Welcome to my excessively detailed reread of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 76-80 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 76 is Tinder
The tinder Tempi shaves with his sword for starting the fire when they make camp. But also metaphorically his companions, I think. Tempi uses his sword to cut tinder, and disdains the offer of Kvothe’s knife—his Ramston steel knife. Therefore, Tempi’s sword is better than Ramston steel. So Caesura must be too. Interesting.
They make camp, all sharing the jobs, and Kvothe makes fire by magic to stop Dedan being patronizing, and it has much more of an effect on his superstitious Vintish companions than he thought it would. And of course the Tiberian “I’d like respect, but failing that a little healthy fear can go a long way.” Oh dear.
This whole Eld episode leads to the Felurian episode and then immediately to the Adem episode, so it’s a long long time before we get back to Severen and longer before we get back to the University. And we immediately get set up for the Adem episode, with Kvothe trying to make friends with Tempi. Tempi is quiet and won’t chat or look Kvothe in the eye. Kvothe takes this as a challenge to get him to say more than five words. He asks Tempi if he will tell him about the Lethani, and Tempi refuses. At first he just says “No,” an then he expands and says it is not for Kvothe, speaking sixteen words.
What we have heard so far about the Lethani is the Interesting Fact that it’s a secret Adem art that makes them fierce warriors, and that’s all Kvothe knows too.
Chapter 77 is Pennysworth
They get to the Pennysworth Inn, which is enormous, with dancing and music and food. Dedan wants luxury, Kvothe insists on what’s in the pot and a bunk. Tempi acts oddly in this argument, shifting his feet. Marten suggests adding a drink, and Kvothe agrees.
Drinks, bunks and a meal comes to one silver bit for all of them. It ought to be possible for somebody good at arithmetic to work out the entire economy from that.
A red-haired serving woman makes a direct pass at Kvothe, and when he reacts in confusion she says quite nicely that she’d thought he was older. This is, I think, the most realistic sexual/romantic interaction Kvothe ever has. He’s approached directly for sex and he sits there with his mouth open, exactly as a boy of fifteen or sixteen would. The people watching think she has turned him down when she walks away and his face is red.
Marten comes over and says Kvothe did well with Dedan, and they chat about Dedan and Hespe—in love with each other, but neither prepared to tell the other. Kvothe goes into a dream about D, and is interrupted by Dedan boasting about the bandit-hunting—which is supposed to be secret in case any of the bandits are there. He sends Marten to get Dedan.
Tempi is watching the fiddler with “a strange intensity” which is foreshadowing the Adem attitude to music and Tempi’s future desire to learn it. Tempi is also successfully and confidently flirting with a waitress. Dedan comes over belligerent and drunk. Kvothe asks him the name of the redheaded waitress, and Dedan laughs and tells him he doesn’t have a chance with her. He says she isn’t a whore, though she has sex with those she chooses, and her name is Losine. Dedan offers to point out the whores. Kvothe asks him to make sure Hespe doesn’t mention the bandits—clever bit of psychology which works.
Marten silently salutes Kvothe when Dedan leaves.
This chapter has established Marten and Dedan solidly, and started to sketch in Hespe and Tempi too, as well as setting up the post-Felurian return to the Pennysworth.
Chapter 78 is Another Road, Another Forest
What Tempi says about rain.
Dedan is hungover the next day but doesn’t complain. Kvothe thinks the Dedan/Hespe show is like a Mondegan tragedy. Kvothe wonders about Tempi:
The truth was after catching glimpses of what Elxa Dal and Fela could do by calling on the names of fire and stone, the thought of someone storing up words to burn as fuel didn’t seem nearly as foolish as it used to.
And I love this because it’s wrong but makes sense. Fiction, and especially SF and fantasy, doesn’t have nearly enough of this. People’s conclusions are always right, and I get tired of that.
The others have odd habits. Dedan wants his sleeping place completely flat. Hespe whistles and picks her teeth. Marten won’t eat pink meat or drink water that hasn’t been boiled or mixed with wine. Now Marten is very sensible on this, and you’d think Kvothe would have had enough Medica training to know it, unless parasites and microbes are dealt with magically there and not in the world?
Tempi barely speaks, he bathes every day, he does his ritual exercise twice a day.
Kvothe’s odd habit is playing his lute in the evenings.
Five days from Severen they come to the twenty-mile long completely deserted stretch of road where the attacks happened. Kvothe explains his plan—moving parallel to the road, Marten scouting ahead, looking for signs of where the bandits go to the road. There’s a plan for if they’re caught—stay until the third night, make a disturbance then and the rest will be ready to help.
Kvothe figures out that Tempi doesn’t speak Aturan well and that’s one reason why he’s so quiet. Dedan suggests that Tempi is stupid, Tempi says Dedan is like a dog barking at nothing all the time. They fight, Tempi does the Adem thing and does really well, but when Dedan says he fights like a woman he agrees, and this ends the fight. Of course, for Tempi fighting like a woman isn’t an insult. Kvothe talks to him, and Tempi agrees to wear plainer clothes for hunting, but not for fighting. He understands the plan, but says he could fight and win against three or four like Dedan, but if there were more than that he’ll go with them to the camp and wait.
Then Marten asks what happens if they catch Kvothe, and he says he’ll deal with their camp—and he’s joking, but everyone believes him.
Chapter 79 is Signs
Marten teaches Tempi and Kvothe woodcraft.
Kvothe swears “Black hands!” when Marten points out that a nightjar only sings at night.
Again, Marten is freaked out at the tiniest bit of magic—this is good, this shows how ordinary people are about it. In Vintas anyway.
Another Teccam quote: “Nothing in the world is harder than convincing someone of an unfamiliar truth.”
They learn tracking and how to recognise signs of somebody passing and how to obscure their own signs. Kvothe is horrified at how boring it is.
At night around the campfire. Marten tells a story about:
a widow’s son who left home to seek his fortune. A tinker sold him a pair of magic boots that helped him rescue a princess from a tower high in the mountains.
Look, a tinker, just in the right place with the right thing. Dedan nods along. Hespe gasps in the right places, Tempi sits perfectly still and listens. Kvothe is reminded by the familiar elements of the story—hungry giant, riddle game, marrying the princess—of the days when he has a home. Because this is his first time telling stories round the campfire since then.
Could the riddle game be a clue? The existence of such a thing, anyway, pointing to the cultural existence of riddles like the Lackless one?
Chapter 80 is Tone
The tonal language.
The next day Marten trains Hespe and Dedan and Tempi and Kvothe stay in camp. Kvothe is bored. He can’t play the lute because the sound would have carried for miles. He tries to talk to Tempi. Tempi negotiates the distance to stand at—saying it’s different for different people. Kvothe asks him to teach him his language, and Tempi agrees. Ademic is tonal, unlike the three languages Kvothe already knows. After learning some, Kvothe wonders about songs in a tonal language, and asks. Tempi doesn’t know the word, so Kvothe sings. Tempi has expressions, which he normally doesn’t, and he says there are no Adem songs and it’s complicated.
And we’ll start next time from 81.
The Department of Imaginary Sympathy is delighted to announce the promotion of Silentia, Thurule, Carbonel, Mr Awesome, and David C to E’lir.
Great comments last week, as always.
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.