Welcome to my ridiculously detailed reread of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 104-108 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, 4C = Four Corners, CTH — that thing I can’t spell!
Chapter 104 is “Returning”
To the 4C world. (I wrote “the real world” and then changed it.)
And we’re straight back into the story again, frame absolutely closed, no hesitation or drawing breath, but we’re still with what we were just talking about — how long it took Kvothe to recover from meeting the CTH. He says “it was a long time before I was my right self again”. This is an interesting way of putting it.
He has terrible dreams, and Felurian sucks at mothering him the way Auri did that time. Kvothe reports her odd behaviour, and ends “she was trying to comfort me and she didn’t have the slightest idea how.”
How long has it been since Felurian was with somebody who wasn’t totally focused on her, I wonder? Does she meet other Fae, or just mortal men? There are no servants, who bakes the bread, and what is her everyday life like? (How? How? I bet we never find out either.) She brings him weird fruit and tiny birds that sing in harmony, a drink like sunlight, and a red stone that hatches into a squirrel, a ring made from a leaf, a cluster of golden berries, a flower that opened and closed at the stroking of a finger. What this reminds me of is my son bringing me things to try to cure a migraine when he was about three. Another time Kvothe woke and found her sobbing. He describes it as “the gentle song of her sobbing”. Is everything a song to him, or is he Naming that?
When he recovers enough to flirt:
her relief was palpable, as if she couldn’t relate to a creature that did not want to kiss her.
How did she get like that? I mean, she was born, yes? She was prepubescent once? She was sitting on a wall in Murella eating silver fruit... She’s so much like a man’s erotic dream — could it be a curse? But she’s proud of it, of the legend anyway.
They make love on the finished shaed.
Kvothe is ready to leave, the CTH’s words goading him on. Felurian lets him go, even leads him out by a pair of greystones. She covers his eyes with the hood of his shaed, leads him in a circle and they are in the 4C world. He promises to return, and is sorry to have no gift to give her, he’s sad to see her alone but manages to leave, looking back.
This seems like a good time to consider what this episode is doing here. It’s got all the sex, and sexual initiation, it combines that with an initiation into Fae and lots of information about the two worlds, the moon, the Chandrian and the Amyr. There’s probably more flat out actual information about the world and the larger plot in this section than anywhere else. It’s far from gratuitous, but it’s definitely an interruption in the pattern of the story so far, and definitely a discrete episode. It answers some questions, it opens up other huge areas of uncertainty, and it would be a very different book without it.
Chapter 105 is “Fire”
The fire of red hair.
Kvothe arrives at the Pennysworth after nightfall, and he’s worried because it’s quiet. He’s afraid he has been gone for years, or decades — but no, Marten is at the hearth telling them about Felurian. Marten says the spell was broken when Kvothe got between him and Felurian. Tempi said he is trained to have control over his desires, but he would have gone if Kvothe hadn’t. (Can you imagine the two of them? Athletic sex until heart failure for sure, because what could they have talked about?) Hespe broke Dedan’s arm, and now they are together, huzzah.
Kvothe enters on his cue, his ruined old cloak. “I have found a better cloak since.”
The mortal world seems strange to him. It’s only been three days for them, but it has been “a long long while” for him. He finds it hard to adjust for a moment, and so he laughs, because everything about the tavern and the people seems contrived and ridiculous. This feeling doesn’t last — it doesn’t last any time at all, really. There’s no other mention of him feeling uncomfortable in his boots. I feel uncomfortable in my winter boots for weeks at the beginning of winter and I notice every time I put them on, so that detail really felt real — but it’s never mentioned again.
The hawk-faced fiddler doesn’t believe a word of his story — and who would! Dedan gets angry — because Dedan saw Felurian and also can see Kvothe’s beard to know he has been gone a long time. Dedan swears it’s true by his good right hand. The fiddler calls him a liar, and the room is with him. They’re about to fight, but the innkeeper intervenes as Kvothe is ready to take Dedan’s place. The innkeeper feels his shaed, and recognises him as “Losi’s boy” — Losi is the red haired girl he failed to flirt with when they were here before. This time he smiles at her, and she believes the story.
Losi asks if Felurian was more beautiful than her, and Kvothe says she was, then whispers “seven words” — “for all that, she lacked your fire”. I guess he’s been practicing empty compliments. But even so, explicitly and deliberately doing “seven words to make a woman love you” to somebody who has only been nice to you and for whom you have no long term intentions seems like really bad behaviour. He says “she loved me and her pride was safe” but what about the next fifty years of poor Losi’s life? This is the most immoral thing Kvothe has ever done, and he doesn’t even have a qualm of conscience about it now.
He tells a story about Felurian. He doesn’t sing his song. He tells the story they expect. “It had some truth mixed in”.
Then he goes to bed with Losi, and he describes the sex as just as good as Felurian:
Sometimes a man enjoys a symphony. Elsetimes he finds a jig more suited to his taste... Each woman is like an instrument, waiting to be learned, loved, and finely played, to have at last her own true music made.
It has never occurred to Kvothe to think about it from the woman’s point of view. The woman’s the instrument and he’s the performer, right. Not like they’re real people who could evoke the true music of him. Except maybe D, eh? Well, if so it will serve him right.
Also, what about contraception? I believe they have chemical and/or magical contraception at the University, but out here? Does it even cross his mind? It does not. Sex without any consequences for Kvothe, and Kvothe is all Kvothe cares about.
Chapter 106 is “Quick”
They spend a few days at the Pennysworth healing up and resting. And Kvothe takes up where he left off, no longer feeling weird in his boots or laughing or finding anything odd — he teaches Tempi the lute and Tempi carries on teaching him the Ketan. And he writes a song about Felurian “The Song Half Sung.” Is this the song he promised, or not?
He tells more stories about his life — how he got into University at fifteen, how he gained entry to the Arcanum, how he called the name of the wind at Ambrose. Then he starts making things up...
He’s glad to leave:
Between Tempi’s training and Losi’s attentions I was nearly dead from exhaustion.
And he’s made the poor girl love him and abandoned her, and he’s still joking about her.
They move slowly back towards Severen. They meet some performers, not Edema Ruh — this may be significant. He trades them his Felurian song for a new verse of Tinker, Tanner. They trade gossip — Alveron’s getting married to Meluan. Mention of Lackless causes the boy to sing a Lackless rhyme he knows, which we have discussed before in detail. It’s different from the one Kvothe sang that upset his mother, but has similarities. Kvothe gives the troupe a silver noble to buy a new bear, saying troupers have to look out for each other because nobody else will.
His Felurian-feyness is completely worn off and forgotten, we’re in “on to the next thing” mode.
Tempi and Kvothe discuss the Lethani and practice Ketan. They are caught by some other Adem, who argue with Tempi. He’s in trouble for teaching Kvothe. He has to go back to Haert. Kvothe offers to go with him, both to help Tempi and because the CTH told him he’d be able to learn more about the Chandrian over the Stormwal. So going to the Adem is directly because of the influence of the CTH. Maybe if he hadn’t gone, everything would have been different?
All four of the Adem mercenaries they meet are female. So we have a gender ratio of 4:1.
Chapter 107 is “Spinning Leaf”
Kvothe starts off here by saying he wanted to get back to Severen and the Maer’s favour, he wanted to find D, but he heads off to the Adem anyway. He holds on to the cashbox and sends Dedan and the others off with a letter of explanation.
Tempi explains that he was supposed to get permission before taking a student, and also barbarians shouldn’t be taught at all. He will be exiled if it is decided that he was wrong. Kvothe thinks this isn’t as bad as death, but for Tempi it is worse.
We’ve been slowly having little bits of Adem information as we go along, but at this point we really haven’t been told much at all. And it’s the same for Kvothe, he’s heading off over the Stormwal, a huge distance, hundreds of miles from the Eld, through Modeg or through the mountains, while knowing very little about where he’s going or why he’s going.
It’s a fifteen day trip, and Kvothe agrees to put himself in Tempi’s hands so he can make a good impression when he gets there. The first thing is to put his shaed away....
They stretch, they run for an hour, they do the Ketan, the walk, they stop and discuss the Lethani in Ademic, then repeat. Tempi tells him to discuss the Lethani with his stomach — which is where he has said laughter comes from. Kvothe manages this much better when he’s exhausted and not trying. After Kvothe collapses from exhaustion, Tempi tells him to use fewer words and more implications.
They have a proper rest, but Kvothe figures out how to reach the frame of mind he was in when delirious with exhaustion and calls it “spinning leaf.” It’s clearly another mind trick like “heart of stone” but a different kind of one — “the mental equivalent of a card trick”. Because Kvothe can’t see it as useful for anything. He’s amazingly pragmatic when you think about it — everything for something, and everything for his purpose.
Tempi adds sparring to the cycle, and they’re doing fifteen hours a day of working and travelling. Tempi tells Kvothe that taking pleasure in fighting is not of the Lethani, though it is okay to take pleasure in doing the thing well.
Chapter 108 is “Beauty and Branch”
“The countryside was a blur” and Kvothe does not even tell us how they went, through Modeg or what? Was there a language problem? We don’t know. They did three hundred miles in fifteen days. That’s really impressive.
Haert strikes Kvothe as strange because the houses are built into the hillside, because of storms. Kvothe is left to wait outside low stone buildings. He sees an woman and a boy (5:2). It’s peaceful and quiet. He looks at the dry stone wall, and is asked by a woman what he thinks of it. (6:2). They have a discussion of beauty and utility, in which she mentions her hat was made by her daughter’s daughter. (8:2). She summons a boy (8:3) who goes inside with Kvothe’s things, and she takes him for a walk. Kvothe spots another boy with a herd of sheep (8:4) as they go down into a valley. She shows him the sword-tree, the Latantha. She asks if he knows the Ketan, and he asks if she is Shehyn, and of course she is. They discuss the red clothes of the Adem “so their enemies won’t see them bleed” and Shehyn’s white “she should see it as her fair reward” — the assumption of female as the default norm, just as we have male as ours.
They spar, and of course he can’t come near her, he weeps because she is beautiful moving perfectly, and she throws him. Then she teaches him for a few moments, and they go back to the school.
(Adem gender ratio: eight female seen or mentioned, four male seen or mentioned. That’s twice as many female as male, which is more women than predicted by my man-mother parthenogenesis theory which would expect 65%. It may be a crazy theory, but I’m collecting the evidence.)
And we’ll start next time from 109 and Carceret and right on into the whole Adem thing.
Don’t miss the comments on the last two weeks posts, everyone has been absolutely on fire.
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.