Welcome to part 15 of my insanely detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 88-92 plus the Epilogue of The Name of the Wind, but also contains extensive spoilers for the whole book and the whole of The Wise Man’s Fear — 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. DT = 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
We finished last week with the story being interrupted mid sentence and we begin this week with Chapter 88 — Interlude — Looking. Looking suggests E’lir, especially as we’ve just been talking about that.
The jerk to the frame is the most abrupt here that we have had so far, though there are more abrupt ones in WMF. Boots approach, and K dashes for the bar as the Felling Night crowd come in. Chronicler is astonished to see nothing of Kvothe left in the innkeeper. They pretend that Bast is making his will and Chronicler is a scribe and writing it down — and this will continue through in WMF when a lot of people want this, though here it seems like a quick improvisation that the three of them do well.
And K brings food, and the smith’s prentice comes in with an iron bar and Bast moves away from it. And Chronicler tells a version of the story of Kvothe in the alleyway in Imre and is corrected by Cob — he says it was Severen, which we have not yet heard of in the main story, and of course it isn’t on the map. (That map is useless. Pretty, but useless.) And we hear variants of Kvothe’s initial interview, being paid to go to University, and this is where Imre is called Amary, which does solidly confirm TyranAmiros’s Ademre/Imre Amyr theory.
And they all start telling the story and it has pieces of all sorts of things in it, things we know and things we don’t know yet and demons and what happened with Fela and the fire and the trial. This story is in turn interrupted by somebody at the door, and they think it will be good news to have somebody else coming. But it’s the mercenary who took Chronicler’s shirt, only possessed. Bast recognises what he is, but none of the others do — Chronicler recognises him as the thief. His sword is rusted. (Chandrian, or just bad habits?) Then he says some things in old archaic Faen.
K throws a bottle of elderberry wine at him, and tries to set it in fire with a rune on the counter, only it doesn’t work. (His alar, broken like a bar of Ramston steel? Or closed off somehow?) K looks “weary, numb and dismayed” as if he has forgotten his Alar is broken, or forgotten who he is? Bast tackles the mercenary, Shep is killed, then the smith’s prentice kills the mercenary with the iron bar and a lot more effort than it ought to take. And everyone agrees he was a denner addict, except that the smith’s prentice, Aaron, thinks he had a demon in him, and K agrees — although we know K doesn’t believe in demons. K also agreed that the scrael were demons. “Demons” is a useful category for these people.
Bast says it isn’t K’s fault. K says it is, all his fault, the scrael, the war, all of it. Bast says the thing was a Mahaeluret, a skin-dancer — and is offended when K says “one of your kind,” saying they don’t even share a border and are as far apart as anything can be in Fae. But what is it doing here? Looking for K, apparently? Changing his name and hiding in the middle of nowhere wasn’t enough? And why ever would one of those things want him? It didn’t attack until attacked, though it had clearly taken the body of the mercenary.
And Bast pokes Chronicler’s wounded shoulder when he starts to ask K about the sympathy that didn’t work, and when K’s getting stuff for a salve he tells Chronicler not to ask about it. And when they’ve made the salve, K says he’ll tie off a few loose ends of story. Chronicler says he’s good for hours yet.
“I found what I wanted most, though it was not what I had expected, as if often the case when you gain your heart’s desire.”
Heart’s desire recalls tricking a demon and killing an angel to get it. But of course that’s not this story. That’s going to be DT.
Chapter 89 is A Pleasant Afternoon. It’s short again, and distanced again. Kvothe is whipped — a repeat performance, bloodless and all. Then he’s stitched up in the Medica, after which he goes to Imre and spends Ambrose’s money on a new lute, two suits of new clothes and a small bottle of his own blood — redeeming the debt to Devi.
I feel whiplash here going back into the story after all the trauma in the interlude, and if I do, how much more Chronicler?
Chapter 90 is Half-Built Houses, which has a completely different meaning after the story of Jax and the Moon.
It begins with a partial description of the Underthing, which Kvothe is now exploring every night, and Auri’s whimsical punning names — Vaults is a room with three cracks she has to vault over, and Belows is “Billows.” And he finds his way into the Archives. But what we’ve had is the description of a whole ruined city half-built and half-destroyed and with passages that go nowhere and it’s all exactly like the thing we’re given as a metaphor for Fae in WMF, and I’m sure it’s the ruins of a Creation War period city, even if that wasn’t clear from what Elodin said. Kvothe finds his way into the Archives, and then he persuades Fela to meet him there and show him how it works. And the books are in chaos because they’re arranged in several different systems, because it takes more than a lifetime to organize them and there have been shelving wars. The shelving system is a half-built house, too.
Chapter 91 is Worthy of Pursuit. And what he thinks is worthy of pursuit is of course D and the information in the Archives.
Kvothe keeps meeting D in the Eolian and she has men with her, but he outlasts them because he is special. Gah. He doesn’t listen to Sim’s wise advice, instead he pulls her name off the note she sent him and puts it bouncing around the Hall of the Winds trying to find an exit but it never does. And then there’s his feud with Ambrose, in which Ambrose doesn’t seem to be acting, though we know he’s putting things together in the background for the arrival of the Inquisition in WMF.
And here Kvothe ends for the night.
Chapter 92 is The Music that Plays. And isn’t that an interesting title, when of course there isn’t any music in the Waystone.
K says he’ll stop because they have all the groundwork, and tomorrow we’ll have some of his favourite stories, his journey to Alveron court, learning to fight from the Adem, and Felurian — and indeed, we do have all those in WMF. And then K cleans the bar, and does not hum or whistle or sing, and the fact that he doesn’t is notable. His music is broken, too, as well as his name and his alar.
Chronicler goes to bed restlessly and can’t settle. He lights the lamp with a sulphur match — not with sympathy, although we know he knows the Name of Iron. (But sympathy isn’t broken for everyone, which I wondered about for a moment, or he wouldn’t have been surprised at K’s sympathy not working. Phew, that’s a relief! That would have been awful, if Kvothe had broken Sympathy!) Then he puts his iron circle back on and blocks the door before going to sleep, only to be woken by Bast coming through the window in the deep night.
Bast also uses a match. (But maybe he hasn’t learned the binding yet? He doesn’t seem to work very hard. Um, has anybody noticed any sympathy working in the frame? Worried now.) Anyway, Bast talks to Chronicler and says there’s a connection between seeming and being, and K is stopping seeming to be an innkeeper and actually becoming one, and Bast has been sending out messages in bottles with passing trade in the hope that someone will come that will give K the jolt he needs. Or that Bast thinks he needs. Eh dear. There’s got to be a lot happen in the frame in DT, I think. I’m starting to get the shape of it.
Bast says not to ask about the music or the magic “They’re not productive subjects.” He wants Chronicler to hurry K past the dark bits and dwell on the heroics. This so isn’t going to work, and indeed already doesn’t in WMF. And Chronicler reacts very naively to all of this, which is one of the reasons I feel that he isn’t an Amyr, though I think he must be part of something more complicated than just Bast’s plot.
Then Bast makes a threat that is like Kvothe’s over the top threats, only it isn’t over the top and it’s believable and awful — he swears by the ever changing moon that he’ll slit him open and splash around in him like a child in a muddy puddle. It’s horrible, and it’s not disarmed — when Kvothe records his own threats, they are disarming, we know he won’t do them. We know Bast would. It’s a “THIS is a knife” moment, this is what a threat is supposed to sound like. And it really isn’t nice.
Then, most chillingly of all, he says there’s no reason they can’t be friends — this is the most inhuman moment Bast shows, never mind his eyes changing colour, which Kvothe’s also do. Thinking you can make threats like that and mean them and then be friends! He says they can all get what they want, and Chronicler asks what he wants, and he says he wants his Reshi back the way he was.
How long ago was that? They’ve been in Newarre a few years now. We’ll have to hear about where Bast comes from in DT. And Bast can’t be famous. He hasn’t changed his name. But Bast must have been with K long enough to have known him as he was, in order to miss that. And Bast must also not know what K has done with his name (and music and magic) if he thinks that just being reminded who he is will work. And we know from WMF that Bast doesn’t know what’s in the box or how to open it. So Bast doesn’t know a lot, which makes his meddling incredibly dangerous.
And then we have the Epilogue A Silence in Three Parts, in which we have everything back the way it was in the beginning, or almost, back to the cut flower sound of a man who is waiting to die. K is sitting in front of his crumpled sheets of memoir. At the end of WMF we have hope — a single perfect step. Here — no, no hope, just that awful silence, the thing that Bast is afraid of. It’s a beautiful virtuoso piece of writing, but there’s no hope.
And that brings us to the end of NW. I am planning to go on with WMF at this same insane level of detail, but first I think I’d like to do another post — or maybe more than one post — like the Sleeping Under the Wagon post collecting theories and speculations we’ve accumulated so far. If anyone would like to suggest subjects on which it would be useful to round up our thoughts for a post like that it would be very helpful. Please do so in comments.
I’m writing this before last week’s post is posted, so I haven’t seen any comments there, but I should be home on the day this is posted and able to participate as normal. The comments and insights and the illumination they cast on the text are what makes this kind of thing worth doing, and as we’re at the end of NW it seems a good time to say that I really appreciate what all of you have contributed to this reread. I really enjoy comments even from people who have only commented once or twice, but a number of you have been making this whole thing work all along.
The Department of Imaginary Linguistics promotes Jhirrad and TyranAmiros to E’lir. The Department of Imaginary Sympathy promotes: Herelle, LennyB, A Fox, C.M. Palmer, Herewiss13, RobMRobM, Greyhood, SusieBlu, Lambson, DEL, AnotherAndrew, Greyfalconway, AO, Chrispin, Lakesidey, Arra, ConnorSullivan, DThurston, ClairedeT, Dominiquex, BAM, LAJG, SillySlovene, JMD, Maltheos, Foxed, Amphibian, Pam Adams, Soloce and RyanReich to E’lir. It further promotes Susan Loyal and Shalter to Re’lar. And I’d be happy to share a celebratory bottle of strawberry wine with all of you at the next opportunity.
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.