about the moon. Back with the mercenaries, we heard a story about a boy who fell in love with the moon and stole her name, so that she has to spend some time with him every month. From Felurian we learn that this was something done long ago so that the moon moves between the mortal and fae worlds—when it’s full in one it’s dark in the other, it moves between. This is fascinating and the kind of thing you can do in fantasy and people so seldom do. In talking about this, Felurian talks about people making things, and sitting on the walls of Murella—Murella was one of the cities in Skarpi’s story of Lanre. So this connects to the Chandrian.

Coming back into the real world after three days, or however much time, Kvothe goes to Adem with Tempi, the Adem mercenary, who has been teaching him his hand-flutter language and his secret martial art. In Adem, Kvothe learns to fight, has sex with beautiful women, and is called a barbarian. He’s far and away the worst student there, but he comes up to the bare standard of competence, which puts him above everyone else. He gets given a two thousand year old sword called Sisera, or Caesura. He also hears the true names of the Chandrian.

This is almost too much, though I like the time in Adem a great deal. Kvothe is already a world-class singer, songwriter, and musician, he’s astonishingly good at magic and memorisation, and all this is plausibly grounded in how he grew up. Now he’s learned sex from Felurian and fighting from the Adem, and he really is ridiculously good. However, this is balanced by the real-time frame story. There’s more real time frame story here than in the first book, and things happen in it, and it appears that Kvothe has lost it all—he doesn’t sing, he’s lost his magic, and when he’s attacked by a couple of soldier-bandits he doesn’t fight either. Has he lost his skill or does he know Bast set them on him? I can’t tell. Rothfuss knows he’s writing about a hero who is just too wonderful, and I think he’s balancing that by simultaneously showing him older and without it all.

On the way back from Adem, he falls in with a troup of people who are impersonating Ruh. He rescues two girls they have kidnapped and raped, and kills them all. Back in Severen, Meluan Lady Lackless shows him her box without lid or locks, and Alveren talks to him about the Amyr. Then he reveals his Ruh origins when confessing to what he did to the false troupers, and she insists he leave. Alveren gives him a writ paying his tuition at the University, but nothing more.

He goes back to the University to find he’s almost rich—his tuition paid, the “bloodless” arrowcatch he invented selling well and earning him royalties, his friends are all well, and he manages to get back on terms with Denna by saving her life by calling the wind into her lungs when she’s dying of asthma in Tarbean. But she won’t be one of many. He stops telling for the night while he’s ahead, and who can blame him.

In the frame story several things happen. Bast sets the soldiers on and we have the attack. He tells the smith’s apprentice that he’s Kvothe to get him to stay and listen instead of signing up, but he isn’t believed. A number of people come in and make wills. Kvothe makes an apple pie. He asks Bast how he would open the locked chest, and Bast can’t do it—and then we learn at the end that Kvothe can’t do it either. Kvothe has killed a king. He has an Ademic sword that is not Caesura, and Caesura is known as “poet killer”.

On what I take to be the main plot, concerning the Chandrian, we are a little further forward. He knows their names and signs. He has learned a bit about the Amyr. He knows something about how this happened before the faen world was a separate place. He saw Cinder, and knows what the Chtaeh said. And we know that the matter of the Chandrian has not been resolved, so I have hopes that it will be resolved in realtime in the third volume. We’ve been told and told and told that Kvothe is waiting to die, like a cut flower. Bast is clearly trying to wake him up and make him what he was, and this is so much about the power of stories and legend that I think there will be resolution, and I am looking forward to seeing it.

One of my favourite bits of this volume was the bit where Kvothe makes Chronicler into a story, with his paper sword and his secrets, and the locals having lunch take it up and start telling it. It shows that power.

And in conclusion to this spoiler-soaked post, some total off the wall speculation, not in this book, here’s my theory about Ambrose and what’s going on with the whole shape of the story of what has happened, as opposed to the Chandrian story which we now know isn’t resolved inside the frame.

You know Kvothe is famous for killing a king and causing all the chaos in the world? What do you bet the king is in fact Ambrose? We keep hearing that his father is Baron Jakis, twelfth in line to the throne of Vint, and while Kvothe was in Severen the Regent to Vint died. It wouldn’t take much Kind Hearts and Coronets to put Ambrose on the throne, and I can absolutely see Kvothe killing him over something Denna does (we know she has something to do with it) and it would fit the whole shape of the story and be very satisfying.

I could be completely wrong, and I won’t mind at all if I am, because it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and this is a journey I am enjoying very very much.

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.

Brandon Bush
1. The Seeker
I had that same theory about Ambrose from book one. I think Ambrose, in his position of power, will end up doing something that has Denna killed or something considerably unpleasant, and Kvothe will buy and pay for the Kingkiller appellation in Ambrose Jakis' blood. Also, is possible Kvothe critiqued Denna's story because he knew the truth about Lanre, and we all remember what happened the last time Kvothe heard somebody he loved sing a song about Lanre...
2. Timpenin
Oh man, Ambrose on the throne? I shudder! I actually hadn't thought of that one, though. I'm still caught up trying to figure out how he's going to get Kvothe expelled! The pet theory of mine that this book most helped out was my feeling that Master Ash=Cinder. In a way, I feel like that's so obvious it's almost not a twist anymore, but it is fun watching the evidence pile up. Perhaps more interesting is trying to figure out exactly what the Chandrian want with Denna/Kvothe...Still working on that one! Are they looking to join the fae and mortal worlds, perhaps? A bit farfetched but all I've got right now.
3. Jenny Davidson
I had preordered it for Kindle but forgotten it was published today - a delightful surprise to find it downloaded without any active intervention on my part! I have to travel from NYC to give a talk at the U of Rochester on Thursday, very busy in the meantime getting ready, and this is one of those rare superb long books that truly should tide me over for the whole trip - especially looking to luxuriating in it on Friday morning after the talk and visit are over!
4. dmg
I have both books, Jo, but doubt I ever will read them. I gave Book #1 several go's, but Rothfuss's auctorial style just does not measure up; not for me, at least.

But I must doubt my doubt, as I note your review above is the lengthiest *I* have ever seen from your pen. Which counts for something, right? So, okay, once more into the breech... :-)
Jo Walton
5. bluejo
DMG: If you don't like the style, you're not going to enjoy them, because they really do rely on the voice. If you got as far as Kvothe's first person retelling and you're not having fun, I'd read something else. I really like these, but they're not such staggering works of genius that I think everyone should force themselves through them.
6. The Seeker
I think they're phenomenal. I like everything from Dekker, Koontz and Crichton, to Goodkind and the like. If you won't force them down some one's throat, then please, allow me. I think I've read through "Name" about nine times and I STILL enjoy it.
Kevin Hogan
7. dromedan
It sounds like what you're telling me is to wait until the story is finished, and then dive into it. I did this with Pullman's "His Dark Materials," and was spared my wife's impatient wait between books 2 & 3.
Brandon Bush
8. The Seeker
Not a bad idea. The wait for book two is one of the myriad of reasons I read TNotW so many times. Sometimes the waiting for this particular series can just be excruciating; the only time I have ever felt anticipation close to this was waiting for the last book in the Sword of Truth series.
Mike McD
9. msmcdon
Here I had imagined that Haliax was the shadowy patron... I can't really picture it as Cinder.
10. James Bradford DeLong
Tell me that he is not losing control of the story--a la The Wheel of TIme or A Song of Ice and Fire.

If it really is going to be a three-book series--or a series short enough that what happens in Book I has meaning at the end rather than being simply throat-clearing--by now some of the balls being juggled should be being caught for the last time and tucked away. The young hobbits should have been rescued, or the minor antagonist Saruman defeated, or Gondor's allies rallied, or Boromir killed, or Smeagol's treachery revealed, or the frontiers of Mordor crossed.

It is not clear how it can be wound up in another book, even another 1000-page book, without a great deal of unnatural cutting-short of the threads of the story...
Justin Levitt
11. TyranAmiros
James @ 10: I think Kvothe's backstory will only need one more book. I don't know if that will take us to a point where we really don't need to see more of the present or if, perhaps, Bast is the focus of the next series, but I'm confident that Rothfuss can get through the expulsion and king killing bits in another 1,000 pages.

I think the threads of the larger story are more connected that we're led to believe at the moment. The disappearance of the Amyr is probably tied to the Chandrian and the Fae storyline probably connects to this. With Hemme in charge, the expulsion comes into focus a little, particularly since Ambrose is back and Kvothe has learned what he needs to at the University.

Kvothe still needs to figure out the riddle of the box, and I will laugh so hard if the Yllish inscription on the top of the box is just another version of "Lady Lackless has a box" (because as the Tough Guide to Fantasyland says, "Every BALLAD has a chorus, which seems to be nonsense but turns out to be hugely significant").

On a more speculative note, I wonder if the Amyr established the University. I noticed that the Adem live in Ademre, which presumably breaks into Adem+re, or "land of the Adem". So perhaps Imre=Amyr+re, with the name shortened over time like all those -cester placenames in England.
Jo Walton
12. bluejo
James Bradford DeLong: That he hasn't lost control of the story, that it is all working like one story and we are two thirds of the way through it, was the thing that delighted me most about WMF.

TyranAmiros: Wow! Great linguistic placename insight re Imre. I really like that whether or not it turns out to be right.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
13. tnh
Brad DeLong: Granted, managing growth and maintaining control are problems in multivolume fantasy series; but Rothfuss is handling it so far. Look at all the constraints he's been installing. I'm feeling optimistic about that.
14. Orlun
I figured Ambrose to be the slain king from Book 1.

This book leads me to believe that Denna will be killed by her patron Haliax and that destroys the will in Kvothe (Or Denna betrays Kvothe to Haliax).


my gripes from this book are the quickness that Kvothe integrates himself into the Maers household. I'd have like a bit more time and chapters devoted to the building of trust that allows the Maer to stop taking his docs meds.
Justin Levitt
15. TyranAmiros
Orlun: I think there's an important parallel between Kvothe/Denna and Lanre/Lyre from Skarpi's story so long ago. Kvothe and Lanre are both influenced by the Chtaeh, Denna plays the lyre, the fated love affairs. What's interesting is that this suggests Kvothe is hiding precisely to avoid become Haliax 2.0 and Bast was not aware of this (and what does this do for is plan to get Kvothe to come out of hiding?)

There's another question, which is how the Chandrian have stayed alive for 5,000+ years if they truly are human. None of the magic systems we've seen--not even knowing the Names of things--would let a person do this.
16. James Bradford DeLong
I guess I should note that Bast says: "f the Chteah's tree is shown in the distance in the backdrop, you know the story is going to be the worst kind of tragedy...", and that the Chteah's tree is shown in the distance in the backdrop of the Kingkiller Chronicles...
Melissa Shumake
17. cherie_2137
i have to say, i just finished this about an hour ago, and while the very, very spoiler-filled review does hit all the salient points, it doesn't come even close to capturing the story. which is what i absolutely love most about this tale.

i do have to admit, to my great disappointment, the speculation of lady meluan lackless as kvothe's aunt didn't even remotely occur to me (but makes perfect sense). i knew i should have re-read tnotw more recently than three months ago...
18. RogueSock
I don't think Cinder is Ashe at all.

After reading this book I believe Bredon is Denna's Patron.

Denna explained that he had dealings with the Maer, and that with the circles Kvothe has been in, he has already likely met him.
-Bredon enjoys playing games, Mr. Ashe thinks of beating Denna as a "game", the twisted sick bastard.
-Mr. Ashe and Bredon both have a cane.
-Mr. Ashe and Bredon both have white hair.
-Bredon told Kvothe he just took up dancing, Denna said Mr. Ashe is a surprising good dancer.
-The rumors of his Bredon's "rituals in the woods" goes along nicely with Mr. Ashe being at the wedding.
-Why spend such a large amount of time on a character that does not have a backstory given, if not to signify such a betraying and dramatic revelation.

I for one want Denna and Kvothe to have a sit down and really talk. Seriously. They both precieve each other as something likely to be scared off. They simply need to communicate. My gosh I want them to explain to each other their backstories.

I also feel that Denna is refrenced in the past tense on more than one occasion. Which sucks, because unlike others I really like her. And I feel when I finally get what I want (their revealing chat), that she will be killed or something awful will happen.

I have hope that PR is more creative than that though. That result is really cliche in my book. Give me a different flavor, heck make her doing something unforgiveable (like betraying Kvothe) and have love triumph in the end.

Anyways these are my thoughts. Please discuss.
Jo Walton
19. bluejo
RogueSock: Bredon? I hadn't thought of that, but it does make a weird kind of sense. But whoever Mr Ash is, he's interested in having the fake version of Lanre's story out there getting in the way of the real one, which seems to be evidence for him being a Chandrian -- or on their side. Bredon's pretty mysterious now I think about him. He's plot convenient, explaining the rings and so on, but what else is he?
20. Tarcanus

Either that or Bredon is an Amyr. If I recall correctly, Kvothe was told that he was probably already pretty close to Amyr business while he was staying at the Maer's court. I wish I could remember where I saw this mention so I could throw out some quote-fu.
21. RogueSock
Interesting, I did not think of him as a possible Amyr.

I still think he is Ashe though. So many parallel similarities, but I have now placed that in my theory cap as well.

Now what are your thoughts on Denna? I was hoping we would finally discover her history in WMF, alas my wait continues. But I feel this book has introduced a large piece to her puzzle.

-Denna allows herself to be beaten. Furthermore Cthaeh tells us that she thinks that’s all she is good for, so she continues to go back to him.

Obviously Denna does not think highly of herself, from NOTW she wonders if her being alive is a mistake, and from WMF she believes she deserves to be punished.

So I ask myself, what could possibly make her think these things?

Denna feels guilty about something monumental. I believe people died and she lived, perhaps her family or village. Furthermore I believe she was taken captive, like the girls in WMF, but did not escape so quickly. She could also feel guilty because she feels/was part of the cause of those deaths.

This explains her “like looking in a mirror” of the girl in the alley, her desire to not be tied down or “owned” by any man, and her behavior and choices reflecting her lack of self respect.

Elodin made some good suggestions regarding a girl who changes her name frequently as well:
1. “It could indicate she doesn’t know who she is.”
2. “Or that she does know, and doesn’t like it.”
3. “It could indicate restlessness and dissatisfaction.
4. “It could mean she changes her name with the hope it might help her be a different person.”

Denna is one confused girl, lost even. We know she is trying to go somewhere, but even she does not know where that is. At this point it could be with Kvothe (my hopeful vote), or with Mr. Ashe who desires the Chandrean to be seen as heroes.

This may lead to the betrayal that crushes Kvothe.

Before I finish I want to include The Stone Story that Denna tells Kvothe:
“This is the story of a girl who came to the water with the boy. They talked and the boy threw the stones as if casting them away from himself. The girl didn’t have any stones, so the boy gave her some. Then she gave herself to the boy, and he cast her away as he would a stone, unmindful of any falling she might feel.”

“Is it a sad story then?” (Kvothe asked). “No not sad. But it was thrown once. It knows the feel of motion. It has trouble staying the way most stones do. It takes the offer that the water makes and moves sometimes. When it moves it thinks about the boy.”

I just hope the boy and the girl finally have a sit down and discuss their pasts. See the similarities and help each other. It will be interesting to see if any of my theory comes true.

Would love to hear your thoughts.
22. HLS11

After reading through WMF I was surprised to learn that nearly everyone online seems to hate Denna, or at least the parts of the story about her. I find her character fascinating. In fact, I found myself hurrying through the other parts of the book so I could get to the parts with Denna, I think because I desperately wanted thinks to work out between her and Kvothe. I agree with everything you said about her.

If Denna is killed off in the next book I'm not sure how I will feel about the entire series. The story would be so tragic that I might wish I didn't even read it. At the very least I would hope there is some resolution between them before she dies. Or, if she doesn't die, I hope the betrayal that crushes Kvothe is something that they overcome. I read somewhere that the present-day story takes place in a second trilogy. If that's the case, maybe the resolution ("love triumphing," as you suggested) will happen there. I can't imagine the story continuing without her, as she had me enchanted from the moment we met her on Kvothe's first trip to Imre.

One thing that struck me was that, while we learned some new things about Denna in WMF -- for example, from the conversation she had with the young girl -- she is now even more mysterious, if that's possible. She asked Kovthe and his friends about magic at the Eolian, saying she needs to know how it works. She wondered if there was a magic where you write something and it becomes true. She starts weaving Yllish braids in her hair, often absentmindedly, and seems to think it has an effect on things (when Kvothe said that he liked her hair better before she took the "lovely" braid about of it, she says that's rather the point, isn't it?). During their epic fight after the Lanre song we learn that she knows secrets they don't teach at the University. Earlier we learned that Denna's patron gives her things and "knows things needs to know." Given Denna's mysterious and likely tragic past, her desire for certain secrets, and the unbelievably close parallels between Kvothe and Denna, I sometimes wonder if Denna is on her own mission for knowledge and revenge. I think someone on a forum suggested that perhaps the Amyr, in pursuit of the "greater good," was responsible for something happening to Denna. That would certainly set the scene for a betrayal. I'm not sure I buy into that theory, but Denna's definitely involved in something.

I read the story about the stone four or five times trying to figure out exactly what it meant. What do the stones symbolize and what does it mean for the boy to give them to her? Does the boy throwing away the stone symbolize something Kvothe did to Denna? At first I thought it might refer to the big argument they had, but know I'm thinking it might refer to Kvothe leaving her for the University after they met for the first time. Now whenever she moves she thinks of him.
Kathiravan Isak Arulampalam
23. Ipood
That is interesting, because P.Rothfuss once said he'd be interested in writiting something from Dennas POV.
24. Cynrtst
Wow, Bredon as Cinder? It makes a certain sense because he is the only character who seems to serve no purpose beyond a time filler for Kvothe as he is cooling his heels waiting for the Maer to get over his snits and see him. And I completely forgot about Kvothe's mother. I puzzled a bit over the idea that he recognized Lady Lackless, but nothing bubbled up.
I was at the signing in Huntington Beach and people would start questions with, "Did you mean to do this when you wrote (whatever plot device).". He said, "Of course! Why do you think the editing and writing took so long? Everything is important!"
Then he told a story about a woman who wrote to him and said, what is taking you so long to write this? Just write the events down chronologically! (Like it was a real person's story, lol).
We may not like what happens but it's happening for a reason.
jay vidyarthi
25. robotmonkey
The trial leading up to Kvothe's non-credit semester abroad is first time I noticed Rothfuss skipping what would be a meaty part of the story. That rings a bell.

Then Rothfuss skips an apparently exciting part of Kvothe's journey to the Maer (Pirates! Disaster! Buckling of swashes!). That rings a bell, too.

One of my favorite authors is another patrick -- Patrick O'Brien and he does the same thing. I never figured out whether O'Brien did it out of sheer orneriness or to send a message about what he values more. Or some other reason.

Why do you suppose Rothfuss is employing this trick? Space or time considerations? Future comic book or novella material? Tighter story?
jay vidyarthi
26. robotmonkey
Heck, I just realized that Jo Walton is the author of the wonderful Aubrey/Maturin re-read on this very site, so I'm coming to the right place to share my observation/question!

Another funny coincidence: Not only do Rothfuss and O'Brien share the name patrick and a story-telling quirk, they also share a similar last name -- Rothfuss and Russ!

Sorry for the two posts. Hope this doesn't earn a few "tl;dr" responses.
Justin Levitt
27. TyranAmiros
At the San Diego signing, Rothfuss mentioned he'd cut about 80,000 words from the story and he told my friend when we were getting our books signed that he "may have written" some of those scenes, even if they didn't make it into the book. I wouldn't be too surprised if they show up in an anthology or as bonus material.
28. hijinx
One thing that bothered me a lot about this book: the scenes where Kvothe swears on his heart/hand/lute/whatever to never tell another soul about what he saw/heard/did. It happens over and over. And yet here he is telling everything to Chronicler for him to print in a book later.

In the same vein, the Adem tell Kvothe never to reveal the name he is given. Once again, here he is telling Chronicler for all the world to know.

Kvothe seems like the kind of guy who would keep his promises and heed important advice. Even if he is waiting to die, it seems he wouldn't be telling anyone about this stuff. Makes me think there's a LOT more to this story than meets the eye.
29. cmpalmer
Just finished it last night. Wow.

Denna frustrates me, but I like her and I love the scenes with her. I had several similar relationships in my life (most when I was in my late teens) and my heart aches for Kvothe as he deals with it. If it doesn't seem realistic to someone, they probably haven't had that experience.

There's something no one has mentioned (that I've seen) that I think is weird and wonderful about the books. In several places, notably the more intimate scenes with Denna and much of the conversations with Felurian, the dialog is often in rhymed couplets with a deliberate meter. I can't decide whether it is the way Kvothe has told the stories to himself over the years or a game that he and Denna play since they're both musicians (I suspect the latter since Kvothe mentions distracting her by rhyming in the stone story chapter). I loved it in the Felurian scenes because it reminded me of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It just seemed appropriate that people in Fae spoke that way.

A similar thing happened in the first book when he was relating the story told by the storyteller. It started in normal prose, but as it moved into the heart of the story, it became more like an oral epic poem. It didn't really rhyme, but it had the rhythm and meter that served as memorization aids for oral epics like the Illiad. I realized it and went back to read just the dialogue out loud and was amazed. When it was formatted as simple prose, the effect was subtle, but when read out loud it was obvious. Very cool stuff.

Another linquistic similarity that I thought might become a plot point is the similarity between 'Adem' and 'Edema Ruh'. The Adem say that they were driven from their lands and moved to the places that no one wanted. The Edema Ruh have no land of their own and wander. The Adem scorn music and song and public display of emotion, while the Edema Ruh are the exact opposite. It made me wonder if they were once the same people and a schism divided them as they were driven from their lands (perhaps one of the seven cities).
Kathiravan Isak Arulampalam
30. Ipood
I noticed that in the first book, and thought about it a bit along thos same lines.
It's also relativly close to Tolkiens Edain.
31. alekhia
Hi! I'm new to the forum, and i have to say...interesting theories!

I just wanted to point out there is undenyable evidence for Meluan being Kvothe's aunt in the song that Kvothe tells Sim and Will his father wrote about his mother:

Dark Laurian, Arliden's wife,
Has a face like a blade of a knife
Has a voice like a prickledown burr
But can tally a sum like a moneylender.
My sweet Tally cannot cook.
But she keeps a tidy ledger-book
For all her faults I do confess
It's worth my life
To make my wife
Not tally a lot less...

The song implies that he calls his wife Tally because she's good with numbers, but the much more likely reason is because Tally is short for Netalia...(it is mentioned that the stolen away lackless sister's name is netalia)

Furthermore, the last three lines, when spoken aloud sound like "It's worth my life to make my wife Netalia Lockless". It seems likely that the real reason Kvothe's mother made his father sleep under the wagon after he made that song is not because it had a bad meter as Kvothe claims but because it gave away her identity as Netalia Lockless.
jay vidyarthi
32. robotmonkey
Alekhia, your thing about the last line of the song -- just wow!

Here's a question from me: Go to Chapter 77. Now go back one page so you're on the last page of Chapter 76. Here's the text:

Tempi’s pale eyes touched mine briefly, his expression still blank. Then he looked away again. He tugged one of the red leather straps that held his shirt close to his body and fidgeted with his sleeve. “No. I will not speak on Lethani. It is not for you. Do not ask.”

He looked away from me again, down at the ground.

I counted in my head. Sixteen words. That answered one of my questions at least.

Go ahead and count it yourself. What gives? Hint or mistake? And why did K count the words in the first place?
33. cmpalmer
I'd bet it was a mistake. He counted the words because in an earlier scene, he said something about wondering if Tempi would ever speak more than 6 (or some number, I forget) words at a time.

And yes, @Alekhia, that was a great catch. Like I'd said earlier, there are a lot of things that you can pick up out loud that get hidden in text.
34. arch
I love both these books. They're wonderful: I read WMF in an 18 hour marathon. But I have to say, the whole Felurian part dragged for me: it just seemed self-indulgent. Really, Kvothe is so amazing in bed -- on his first try! At age 16! -- that he impresses an immortal siren who exists primarily for sex? Please. Usually I'm on board with Kvothe's hyper-competence, but this seemed to be taking it too far.

I will be extremely annoyed if Denna dies. I am so, so, so sick of the dead love interest. Of course, Denna is pretty much Kvothe's Manic Pixie Dream Girl, although the Bechdel scene shows us, I think, that from a Doylist perspective she's much more than that. It's just that Kvothe isn't mature enough yet for the Watsonian perspective to show that.
35. cmpalmer
I think what Kvothe lacked in experience, he made up for in youthful exuberence until Felurian trained him up. :-)

I think the one thing that bothers me a little about the books (which I truly love as shown by my frequent comments) is that Kvothe is a little too young for everything that is happening. I know that some people mature faster. I know that in the past, people were forced to mature faster and that people tend to submit to the pressures forced upon them, but...

I wouldn't have minded a few more "And then several months passed" or "In my third year at the University..." or "I spend two more years with the Adem" or even "I spent two years in Fae with Felurian."
36. alekhia
Hi Guys,

I just reread the Hespe's story about Jax stealing the moon, and i have a couple thoughts:

1) The description of the house: if you read closely, it's obvious he's talking about Faerie.

"In the end the result was the same: the mansion was magnificent, huge and sprawling. But it didn't fit together properly. There were stairways that led sideways instead of up. Some rooms had too few walls, or too many. Many rooms had no ceiling, and high above they showed a strange sky full of unfamiliar stars.

"Everything about the place was slightly skewed. In one room you could look out the window at the springtime flowers, while across the hall the windows were filmed with winter's frost. It could be time for breakfast in the ballroom, while twilight filled a nearby bedroom.

"Because nothing in the house was true, none of the doors or windows fit tight. They could be closed, even locked, but never made fast. And as big as it was, the mansion had a great many doors and windows, so there were a great many ways both in and out."

Space is weird; going into one direction can lead you to another. Different seasons in different places. Different times of the day in different places. There are a bunch of ways for someone to sneak into or out of the place. And most damning, there's no moon in that different sky until Jax put it there. That's the exact description of Faerie.

According to Felurian, Iax was the first and most powerful shaper. He made Faerie, and didn't just unfold it.

2) Since the folding house was actually Faerie, we can assume that the flute and the box also represent something else. The flute could be anything with the power to call something else, and the box is something that is able to hold names.

3) The old man was a Namer and familiar with their lore who was searching the name of the wind. In fact I suspect he was called an E'lir or listener. His presence in the story suggests that the Namers (or a particular Namer) tried to dissuade Iax from capturing the moon but did not succeed in doing so. This namer also had skills Iax did not have, being able to open the knot on the tinker's pack where Iax failed.

37. alekhia

U think that the man who tried to advise Iax was Teccam, and here's why:

1) Teccam has been mentioned far too often for him to not be important

2) In NotW, there is an early description of the university which states:

"The University itself consisted of about fifteen buildings that bore little resemblance to each other. Mews had a circular central hub with eight wings radiating in each direction so it looked like a compass rose. Hollows was simple and square, with stained glass windows showing Teccam in a classic pose: standing barefoot in the mouth of his cave, speaking to a group of students."

I think both the reference to the cave, and the fact that he is barefoot strongly suggest that he may be the old man in Hespe's story of Jax.
Jo Walton
38. bluejo
Alekhia: I am just going to believe everything you say from now on, because wow, that sleeping under the wagon line, well spotted!

Meluan is Kvothe's aunt, confirmed!

So what do you think about Bredon? And Mister Ash?
39. patkack
Sheesh, you guys. You shame me into rereading this latest book right away. Your analysis does Patrick justice and more.

I read TNOW and reread it immediately; I had never done that before. But The Wise Man's Fear I decided to let sit for a while. Partly because I'm also reading the Wheel of Time series and find a lot of parallels. Namely the Adem and the Aiel with their fighting skills and secret hand talk. The notion of Lethani and Toh. The travelling Edmah Ruh Troupers and the Tuath’an Traveling Tinkers who look for the song. The obvious young boy who is skilled in magic or powers beyond compare. I know that no reinvents the Wheel (8-p), but I'm seeing more of the Jordan books in this one than I would like. The Name of the Wind is just... different. In that lies its appeal and beauty. Am I alone in this?

As for Brendon, I agree, I think he is Deena's patron. Their absences match up and he's introduced for a reason other than entertainment...
Claire de Trafford
40. Booksnhorses
Great theories guys - I'm totally sold on wife Netalia Lockless song idea. I thought it there was a connection as soon as Kvothe saw a familiarity in Meluan. And we've now had two versions of the (very catchy) ditty, both of which hold grains of truth. Kvothe is obviously the son of the blood who will learn the name and open the lockless door/box, but why? Is it Jax/Iax's box with the name of the moon in it? Or is there some secret about the Chandrian in there? Will there be a third version (third time pays for all (Heinlein?)).

Is Brendon Deena's patron? It is a good idea and there is obviously something odd going on there. I must confess I thought her patron may have been the guy poisoning Maer due to the history thing. In the first book I wondered if Deena was one of the fay, possibly Felurian, but this book seems to make her more human and tragic. If she is human she is also amazingly talented a la Kvothe.

I think that Kvothe has changed his name with all the power of a namer and that has caused his issues, cf Elodian becoming so horrified at the idea. He needs to get his mojo back and Bast is trying to help him become Kvothe again not Kote. As a fantasy trope this pretty much has to happen or it will be a major bummer for us all.

Will Ambrose be the king that Kvothe kills? I must say I thought that that referred to the poet king that the Adem lady mentioned. Cool that they are the people of Myr Tiriniel.

Overall I loved this book - I've just re-read the first one and found it a touch pretentious. I can gloss over how wonderfully and improbably wonderful Kvothe is in my head. Parts of the story just seemed so familiar to me, part of our racial unconsciousness, it was like I had read it before which made it feel like a well-beloved fairy story. Very reminiscent of other books as well, such as Earthsea and Tad William's Shadow books which also feature the fae/mortal common origin, hidden gods etc. Looking forward to the next installment now.
Mo -
41. Astus
I saw the connection between the Lochless and Kvothe almost immediately and felt quite proud of myself, haha.
Seeing all the other things that I missed leaves me quite a bit humbled. :)

I sped through the book, as I tend to do, and missed some fine details. I like the links between the first book and this one. How things introduced are explained. And subtly rather than bashing it over one's head. How many years till 3? :)
42. Bakker
Great to read all of your ideas and comments, I'm also humbled by the insights and reflections. While I haven't read WMF yet, I've paged through NotW almost as much as Seeker. Looking forward to Felurian, the Adem, Lady Lackless, the names, and more at the University.

My Denna theory based only on NotW: I always wondered why Denna had an amazing voice right away. Why she's always found where singing is happening. Why the Chandrian attack the singers. Why there's a beautiful woman on the vase at the burned out wedding. My theory is that Denna is one of the Chandrian. That she was there when Kvothe's family and troupe were killed. That she lives forever, alone, abused, and betraying beautiful voices to stay alive for some unknown purpose. That Kvothe's faith and convictions are betrayed when he learns of it in some way...? Looking forward to book 2 and 3 eventually, and think Rothfuss is great.
Thanks again all! Bakker
Rob Munnelly
43. RobMRobM
Just finished WMF and will onto to Jo's later spoiler posts and re-read and have a few quick thoughts:
- I first though Denna was the Lockless sister, but Kvothe's mom makes much more sense.
- I'm positive Bredon is big trouble: look at the title of the book. Wise men fear the anger of a quiet man. Bredon is as quiet as things get. He is a walking Checkov's Gun.

44. Bob IV
Random thoughts & musings from memory:
-There is one moon.
-There are two sides to a story - Kvothe is learning one Deena another.
-There are two worlds Fae and 'ours' where Kvothe is. There are possibly two kinds of magic, Kvothes, and the ‘written down’ kind Deena mentions…and that the Chronicler has attributed to him by Kote (of course there’s gods turning people into angels in the legends of the creation war, but that seems to be a ‘level-up’)
-There are three days and three things the wise fear, three groups the 7 hide from, and (maybe) three factions left over from the creation war see-ers, hear-ers, and name-ers - but then there are shapers too... -There are three mystery items that Iax gets, an (iron?) box, a collapsible building, and a magic whistle. We may have been introduced to the box and the house, but I haven't seen the whistle
-There are four refuges for the mind, sleep, forgetfulness, madness and death. People do cross all and return… There are four stone panes in the ‘4 pane door’.
-Alar like Ramstone steel breaks – because you have to break your mind in separate parts to perform sympathy. Kvothe can manage up to (?) five in dueling… (as a beginner!)
-Kvothe has been given a key (to the moon), a coin and a candle by Auri, whom he has given a name since she’s missing one. Could be she is the moon, living in the unfolded building (the University). With his Shead and Adem sword (not iron/steel?), Kvoth is only lacking a staff to be Taborlain anew
-Bast has a number of rings on his mantle, of varying significance – old fading customs in humans still in use by Fae
-Even without the poem Kvothe is the Maers nephew. The Lockless sister disinherited for running off with a minstrel is never specified as elder or younger. Though references read as if she’s younger, the enmity of Meluan for the Ruh makes more sense if Meluan is a younger sister abandoned by an elder one (perhaps much older)
-From one of the vignettes, Fae is where all roads meet, which is where Kvothe tells Deena he’ll find her, instead of her finding him.
-The waystones mark old roads…pre creation or during?
-Simmon may be noble enough to be a King, he’s the only poet (Caesura using too) so far in the books, and you can’t be betrayed by your enemies, only your friends… Ambrose could be redeem himself and become… a penitent King?
-The Lockless box probably has warding stones in it, Reshi probably means 'Dad'
-Deena, survivor guilt as last Princess of Lost Kingdom of Yill? (remember your Prydain!)
-The broken tree gets interesting. Take the one shattered in the fight with the highwaymen as foreshadowing, there are two others to break, the Adem as a people (WoT comparison here btwn peaceful travelers and warrior cultures), called to fulfill an ancient geas. Perhaps to assist a ‘chosen one’ to destroy the other tree, which shelters Fate (the Ctheah (Evil/Snake in tree) destroy fate and destroy your fated doom...)
Darren James
45. b8amack
I can't help but think that we're going to see an Alexandria Quartet style novel all from Denna's viewpoint, once the main sequence is finished. Or maybe just how awesome that could be.
46. Skorm
The Cthaeh isn't a tree, it's a creature that lives in that tree. The mention in the book (I believe when Bast is telling him about it) that the creature is somehow bound there and cannot leave that tree. But if you look at how he describes the encounter himself I think you can clearly tell that it is an extremely fast perhaps small creature. The way the butterflies were dying and the fact that he says that certain colored ones taste better would imply that he is killing and eating them but simply too fast for Kvothe to see.
47. drs650
I know I'm late to the party, but I have a question I'd like to get some insight on. Specifically it's the fight scene in WMF that takes place in the bar, when the two soldiers rob Kvothe.

I don't know what to make of this scene. It left me unsettled - maybe because we'd just read hundreds of pages of him learning all kinds of arcane skills and advanced combat techniques that should have made him a badass - to have him lose and be beaten so badly left me uncomfortable. Maybe that was the point.

Still, I'm uncomfortable with the scene, and I keep turning it around in my head. I can think of a couple explanations, and I'd love to see if anyone has alternative theories or similar ideas:

- Kvothe is liar. He told a grander story of his time in Adem than was really the case, and in fact, he can't really fight.

- Along with his magic, he's lost his special abilities in hand fighting.

- He's simply out of form, out of shape, and hasn't been practicing his Katen

- He took a dive. He could beat them, but let them win for reasons of his own, whether because he knew Bast hired them and is playing a deeper game, or because he wants to continue to stay under the radar and avoid his enemies.

Those are my primary working theories. I'd love any input from others who have given this some thought. If this topic has already been hashed and re-hashed please forgive me. I'm new to the thread and haven't read over everything quite yet. thanks,
48. CaliKingsdaughter
Personally, I think that halfway through the fight he realized where he was and let himself lose. I think I remember him saying something about "forgot who I was for a second" ... something along those lines. Cool theories, though.
Steven Halter
49. stevenhalter
@47:The bar fight scene has been analyzed and theorized about a lot in these various threads. It is good to be uncomfortable with the scene as there is definitely something going on there. Don't worry about being forgiven, those are all fine working theories.
50. thejsho
Admittedly, I thought the Song of Ice and Fire books were amazing until I read these two books... and now I'm obsessed and find these far superior. I haven't been able to find threads as easily as I have with the other series. Does anyone have any suggestions they'd be willing to throw my way?

Bast's encounter with the soldiers at the end unsettled me bit and made me wonder about his intentions. I keep coming back to the distinction Kvothe made between humans and the fae (like comparing water and alcohol). I know Kvothe trusts Bast but it seems like there is something there.

With regards to the fight and Kvothe backing down: I feel like he's definitely lost it and it was demonstrated by his lack of touch in getting that chest to open in his room. I know magic and hand to hand combat are different but I feel like they're connected.
George Brell
51. gbrell

You can find the re-read threads (and now, further speculation threads) at the following link:


I will warn you that the comments are fairly wide-ranging and rarely stick to the section being re-read.

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