Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wise Man's Fear Re-Read: Thoughts, Theories, Things

This post is filled with spoilers, from both The Wise Man's Fear and The Name of the Wind.  If you've not read both, then please, don't read this post.

I've read Name of the Wind twice, and now I've read its sequel twice (and some parts thrice).  The story is definitely better the second time.  I've been thinking on some of the threads of the tale that Pat Rothfuss is weaving, as well as the implications for the Four Corners' future.  Below are my thoughts.  I would love to discuss any thoughts/theories you might have, either here on the blog, Facebook, or via email.

1.  The pacing is improved this time around, though it's still tedious at times (Ademre, Faen).  Still yet, I marveled over the cultures Rothfuss created, at how intricate and well developed they are.
  • Faen is beautifully described and at the same time mysterious and dark.  I love how magicked the Fey are, even though we've only met Bast and Felurian.  This causes them to be highly superstitious (not much different than those in Severen and Vintas), but their superstitions are probably based on fact as opposed to legend. 

  • The Adem, on the other hand, are a simple people, yet highly philosophical.  I am once again fascinated by their double-talk, at how important hand language is. This is still my least favorite part of the book, if only because there is very little going on.  I feel like Caesura is vital to the overall story, especially given its bloody pedigree.  Also, the Adem story of the Chandrian and their old names is definitely important, but I just wish it hadn't taken so long to get there.
2.  Kvothe's parentage was particularly enthralling as I read.  Having been turned on to the idea that Kvothe's mother was Natalia Lockless, sister to Meluan Lockless, I payed close attention to the parts when Kvothe spoke of his family.  Now, I am fully convinced that Rothfuss is a cunning devil and that Tally is definitely Meluan's sister, thus making Kvothe part noble (and possibly a Lockless heir).  Plus, he says that when he first met Meluan that she looked vaguely familiar (possibly like his mother, who's been deceased now for a few years).  Meluan's resentment of the Ruh could be similar to Petunia's resentment of the magical world in Harry Potter; both sisters were jealous of their sibling for going off and enjoying life.
  • Consider the song Kvothe tells Sim and Will....

    Dark Laurian, Arliden's wife,
    Has a face like a blade of a knife
    Has a voice like a prickledown burr
    But can tally a sum like a moneylender.
    My sweet Tally cannot cook.
    But she keeps a tidy ledger-book
    For all her faults I do confess
    It's worth my life
    To make my wife
    Not tally a lot less

    It doesn't seem like much, but given how cunning Pat is, read the last two lines aloud and it sounds similar to "To make my wife Natalia lot less", ergo, Natalia Lockless.  That's why she shushes Arliden for his song, to keep her line a secret.  See here for more on this fascinating theory.
  • The Loeclos box surely is made of Faen-magic/wood.  It's smell is evocative to Kvothe and he vaguely remembers something, and I suppose it's reminiscent of the smell from his time with Felurian.  He mentions time and again how his memory is muddled from his time there, so his recollection of the smell is muddled, too.  Alveron, Meluan, and Kvothe discuss whether or not the contents of the box are precious.  I find this word choice interesting, as it thematically relates to Denna (and her fear of being "boxed in").  What if the box opens simply with "Edro," the word for open Taborlin used, and Kvothe, too, when he jokingly opened the Maer's chest in the Eld.  Kvothe didn't try it, I noticed.
  • Could Arliden also be more than meets the eye?  Perhaps somehow Fey related/descended?  He's a skilled musician/rhymer, something we know the Fey are.  Or, possibly the Ruh are somehow related to the Fey?  Not really sure about Arliden.  But we do know that the Lockless family is very old, and so are the Ruh, and Kvothe being from both bloodlines could explain some of his peculiarities. 
3.  I also wondered about Denna's patron throughout this read.  Where once I didn't care much about her patron (or her, for that matter), now I'm more than a bit curious.  I suspect it to be Bredon, based in part on certain descriptions and certain actions.  Both are apt dancers.  Both enjoy games.  Both enjoy their privacy.  Plus, the Ctheah said Kvothe had met him, and this twist seems like the right twist (though it could also be the obvious choice and therefore not a likely possibility).  Bredon seems kind, but he has a temper, too (like when Kvothe's distracted and not playing well), which would likely yield to him beating Denna whenever he's angry.
  • The first read Kvothe & Denna's relationship was annoying.  Now, it's still annoying, but less so.  Both are young and stupid.  Neither come out and express themselves, explain their broken histories, or tell their life story.  What a shame, too.  If only they'd communicate then things could be so much better.  (I'm thinking of Lost here.)
  • Bredon must be more than meets the eye.  When Kvothe is going through the papers with rumors and whatnot on them, there are some rumors that Bredon does pagan rituals and has evil relations.  Then, when Kvothe is preparing to leave Severen, he gives the papers over to Bredon, mentioning that the man may find them entertaining.  This nonchalance seems too forced (perhaps I'm reading into it), but why else would Pat bring it up again?  This could be a plot device for Bredon.
  • A final possibility is that Denna's patron could be none other than Cinder himself.  There are some theories to this, and possibly even Bredon being Cinder (or related), but I'm not entirely convinced this is so.  Still, this line from one of the last chapters caught my attention (while in Bast's POV):  "Nothing but ash and cinder lay inside."  With the two words juxtaposed, Rothfuss could be cleverly dropping hints.  There's some weight to this, I think, but again, I'm not sold on this idea.
4.  Pat overuses the word "speculative."  This is nitpicking, but it's also grating, though I suspect unnoticed by Pat and/or his editor.  I'm talking about "so-and-so gave you-know-who a speculative look" type sentences.  These pop up all over the place.  All over the place.

5.  Another very interesting thing throughout this book is the role the moon plays.  People swear by the ever-changing moon.  They tell stories about the moon.  Auri's appearance (and Denna's, too) seems related to whether or not the moon is out.  Even the Fey regard it as something important.  I didn't notice how often the word "moon" appears, but it's presence is overwhelming.  This gives even more weight to the story about Jax and his stealing the moon.
  • Think of Elodin's question for Kvothe as he's going through the admissions process for the first time in Wise Man's Fear.  Elodin asks, "Where does the moon go when it is no longer in our sky?"  Elodin obviously knows much (Kvothe recalls Master Namer's eyes when he's in Faen and that they are similar to Felurian's), and his inane babbling turned out rather purposeful in the end.  So is this question important?  Maybe.  Is it a subtle hint?  Possibly.
6.  We know the frame story, the story in the present, is a tragedy.  Kvothe remarks to Bast that "we all know what kind of story this is."  Something so catastrophic has happened to Kvothe that he no longer is himself, it's as if he's locked away a part of his name and has been rechristened as Kote.  This tragedy is likely the death(s) of Denna and/or many other friends due to some rash action made by a foolish Kvothe.  As such, this has me thinking about the conclusion of the book, of the trilogy.  Will there be resolution?  Yes, Rothfuss is too much a storyteller to not leave things unresolved, as stories must have endings.  But will the ending be satisfying?
  • Remember when Kvothe tells the story of the old man and his search for food & fire?  (Chapter 38, "Kernels of Truth")  Sim (or Will, I cannot recall, but it sounds like Sim) is upset at the ending, claiming the story wasn't really a story at all.  Sim asks Kvothe, "Why tell a story that's not entertaining?"  Kvothe answers, "To help us remember.  To teach us... things."  I speculate that this is Pat foreshadowing the conclusion to The Kingkiller Chronicles.  The ending may seem disappointing (or inconclusive), but that's not really the point.  The point in Kvothe's story (to Chronicler and Bast, and the reader) is to teach us things, but it's also to help Kvothe remember who he was and who he still is.

  • Perhaps these books will end with Kote becoming Kvothe again and there will be more books where he puts to right his wrongs or something.  This, I hope, will be the case.  Pat has already said he's got more stories to tell in Kvothe's world.  (As an aside, I wonder if Pat skipped over the ship wreck chapter to leave it open for a possible novella or short story some time down the road.)
  • On Kote becoming Kvothe, recall when Kvothe asks Elodin about what he thinks about a woman that keeps changing her name.  Elodin reacts as if that's something terrible to do, and his reaction implies that it's entirely possible.  Perhaps Kvothe changed his name to Kote for a time, though I think Kvothe is wanting to get out (such as when the hired soldiers fight the innkeeper and Kote remarks that he nearly forgot himself there for a moment).
  • Finally, could Kvothe have become an Amyr and made some choices that were for the greater good?  We see his guilt over killing (bandits, false troupers), though they were for the greater good and justified.  What if Kvothe became an Amyr and then found out the group was as sinister as the Chandrian and then abandoned his old self to become Kote?  (Ironic that Kvothe changes his name to Kote, similar to Denna constantly changing her name to D-----.)
 A lot of great discussion (and fodder for this post) can be found on the Rothfussians group on GoodReads, and also Jo Walton's exhaustive re-read of NOTW and WMF at 

Again, I'd love any thoughts on Kvothe and his story if you've a ha'penny to spare.


Jonboy said...

First of all, this really discourages me as a writer because I doubt I could ever be as clever as Pat, haha. I think I'm a good storyteller, but I don't see myself as having the ability to weave those intricate little details into the book I work on from time to time. Mine is aimed at a somewhat younger audience so I guess it's a little different. Still...I don't think I could ever be that brilliant.

As for the actual discussion, that's some great stuff you've put together. I really need to read them both again as I must confess I didn't remember everything you've written here.

The whole "Not tally a lot less" is absolutely brilliant. Totally didn't catch that...and now it seems so obvious. The idea that Kvothe's mother is Natalia seems quite plausible to me.

Bredon is definitely important, yet I find myself wanting to like him. I hope he isn't evil.

For all of my frustrations with Denna and Kvothe, it's a plot line I just can't seem to let go. Throughout my entire reading of WMF, I kept wondering when Denna was going to pop back up. I desperately want them to work and was quite disappointed when Kvothe slept around with complete disregard for Denna. Still...their relationship seems destined to end in tragedy.

It pains me - greatly - to say that I agree regarding the ending. I honestly don't think we'll be satisfied with it. I doubt he'll leave it on a cliffhanger, but it does seem the whole point may be to "teach us... things."

Something deep inside me hopes Pat is just setting us up, only to surprise us with a rather lengthy bit of the book taking place in the present. With SO much to cover though, I doubt it happens.

logankstewart said...

@Jonathan: Yeah, I often wonder how certain little details creep in, and I think quite a bit may be after the bones of the story are there, in the re-writing process. But, who knows.

If Kvothe's mother is not Natalia Lockless, then I'll be shocked. This just seems too plausible.

I think I'll be "satisfied" with the ending, but I can't guarantee that for sure. Satisfaction will depend on how high we set our expectations, and to what aim. And as much as a cliche killer Pat's writing is, I can't see him giving us a tidy, clean ending.

I see Book 3 ending with the story catching up to the present and a few things being resolved (like Bast's plotting and Chronicler's real reason for being in Newarre), but not everything. I can't see Kvothe just giving up and letting things be, and surely Kote will remember and become who he once was.

Thanks for the thoughts!

Jonboy said...

Haha. It's going to be great I know that much. Hopefully we'll get some satisfaction with the ending.

Has there been any indication at all when book 3 may release?

logankstewart said...

Not to my knowledge for Book 3. I'd guess 2013 at an earliest, but who knows.