Welcome to my no moon left unturned re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 66—70 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
Chapter 66 is “Within Easy Reach”
D, of course.
Alveron suddenly appears in Kvothe’s new rooms — there’s a secret passage so they can meet without anyone knowing.
Kvothe says he has learned the Lackless history — but he hasn’t really. Alveron says he has invited her and Kvothe can meet her and get to know what she’s like. He says he needs paper, ink, and pens. Alveron says there is a poet in Renere who keeps a trunk of rotting apples on hand for inspiration.
Now, we were thinking apples are significant, and we know poets are significant, but could this possibly be meaningful? Surely not...
Kvothe says he wants to wander about for inspiration, and Alveron agrees. He says he has everything he needs.
He finds D at once, and it seems surreal. I know I’ve complained a lot about their relationship, but I know exactly what he means here. He says she moved with grace like a tree — trees and D seem to go together. They do some over-the-top fake flirting and making up poetic lines.
Chapter 67 is “Telling Faces”
A great title. It’s the fake science “turagior” of prediction from faces, and also faces that are telling. Clever.
Kvothe brushes up on court etiquette from Stapes. He was familiar with most of it from his mother, but customs do change with fashion. You shouldn’t set down a dirty utensil, but licking it clean is okay. You shouldn’t finish bread or milk... weird. In Welsh folklore bread and milk is what you leave for fairies. The next day he learns to pare rind off cheese. “Such is the price of civilization.” But this isn’t civilization at all, it’s fashion, and he knows it. I like this bit, it makes it seem more plausible that he can get away with it.
He wears leaf green and black to meet Meluan, at a formal dinner. The sight of Meluan shocks him and he knows he recognises her but he can’t think from where. I suppose this is the resemblance to her sister Netalia, his mother. She’s strikingly lovely. She accuses him of staring, he says he is a student of faces, and she asks if he’s a turagior. He says he can read her future and it’s an apology for not being able to keep his eyes off her.
They’re seated between the Viceroy of Bannis who seems to be an odd old dodderer, and a Yllish couple talking in lilting Yllish. Ylls! In Severen! I thought they were almost extinct. “Lilting” is what monolingual Anglophones often say about Celtic languages, though I don’t see it myself, but this might be more evidence for an intention of Celtic equivalence to Yll. Is everyone else pronouncing it as if it’s Welsh?
He keeps making notes to himself about Meluan — that she’s not immune to flattery but used to it, that she enjoys boldness. Meluan asks how he occupies himself, he says he writes a bit. She says she enjoys plays “depending on the performers” which clearly means “Not if they’re ravel” but he doesn’t know that yet. He changes the subject and they discuss the state of the roads, and she says “Ruh bandits” and so he learns that she hates them with a true hate, but not yet why.
Kvothe slowly sets her at ease and enjoys her company, even though she hates the Edema Ruh. He goes back to his room and writes a letter, a song, and lots of notes. Alveron visits, looking younger. He gives him the letter. Alveron thinks it’s too much, Kvothe says she has a romantic streak and wants to be swept off her feet. Alveron wants a book of rules for courting! Kvothe doesn’t know much from personal knowledge, but lots from literature and negative examples from Sim and D.
Chapter 68 is “The Cost of a Loaf”
The title refers to the value of Kvothe’s service to Alveron.
He spends the days hanging out with D and then goes back and writes a letter or a song from Alveron to Meluan, pouring out all he hadn’t dared say to D, then rewrite it so it fit Meluan.
D has a follower and is calling herself Adion, and that irritates Kvothe. Then after two span — twenty days — she disappears for three days, and Kvothe can’t write songs and letters any more.
He comes up with a plausible excuse, but first, Alveron’s superstitiousness — “he probably believed in faeries and the walking dead.” We have seen faeries, but no shamble men yet. DT, do you think?
Kvothe demonstrates a literal pinprick magical attack, and offers to make Alveron a charm to protect him. Doesn’t he remember promising Kilvin he wouldn’t do this? Alveron asks what he’ll need, and he says most of it will be in the evil wizard tower or Severen Low. Then he thinks of asking for an Antressor lute, access to libraries, etc. He mentions that he has a project and a friend who needs a patron. Then he says it will take four days. He says he can’t do the Meluan thing at the same time, which is of course why he’s doing it at all, to get a break while without inspiration from D. Then he says it’ll be good for the courtship to make her eager for the next one, she needs to long for them.
He says he’ll need bits of Alveron’s substance to make the charm, Alveron hesitates, and Kvothe says he’s no good to him dead, which works.
Chapter 69 is “Such Madness”
Writing a poem. And his feelings for D.
He sells off some bits of Caudicus’s workshop to get materials for the gram. He keeps thinking he saw her, but it’s never her.
Making matters worse was the fact that Bredon had left Severen several days before...
Coincidence? You decide.
He finishes the gram, starts but doesn’t finish one for himself — which is just unforgiveable carelessness with his life and wellbeing. So have we all had our dental checkups and flu shots? How about tetanus boosters? It isn’t urgent any more, so he puts it off the way people do especially when they’re precocious sixteen year olds.
D shows up on the seventh day. There’s nothing about the position of the moon, and we haven’t heard anything about it for ages so I can’t work it out from time. D doesn’t apologise or explain, and he thinks how cool he is not trying to hold her or tie her down because he doesn’t try to win her and he contents himself by playing the beautiful game!
He putters about Severen with D having fun and discussing music. Her music is “strange and wild and free” because she walks through walls in established theory that he has been learning since childhood.
And he writes:
twenty-three letters, six songs, and, though it shames me to say it, one poem.
Alveron also did some of his own courting, and he wins Meluan — not a beautiful game? Or was it?
Kvothe says there is only one thing that could move him to such madness as writing a poem — he doesn’t specify what, but I assume D, unless anyone has any clever ideas.
Chapter 70 is “Clinging”
Clinging, what he doesn’t do to D.
He meets D and is delighted to find her when he looks for her because this is so unusual.
She has summoned him late at night — and hey, the summons didn’t get lost or delivered days late! She’s been late because she had a meeting with her patron, who is back in town. Kvothe says a midnight meeting is odd, she says she thinks he’s a bored noble enjoying playing at intrigue.
They go for a walk in Severen High, and he leads her to the barn, which she jokes surprises her. He says this isn’t the way he’d seduce her, in a hayloft, and she starts to braid something into her hair and stops. I’m sure these are Yllish magic braids already.
He offers her a charming moonlit stroll in Alveron’s gardens, but there’s barely a sliver of moon. And they sneak in through the hayloft, which he says is for the adventure — which it pretty much is, as he is in favour. And there’s a sliver of moon. But we don’t know how many days it is after D came back, and they’ve been seeing each other every day since, so it isn’t just one day. They walk in the gardens, and he shows her the selas flowers, delicately scented and soft. He says they are her flower, and she says she doesn’t take root easily. Then she adds “You treat me better than I deserve” and he laughs, so not getting it. He tells her the lutecase saved his life.
She says she has always liked moonless nights best. She can’t be literally the moon. Pity, I really liked that theory. She says he can put his arm around her.
Her sudden change of manner caught me off guard. Since we had met in Severen I had courted her with wild hopeless pageantry and she had matched me without missing a beat.
It was all play and he was OK, and now she asks for physical contact and he’s freaked out. She says it’s so strange that he never presumes and never pushes. And he can actually read the cue! But before he can act on it they hear someone coming and hide in the bushes. And it’s Alveron and Meluan, and he’s prating conventionally about roses. Kvothe says they could go out of the bushes and meet him on a looping path, and D can’t believe he’s serious — I mean they did come in through a hayloft.
They come out of the bushes and the moment has passed for putting his arm around her. Oh dear.
And we’ll start next time from 71 and another interruption in the Waystone.
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.