Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Genre: epic fantasy
Length: 159 pages
Publisher: DAW Books (October 2014)
MY RATING: 5 stars
I’d been following Patrick Rothfuss’s blog when he wrote about the novella he was working on that was related to his Kingkiller series (but not directly part of the main story). He advised readers to consider not buying the book, which intrigued me even more. I like reading fiction that is odd, weird, experimental. And Rothfuss delivers.
But before I go into just why this book is awesome (and I do not use the word lightly–I was filled with awe) I’d like to say a word about format. I decided to get the audiobook once I heard that the author was reading it himself. I’ve always been a fan of that approach. You get to hear how the author pronounced unfamiliar things and it just seems a more intimate experience. Nothing at all against British voice actors, of course, but it was a great pleasure hearing the author’s words in his own voice.
On to the book. As Rothfuss indicates in his preface, this is NOT the third book in his Kingkiller Chronicles (despite what the subtitle may suggest). Rather this is the story of Auri, one of the important supporting characters in the main series. I highly recommend reading at least The Name of the Wind to understand the bigger story (see yesterday’s blog here).
Auri has her own story to tell that stands apart from that of Kvothe. In this novella, we follow her around for a number of days–hence you could say it was a ‘day in the life’ kind of story. She is searching for a gift for her unnamed friend (though there are hints as to who he is), while also going about her normal routine, told in a very close (or deep) third person POV. Most of the story focuses on her life in the ‘Underthing’ under the University where Kvothe is a student (as seen in the main series). If you ever wondered what lay beneath an academic institution, here is your chance to find out.
Her daily life focuses on ordering things properly. If Kvothe’s life is centered around silences, on what is said and what is not said, Auri is focused on the proper place of mundane (and some not so mundane) objects. The ‘silent things’ in the novella’s title speak to her, and she spends much time discerning what they are trying to tell her, as an artist or caretaker finds the right place for every thing.
The text begins in media res. There is no great explanation, and no major characters besides the narrator herself. Readers are left in an endearing way to glean what they can from what she says and does in the course of the intimate time we have with her. She is not given to much monologue, but there are lots of hints about her nature and what part she may play in Kvothe’s story–though one should not go in expecting any huge reveals. The title says it all.
I really loved this novella. It is one of the best things I’ve read in a while in terms of giving me the sense that I am with this character, what her world is like, what she does and why. Auri is not sane by the standards of her time and place. She has a logic all her own that we don’t really get to see in the main Kingkiller series. It’s a very different kind of story than his previous novels, something that Rothfuss says in both his author’s preface and his afterwards.
The risk he and his publisher took on this novella was well worth it. My disappointment was in having to leave Auri. She is a fascinating character who puts magic and meaning in the mundane. The Slow Regard of Silent Things may not satisfy those looking for the long-awaited conclusion of Kvothe’s story. It is, however, a side trip well worth taking if you want to understand Auri better and get some glimpses from her particular point of view at the bigger processes at work in the world.