Welcome to my excessively detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 35-40 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
If Pat has said that he’s going to end this story in DT, but that he plans to write more in this world, then it seems likely that the world will not be destroyed in DT. (Unless everything he plans to write is set in the past, which it very well might be. There’s a lot of past available.)
What he said to me about the title “The Doors of Stone” is that he was reconsidering it because it was a bit of a spoiler. That’s why I’m not using it here.
Chapter 41 is “The Greater Good”
The motto of the Amyr, of course, and here the chapter begins with it. We’ve run into it a few times already. Arliden said it as if it’s the kind of thing children say as an excuse. Lorren explained it was the motto of the Amyr when ticking Kvothe off for inquiring about them. It’s Tema: “Ivare enim euge.” And now Kvothe finds it in the Duke of Gibea’s book.
It’s winter and cold, the Archives are packed with students studying. Some time has clearly passed since the last chapter — most of the term seemingly. Kvothe and Sim are in Tomes, and Kvothe’s supposed to be studying Physiognomy, which he is doing in an original copy of the Duke of Gibea’s book. Sim reacts in a horrified way to the book and doesn’t even want to look at it — he says Gibea was a monster who practiced vivisection, and that wasn’t all:
When the Amyr moved against the Duke they found the bones of twenty thousand people. Great pits of bones and ashes. Women and children. Twenty thousand!
To which Kvothe counters:
Gibea wrote twenty-three volumes concerning the machinery of the body... When the Amyr moved against him, part of his estate burned, four of those volumes and all his notes were lost. Ask Master Arwyl what he would give to have those volumes whole again.
This is like the ethical controversy today about whether data obtained from Nazi experiments (that’s a Wikipedia link) and it’s surprising to see Kvothe quite so very much on the bad side — he tries to be gentle with Sim but he thinks Sim’s being unnecessarily squeamish, and when Sim says his family live thirty miles from Gibea he thinks Sim’s squeamish because he has a personal connection. But he doesn’t really see that there is a genuine ethical problem.
Eventually he shows Sim what he has found. “Ivare emim euge” hidden in the decorative scrollwork, which Gibea wrote himself. Sim thinks it’s illiterate Temic, which is /Italian/ and Kvothe says it’s an archaic usage of Tema which is /Latin/. Sim thinks it means “Toward greater good”, and Sim corrects him.
Meanwhile, some aristocratic louts come in and talk loudly, and Kvothe joins in their conversation rudely to chase them out. Kvothe is here being an Amyr without the t-shirt again — Sim says the scrivs would have taken care of it, Kvothe says they weren’t doing it and now it’s quiet again which is what matters. It’s like a demonstration of doing things against the rules but for the greater good while they’re having a discussion of the phrase!
Kvothe tells Sim Gibea was a secret Amyr. Sim says maybe, they were pretty corrupt by then. Kvothe doesn’t think Gibea was corrupt and that he was pursuing the greater good — yuck. It’s very hard to feel at all sympathetic to Kvothe here, hard time in Tarbean or not. “Saved ten times as many lives since” isn’t an argument for going out and torturing people to death even if it’s true.
But all Kvothe cares about is that he might have been a secret Amyr, even though we know it was the Amyr who moved against him. (He must not have been a Ciridae.) Kvothe thinks this could mean there are still secret Amyr. And as he says this, Lorren shows up and suspends him for five days for talking with students at other tables and confiscates their books.
Lorren shows up whenever the Amyr are mentioned in Tomes. I wonder if that’s magic.
And outside the Archives, Sim explicitly points out the whole Amyr without the t-shirt thing about Kvothe.
“The world needs people like you. ... You get things done. Not always the best way, or the most sensible way, but it gets done nonetheless. You’re a rare creature. ... Something bothers you, someone offends you, and suddenly you’re off. ... You know exactly what to do. You never hesitate, you just see and react. ... I imagine that’s the way the Amyr used to be. Small wonder folk were frightened of them.”
Folk were frightened of them? That’s interesting to know.
Chapter 42 is “Penance”
Which is a strangely religious way of putting it, especially when we were just talking about the Amyr.
Kvothe can’t find Auri and the iron grate is iced over. He works in Medica and the Fishery and plays an extra night in Ankers. He catches up on sleep. By the fourth day of suspension, he’s ready to talk to Devi. He has a horribly cold wet walk to Imre in the sleet. The Eolian is closed because it’s such a horrible day. Devi’s surprised to see him and it cheers her up that he’s cold and wet. He gives her a symbolic penance piece. She gives him a robe to wear while his clothes dry. He tells her about the plum bob, and accuses her of selling him the formula — she says she didn’t know it was for Ambrose or for Kvothe but admits making it for a full set of Vautium Tegnostae with gorgeous illustrations.
Devi agrees to go back to the original terms of the loan. She doesn’t accept this term’s interest early, so Kvothe fritters it away on a hat and gloves, some sea salt and peach preserves for Auri and a bolt for his window, to keep it safe from even well intentioned thieves. That loss of the lute really hurt. I’m surprised he couldn’t make a lock in the Fishery though.
This is one of the few chapters I can think of which is only fill — it needs to be there, the events need to happen, but there’s nothing more there unless I’m missing something.
Chapter 43 is “Without Word or Warning”
A sailor brings Kvothe a letter from D in Yll, saying how much she likes it there, that she saw a skirmish, went on a boat, met an Adem mercenary (in red, quiet, twitching) and she’s learning the harp. Odd letter. I don’t know what to make of it except that she misses Kvothe.
He doesn’t give us his reactions to the letter at all.
Elodin shows up for class on time, in his formal robes, and with his hair brushed, which astonishes everyone. He tells them that once at the University only Naming mattered — and incidentally, that Sympathy was invented there. (I wonder if we can take that as fact?) He announces that Fela has found the Name of Stone eight times. She makes herself a ring of Stone out of a pebble to demonstrate her prowess. He promotes her to Re’lar. He tells her to wear the ring on her left hand, the right means something else and none of them are ready for that.
Kvothe doesn’t have any reaction to this at all. Indeed, the only emotion in this chapter is shame he hasn’t been working hard enough at Naming.
This is a hard chapter to understand. There are two quite unrelated things — the letter saying D is in Yll and Fela succeeding where Kvothe hasn’t really tried — or tells himself he hasn’t, both faced without reaction. But why is it “without word or warning” — she’s sending word. Or is it that he’s not going to see her, that she has left for a long time and he can’t hope to run into her, that he has lost her, and that he is falling behind in Naming too? This could be a chapter with a lot of whining and misery, but it isn’t, he describes two things but not the impact of either of them.
Chapter 44 is “The Catch”
The project in the Fishery. But also in the other sense of the word.
He demonstrates the arrowcatch to Kilvin. We find out why he wanted the beartrap. And Kilvin says he has made a good thing in a bad way, because he used the illegal crossbow. They agree they’ll sell for eight talents, but Kilvin pays twenty-five for the first one — so even though Kvothe has to pay back the price of the metals he stole for his gram, he’s come out well ahead.
All three of these chapters strike me as just getting things into position for winding up the University section of the book and moving forward.
Chapter 45 is “Consortation”
I remember the first time I read WMF I got just exactly as far as this and I thought “I didn’t expect to be a third of the way through this book and still at the University.”
So, everything is going well. He’s playing in Ankers for a good audience. He has money in his purse and has access to the Archives. The only thing missing is D... and then wouldn’t you know it, at the end of his song the door opens and he’s in trouble with the iron law for the malfeasance at the end of the previous book. Ambrose’s revenge working slowly but thoroughly.
Sim and Anker look over the documents. (It was the only time Kvothe had heard Sim sound like the son of a noble. What a compliment!) And Kvothe is bound hand and foot and taken to Imre. He explains what it was about and says it was a tedious interruption that took six days for him to clear himself, and he thought he’d won but he was still terribly naive.
And we’ll stop there and start from the interlude chapter 46 next week.
Lots of great comments on last week’s post.
Read the whole thing.
Promotions first: The Department of Imaginary Sympathy is delighted to announce the promotion of Artful Magpie and C12VT to Re’lar, and Geminaut, flosofl, PL and Piapiapiano to E’lir.
Naming/Unnaming and Entropy
Fascinatingly in last week’s comments Flosofl suggests:
Naming is not changing of the item Named. It’s to so firmly implant in the universe whatever concept the Namer wanted to express, that reality itself is so arranged that there is no other way for it to be. To use Naming is not to change a thing, so using the Name of the Wind is not to order the wind or change which way it was blowing, it’s to imprint reality such that not only does the wind blow as intended, there was never any other for which it could. It’s a waveform collapse on a macro scale.
This may be related to why K has troubles with Elodin’s classes. It’s less about definitives and rote recitation of facts but more about possibilities and probabilities. The more Alar you can tap, the more remote probably you can effect. Nudges are easy, wholesale change is hard. But at the root, you have to understand what the probabilities are, or that they even exist, before Naming can even begin.
Which leads me to the yang of Naming. The anti-matter to matter. And quite simply that would be UnNaming. The actual negation of something in the universe. To UnName something would be to erase it from existence. Not just that, but make it impossible to exist. Now I’m not saying that UnNaming the wind makes the wind go away. What I’m saying is that UnNaming is a counter technique to Naming. If something has been Named (collapsed waveform to the definite) then UnNaming would be the opposite. The definite has once again uncertain and ruled by probabilities.
I’m guessing that UnNaming would be most effective to cancel out Naming. Since the Alar being flung around would need to be equal or slightly greater, it would probably be easer to act on a thing that’s been Named than not. So trying to remove a boulder via UnNaming would be near impossible requiring the power of a god. The sheer temporal inertia acting on and collapsing the probabilities to the definite (that rock’s been there a long long time) would make overcoming it with UnNaming next to impossible.
and Geminaut, building on that:
the Chandrian Rot has always been intriging to me, and at least mildly inexplicable, given what we know. Metal and wood, blue flame. What does it indicate. What is it a sign of? Here’s a theory: What if the Chandrian, and perhaps most specifically Haliax, can tap Sympathetically not only into active sources of heat (kinetic energy), but also into passive sources of heat (potential energy)? This could explain why metal rusts and wood rots in their/his presence, and also how it could be hidden. Those objects tapped with this Dark Sympathy (which is the name of my Cure/Smiths cover band, incidentally ;), they...well, they age somehow. All the energy is drained out of them. I also wonder if this would be an active effect, something that is willfuly exerted, or if it’s a side effect of their/his inately manifested power that has to be willfully restrained. Haliax...who, let’s face it, exudes UnLife if any part of what we know of his backstory is accurate...is my prime candidate for this. But I don’t think it has to be limited to him.
C12VT has possibly supporting evidence:
I had a thought about the blue flame. At first I didn’t see any point to it other than blue flame being creepy and unnatural, but I read up on what causes fire to burn in different colors, and apparently the bluer part of a flame is the hotter part, where more complete combustion occurs (cool but probably irrelevant thing I discovered: apparently in microgravity the lack of air convection leads to slower, more complete combustion and therefore a bluer flame:
So perhaps the “blue fire” sign is an indication that around the Chandrian, fire is hotter and more completely consuming. We see a lot of fire in these books, not just relating to the Chandrian, but also in Kvothe’s name, in the Amyr’s sigil, the fire in the Fishery, all the references to the world burning down...
A Fox disagrees:
Whilst the un-making (surely it should be unShaping?) theory is interesting, I dont really buy it.
The dark flame is literal-we see that at the scene of K’s parents demise. It is a mark of castigation, as per Seleitos curse. Haliax always wears the darkness within in an outward sign-the darkness the cloaks him/the candle-so peoplewill not be decieved by his fair face. The use of candle; as other have pointed out the candle is representitive of power. Lanre did not have powers, he was a great general/Leader but was Lyra that held the magic. Until he returned from the dead, mysterious events took place, and he became Haliax. Then he had a dark power. Dark power+curse=depictions on vase. (Existance of vase, always bought to mind Greek/Egypition/Roman apmhora like vesels which often depicted things that had threatened society/animus/things to be feared and which where made to offer to the Gods in hopes of protection...not necessarily to put flowers in!LOL)
I’ve posted at length, on the Moon element before. In brief, this is Haliax/Lanres relationship with Lyra/Moon.
I also think this rules out the entropy idea. The Chandrians signs are not controlable (though we have learned that they have learned to hide them to a certain extent) they are marks of a curse. There to give them away. The fact that they have had to learn how to hide them shows that they are not wanted/controlable. I cant then seeing this affliction being used to power them up.
Entropy, of course, may feature as an element of the Curse’s nature.
I don’t feel so confident. I love the idea of the Chandrian rotting of wood and metal being actual entropic rotting that gives them energy. That feels right to me. But Artful Magpie has an interesting reflection on the Chandrian signs which also feels right:
what if, originally, they were actually knacks? But they’vve been warped by the curse? Like, think of the guy in Kvothe’s troop who always rolled sevens...but only when he himself touched the dice and caused them to move. Now, if he were under the same curse (or whatever is affecting the Chandrian), every single pair of dice anywhere near him would immediately start turning up sevens, all at once. And if you knew that was his “sign,” you’d know he was somewhere nearby. So what if the Chandrian each had their own personal knack which originally only affected things they themselves touched or did, but which now has a more global affect?
The Chandrian’s signs do seem to function more like a “knack” than like other magic we see. Sympathy, sygaldry and alchemy, and to a lesser extent naming, are skills that the user intentionally employs. From what we have seen of it, the same is true of fae magic. The Cthaeh says the Chandrian “have a lot of experience hiding those telltale signs”, which implies that the “signs” happen automatically rather than intentionally. It seems that Trip, the trouper who threw sevens, couldn’t control his knack either - even if he just bumped the table the dice would roll sevens, and if he could turn off his ability, he wouldn’t have wound up in jail over it.
Knacks are something we haven’t heard a lot about, or gotten a good explanation for. Ben says they used to be seen as demonic by the Tehlins - I have to wonder what the origin of that belief was.
And yes, that does tie together very well with the Chandrian signs. I would like to hear more about knacks. And about the signs, for that matter.
Artful Magpie thinks it’s the ring that’s not for wearing. Dr Food thinks it may be the thing that fits in “something something ell,” though it doesn’t scan as well as Myr Tariniel it could be “fair Faeriniel” (or “nice Faeriniel” for that matter, heh) and be where the greystones lead.
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.