Book Review- The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Magic. Some books are shipped with it. Some earn it after years of moving from reader to reader, absorbing a fraction of their awe and wonder.

And then there are books that are written with it. The magic is woven into the language, into the story, so that I feel it the moment I read the first sentence. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is one such book.
Untitled-14

Rothfuss has been touted for his poetic prose, the lyrical quality his stories have, and I didn’t really get it until I read this novella. Sure, The Name of the Wind had its poetic moments, and so did The Wise Man’s Fear. But nothing that really stood out to me. Nothing that made me stop and reread lines so I could be hit by them again.

Auri’s story is full of such lines. Lines that took my breath away and begged for me to read them out loud. To feel them. Taste them. Know them.

Every single line evokes Auri herself. They’re thin and agile, and graceful too. They spin and twirl through the unknown guts of the world beneath the university, confident and sure. And they help make sense and bring peace to everything they touch.

The actual plot, the story of what Auri is doing over the course of 148 pages isn’t what I came away with. It was her routine, and the glimpse into how she functions that really entranced me. That and the thoroughly enchanting illustrations of Nate Taylor.

But, to do this proper, I must now warn you of the spoilers.

The story begins, not with Auri, but with Rothfuss. A short foreward, in which he explains that this story might not be for everyone. That it’s strange and doesn’t do what good stories should. But, “if you love words and mysteries and secrets. If you’re curious about the Underthing and alchemy. If you want to know more about the hidden turnings of my world… Well, then this book might be for you.”

Illustration by Nate Taylor
Illustration by Nate Taylor

Only then do we meet Auri, on the first day of the story. We follow her through her day, learning a little about her world. About the things she’s grown attached to, and her purpose in the Underthing. The Underthing, by the way, is a series of rooms, all in various states of ruin, that are underneath the University Kvothe attends.

She names everything. The rooms, the things she discovers, the things she keeps and uses. First we hear of Mantle, which is the room Auri sleeps in. There her bed and blanket, her shelf, and her beloved source of light Foxen. Foxen lives in a glass jar, and gives off a pale greenish blue light.

We’re never explicitly told what Foxen is, but none of Auri’s named things are living creatures, so I assume Foxen isn’t either.

She wakes on this first day and knows that “he” is coming in seven days. She has to prepare. Now, if you haven’t read the other novels, you’re going to be really confused during Auri’s story. So stop reading this and read The Name of the Wind, right now!

She never says the name of this man who is coming in seven days, but we know that it’s Kvothe. So the story, in its barest bones, is a story of Auri preparing to see Kvothe in seven days time.

If you’ve read the other books, you know that when Kvothe calls on Auri they always exchange gifts. Now, they’re not your typical gifts. They’re clever, odd. And must suit the person for some reason. She spends her days finding the right gift for Kvothe’s visit.

She encounters her fair share of trouble through the story. She makes her own soap, and finds that the eight cakes she’d stored had been eaten by some “rude” creature.

At one point she thinks she hears the sweet music of Kvothe’s lute filtering down into the Underthing. She scurries, finds the first most suitable gift and hurries to The Top of Things. She waits, hidden behind a chimney, but he doesn’t come.

Illustration by Nate Taylor
Illustration by Nate Taylor

I was sad for her at first, but Auri understands the way of things. He isn’t supposed to come until the seventh day. If he’d come on the third it would be wrong. This way she still has time.

So we follow her. Through the days, good and bad. We learn to see the Underthing as she does, in the lilting, tilt of names and words. Mantle, Wains, Tumbrel, Trees, Pickering, Crumbledon, Woods, Delving and Rubric.

And we fall in love with her friends. Foxen and Fulcrum. The tiny stone Amyr. They all become characters.

But it’s not until the sixth day, and through a startling heartbreak, that Auri finds the right gifts for Kvothe. Despite the fear of the moment the breaking of Fulcrum, the brazen gear Auri finds in the beginning of the story, holds the answers. And she also discovers that she was wrong. Kvothe isn’t coming on the seventh day, but the sixth night.

She scampers around, the world finally making sense, and puts everything to rights. She washes her face, her hands and her feet. And she finds the perfect three gifts for Kvothe.

Illustration by Nate Taylor
Illustration by Nate Taylor

And then, the final line of the story tells us that she hears his music faint and flowing through the Underthing.

Rothfuss follows his magical story with another. About the hard work and perseverance required to bring Auri’s tale to the masses. He doubted the story. A lot. And was worried about its reception with fans. And it seems he was right to worry.

The folks over at Goodreads either gave it 5 stars, or 1. There’s no real in between. And those who gave a one star are angry, and vocal about it. One woman called the book drivel, and was furious that Rothfuss had wasted his time writing it instead of finishing the third book in the Kingkiller Chronicle.

Her angry, flippant, and entitled comment left me with a physical ache. How could she say such hurtful, mean, and just plain rude things about Auri? Her story isn’t like the others, we knew that going in. He expressly told us that we might not like it. But, even if you don’t like the plot, which is admittedly thin, how could you not be pleasantly tangled in the words? In the character development and word building?

I closed this book for the last time, grinning. Sleepy-eyed and calm, sighing my contentment. I flipped through the pages lazily, remembering the peaceful tangle and rhythm of my week spent in the Underthing.

This book snagged at something inside me, something that’d been left askew. And Auri put it to rights.

I’m truly sorry if you read this and don’t find yourself tangled up too.

BZ

Patton Oswalt, Endless Homework, and the Joco Cruise!

The last few days, though crisp, have been beautiful. Bright blue skies, rays of sunshine that actually offered some feeble warmth to my frigid skin, and blissfully no breeze. Today is nothing like that.

The clouds have decided to come home, and they’ve blanketed Salem in an oppressive sheet of grey. Not dark grey, or the bruised look of rain clouds. Not the pale fluff of Arizona clouds. These clouds are business grey. The grey of cubicle carpet. They’d make most Arizonans irritable and depressed. But, I guess I’ve acclimated now, because I’m not unhappy to see them.

I’ve opened the blinds to let the thin light in. Trevor’s still asleep. He said last night that he wanted to wake up when I did, so we could make breakfast. I kind of figured that wouldn’t happen. I warned him. I said, “I usually get up around 9”. He grimaced, and agreed, though I think he was harboring a hope that I’d enjoy my rare Sunday off by sleeping in with him.

I hoped so too.

But, I can’t deny Troy and Abed (my alarm tone). Well, sometimes I can. But my brain was immediately active this morning, desperate to use this unplanned time to get something done. My post for my Sci-Fi class. Knock out some of the French homework due tomorrow. Read a tiny bit of The Slow Regard of Silent Things. Finish the third round of edits on A Stranger Comes Knocking. Anything. Something!

And here I am writing an unscheduled blog post.

Ha! As if I schedule any of them. What a crock.

I finished reading Firefight Friday night…

Just say that out loud. Do it. You want to. See? It’s funny!

It was a great story, and just like the first story, I kind of saw the end coming. I won’t go into the details here, but keep an eye out for the review!

So now I’m on to Rothfuss’s novella and so far I love it. It’s eccentric as hell, but the lilting language and whimsical storyline has me hooked.
Untitled-14

Speaking of Rothfuss, he, John Scalzi, and Wil Wheaton are all on this mysterious journey known as the JoCo Cruise Crazy 5. Now, maybe I’m just out of the loop on this one, which we all know is likely, but I had to Google it.

Turns out, Jonathan Coulton, who I’m rather fond of, has his own damn cruise! The fact that I am not on that ginormous boat, rubbing elbows with idols, is really infuriating! To put it simply, the JoCo cruise is a nerd cruise. There’s a 24 hour, designated Table Top Game table. There are performances by Jonathan Coulton. There are panels and events from people like Rothfuss, Scalzi, and Wheaton.

I looked at the prices… And they’re really reasonable.

Why am I not on that gorram boat?!

Oh right, I was paying for a wedding and a honeymoon last year. Well, thank goodness that’s over, so we can start living it up, Nerd Style.

…This is why I don’t post on Sundays. My brain is mush from the work/school week. And usually, I’m at work by now, safely busied away from all forms of social media.

Speaking of nerds, Trevor, Crazybull, and myself made the trek to Portland to see Patton Oswalt.

Look at these nerds...
Look at these nerds…

Now, Trevor and I went and saw him perform at the Elsinore Theater back in November 2012. He was hilarious, and adorable in his own tiny, funny man way. But, he was much more approachable at Powell’s. He talked a bit, and you knew it was genuine. He was being himself up there, talking to us and telling us stories. He took questions, and Trevor got to ask him one. Pretty sure that would have made his night, if Patton hadn’t gone above and beyond come signing time.

"Your name is Crazybull? That's awesome!" -Patton Oswalt
“Your name is Crazybull? That’s awesome!” -Patton Oswalt

So, Trevor has owned, and listened to, one of Patton’s comdey CD’s for about as long as we’ve been together. On it is a bit about religion in which the phrase “Sky Cake” is bandied about. A bit. And it’s one of Trevor’s favorite comedy routines, ever. So, when the sticky notes were passed around, so that you could write your name so Patton could write yours, my husband wrote, “Sky Cake”.

The balls on this kid.

I thought he was being ridiculous, but when it was finally our turn, and Patton opened the book and saw Trevor’s yellow post-it note, he laughed. He looked up at Trevor and said, “Oh, Sky Cake…” his voice full of that nostalgic whimsy he uses during the bit.

"Oh, Sky Cake..." -Patton Oswalt
“Oh, Sky Cake…” -Patton Oswalt

This, would have been the best moment of the night. But wait, there’s more! Trevor and I chatted with him as he signed, Trevor even got the CD signed, and Patton was floored that he brought it, just completely jazzed to sign it. And then we walked away, our two minute exposure to one of Trevor’s idols over. And we were pumped and totally, 100% happy to have spent $40 on two books and to have made the drive.

And then, as we walked away, we opened the book. And there, in that thick black marker, read, “Sky Cake – Stay delicious”.

And that was the moment that made Trevor’s evening. I’m so glad that I could be witness to what will become one of my husband’s most cherished memories. He helps me through Sanderson signings, and I’m glad to help him through Comedian encounters.

The three of us walked a block over and got beers and dinner at Deschutes, laughing and telling stories. It was a great night.

Beer makes everything better!
Beer makes everything better!

And that was our adventure. Today I have plans to do nothing but watch the Superbowl. I consider it a national holiday, even when the Steelers aren’t playing. I’m rooting for the Seahawks, seeing as I reside in the PNW. Plus, the Patriots are jerks and Trevor’s a Jets fan, so we hate them!

After the Superbowl, I do have to post about The Time Machine. I finished reading it last night, and though it ended well, it was still a very boring read. I felt like I was inside the world’s longest, and least interesting episode of The Twilight Zone.

Sorry, not sorry.

I haven’t looked at the French homework due tomorrow, because I’m afraid of it. I’m sure there’s a ton. But, I’m off work at 3:30pm, so I have time. And then there are more stories and a novel to be read for next week. Good grief.

I have another round of edits to do for A Stranger Comes Knocking. This has been an eye-opening experience, and I’ve learned a lot. I can’t wait to use what I’ve learned on my manuscripts. But, I’ll talk more about that another time.

Sorry my Writing Excuses post hasn’t arrived yet. I’ve been pretty busy over here. It’s coming, I promise!

I’ll talk at you soon, Blogland!

BZ

The Literary Crevices of Salem, OR

I finished reading ‘The Name of the Wind’ yesterday. I toted the book around with me for the rest of the evening, unwilling to relinquish it to its place on my bookshelves. In fact, it’s still sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting for me to decide I’m ready to put it away.

Buying the sequel will help. I spent most of my day off loitering the stacks of Salem’s various indie bookstores. That’s one of the things that enamored me to this small city. There is no Borders, no Barnes and Noble, not even a Walden’s Books in one of the malls.

But, there’s The Book Bin downtown, which has new and used books spread over two floors. Being downtown it tends to cater more toward the older generations, with a large selection of literary and general fiction.

The Book Bin Downtown
The Book Bin Downtown

But, they have a second location, just down the street from my work, The Book Bin East. This location, formerly Borders, caters more to my generation, with sprawling shevles crammed with Sci-Fi/Fantasy, both new and used, and a children’s/teen lit section that rivals any big chain.
1472798_183069028560474_1936292724_n

There’s The Book Habit, which is tucked away beneath a restaurant. Only used books live there, stacked two deep in horizontal rows on the shelves. They don’t even use a computerized register, and their organization and inventory are both mysteries. I only visit the ‘Habit’ when I’ve got the time to kill on an adventure in book hunting.
cimg1523

The Paperback Exchange sits on a one-way street, in an old building whose windows are thick with the dusty grime of novels left neglected for too long. This store is probably my least favorite. It feels like sifting through the forgotten remains of someone’s former life. Dirty. The pricing makes no sense, and often can’t be found. I once stacked up a pile that, according to the numbers penciled onto the title pages, should have cost me upwards of $20, but once at the register the clerk/owner/hoarder told me the total was $14.

To this day, I’m not sure how she came to that total. The books are cheap there, and occasionally you’ll find an unexpected gem tucked away in some cobweb encrusted corner.
BGqNKWIF_620x465

Across the river I discovered The Reader’s Guide, a wonderful store in West Salem. They have new and used books, and today I found a real gem there; a hardback copy of ‘The Way of Kings’! I tore it from the shelf and cradled it against my chest, as if hugging a long lost child. Needless to say, I bought it, and at a steal of a price, $14.

This store is in a great location, but the building doesn’t have a proper sign. Instead there’s a hand-painted “Books” at the top, and then A-frame signs on the sidewalk. It looks rickety and sad, until you walk through the door into a wide room filled with shelves, all organized, with the spines all neatly facing out. I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Just one glimpse into the large store.
Just one glimpse into the large store.

About 20 minutes outside of Salem, in the tiny town of Independence, is a great little bookstore called Second Chance Books. It has a similar feel as The Book Habit, though a bit better organized. I don’t go there as often as I’d like, but if I find myself with a bit of free time, I’ll go there, pick out a book or five, and then grab a slice of pizza from the shop next door.
large-2

And then there’s my favorite. The bookstore that hid from me for two years, right under my nose. Ultimately, the search for ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ led me back here, to the place where I found ‘The Name of the Wind’. Back to Escape Fiction.
f42fcd6f-f601-4553-a027-944226f7185d

This bookstore is something special. It’s a sprawling combination of warehouses, dedicated solely to fiction. There are about 8 different rooms, all bursting with different genres, and all organized neatly. But, there’s a quaint imperfection, some shelves housing novels in the usual, upright fashion, and some others stacked horizontally.

There’s magic in the twisting walkways defined by the placement of floor to ceiling shelving, a similar magic that can be found in the books themselves. It’s a place that makes my nerve endings light up, and at once soothes my soul and makes my heart race. They carry used fiction almost exclusively, but have an entire room dedicated to new Sci-Fi/Fantasy. It was here that I found the book I’d spent the better part of three hours hunting.

I’ll admit that I was holding out for a used copy. ‘The Name of the Wind’ had called to me, found me, and demanded in its own bookish way that I take it home. I wrote about it recently, claiming it full of magic.

I went to the Book Bin East on Monday, knowing I would need to find the sequel soon, but all their copies were new, and bound so tightly as to make flipping the pages difficult, as if the book were reluctant to share Kvothe’s story with me. I put each copy I touched back on the shelves.

And each store I visited today was the same. Either they didn’t have a single copy or it was new and secretive. There was no magic. But, in Escape Fiction, I found a copy that had promise. It’s still new, but it has the faint spark of magic, a hint at becoming what it’s predecessor is.

I bent to grab the book, and impatiently flipped through it at random. The binding was tight, but flexible. It promised to loosen up if I only gave it a chance. The words leapt at me from fresh, silken pages and again the smell wafted up at me. That familiar scent of printing and paper and glue. And though this copy lacked that warmth that comes from years spent read on patios and dinner tables, and in the wee hours under a blanket, they smelled of something else.

These pages held a fresh, clean smell. An eager smell. I cupped the book in my palm, and despite being over 300 pages longer than the first novel, it fit the same way, my thumb locked into the ‘O’ in ‘Rothfuss’, spine in my palm, and my fingers wrapped comfortably around to the back.

Used books tend to hog all the magic, but occasionally a new book is born with a hint of it. I’ll be honored to help ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ gather its own worn version of magic.

And so my day was spent exploring the literary crevices of this town I now call home. Then I ate lunch and read about 85 pages of my find. I was hoping to write, or maybe edit today, but my time is running out. Tomorrow I work some weird hours, but Friday I should be in, and finally able to sit down to write.

I’m still excited for this story, and scenes are coming to me as the characters continue to develop. I will admit that the writing has been ridiculously easy this far, and though I fully expect for that to come to an end, I won’t fret about it.

When the writing gets hard, you just keep writing. Right?

I’m also excited about the edits I’m working on, although retyping and printing is looking like less and less fun. But, I’ve got a few people eager to read the second draft once it’s ready, and I’m just as eager to get it cleaned up for them. I could use the feedback.

Anyway, I’m off to work on editing a chapter while I wait for Trevor to show up. See you Friday, Blogland!

BZ

Freaky Fruit and Fiction

Nectarines look like butts.

I’ve thought this for a while now, but staring down the last part of my breakfast this morning, I was struck by it. My fruit has a butt crack. It should be disconcerting. I don’t want to eat a butt crack.

So I flipped the nectarine back to right-side-up, and tried to burn the mental image of the Crackterine.

And, despite its incredibly awkward appearance, that fruit was delicious.

I spent most of my evening reading last night. I hit page 432, and decided to call it quits. Kvothe had finally hit a happy moment in his life, and I figured it wouldn’t last long, so I’d better stop there.

I’m going to focus on my fiction today. As much as Kvothe’s story is calling to me, it’s not something I want to speed read. I need to read it and absorb it. And I want to enjoy it.

Yesterday I edited chapters 9, 10, and 11. That means I only have 10 more chapters to go and ‘Vessels’ will be in draft 2!

So, the music is on, I’ve had my breakfast, and my requisite coffee. It’s time to get to work!

BZ

The Proverbial Cover and Book Conundrum.

Some days are just slow. Not lazy, or laid back. Not even lackadaisical. Just slow.

I woke up and spent the beginning of my day reading ‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss. I bought the book secondhand on Tuesday. It’s Thursday and I’m 300 pages in.

I’ve had Rothfuss recommended to me many times, and I’ve picked it up in stores before, but always put it back. The main character’s name really put me off. I know it seems stupid, but I hate it when I don’t know how to pronounce character names.

Kvothe. I read it as Ki-vo-th. And it was cumbersome on the tongue. I put the book back on the shelf, and I ignored it every time I saw it.

But, on my visit to my favorite bookstore I found a copy and it was magnetic. The spine was well-creased, probably read multiple times before it was traded in. Those creases demanded to be touched.

I reached out, caressed the spine, and then pulled the book from its lonely spot on the shelf. I knew as I felt the weight of the book in my hands that I was going to buy it. There was magic in that book. Magic I couldn’t deny, though it didn’t keep me from trying.

Many of you are readers and writers, and you know what I’m talking about. Not every copy of a book is created equal. And though used books tend to hoard all the magic found in print, occasionally a new book is born with it.

I imagine that the criteria is different for every reader, but we all have it, and we all know when we’ve found a book that will be precious to us.

Firstly, ‘The Name of the Wind’ fits in my palm perfectly. The spine tucks into the flesh of my hand, my thumb locked into the ‘O’ in the author’s name at the top as my fingers curl comfortably around to the back cover.

That was the first moment, when I felt that jolt of satisfaction at the feel of the book. Then I flipped through the pages, their edges brushing against my thumb easily. No snags, no sharp edges. Just a smooth rush against the pad of my thumb.

And then the smell hit me. I knew then that I would not be able to put the book back on the shelf. The warm, soft smell of old books wafted up to me as the pages brushed past my thumb, hinting at a past filled with late nights and traveling in purses and cars. This was a book that had been cherished.

Finally, I opened it. I flipped its pages carefully, reading the title page, the dedication, and the acknowledgements, all while getting a feel for the pages themselves. They’re thin, but not brittle.

All these pieces came together to weave a magnetic magic, binding me to the book, just as the pages are bound to the spine. It was undeniable.

And so I tucked it under my arm and continued through the store with my friend, as she explored the shop for the first time. As we walked I mulled over all my reasons for not buying the book.

I can’t pronounce the character’s name. I don’t like “traditional” fantasy stories. I’m reading ‘The Dark Tower’. That pretentious guy at the Sanderson signing wouldn’t shut up about Rothfuss.

But, I knew, even as I tried to talk myself out of it, I would buy the book. I also knew that I’d start reading it that night. What I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t be able to put it down, or that all my preconceived notions were completely wrong.

Calling this book a ‘Traditional’ fantasy novel is so far from accurate, it’s laughable. As for the character’s name? Kvothe? He tells you how to pronounce it, and by page 300, I’ve got it down; ‘Quothe’.

To say I’m reading ‘The Dark Tower’ isn’t entirely truthful. ‘The Waste Lands’ hasn’t been cracked open in a while now. Somewhere in the story my interest faltered. And though I don’t intend to give up, I’m still struggling to find the motivation to pick it back up.

Now, as for the pretentious guy… Well, even jackasses can be right about things, they just tend to lord it over anyone who will listen.

I will say though, that everyone I’ve spoken with/overheard talk about Rothfuss praise him for his flowing and lyrical prose. And yes, for the genre, I think he’s definitely very poetic.

But, there haven’t been many lines that make me pause. Lines that force me to see the beauty in the language. Maybe I haven’t read far enough, or maybe I’m being too critical.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not criticizing the writing. He’s great, it’s crisp, flowing, and full of striking imagery. And it’s definitely not as spartan as authors I’m used to reading.

But, coming from a general fiction, and short story background, Rothfuss isn’t flowery, or even all that poetic. But, he’s not as cut and dry as Sanderson. Rothfuss’s words flow and have a life of their own, but not enough to take away from the story.

It’s kind of an ideal style. And I’m glad I’m reading it now, as I’m beginning my journey into the biggest world I’ve created.

I think that might be why my venture into ‘The Dark Tower’ slowed. A lull in the story coincided with the end of one novel and the beginning of another, and a venture into a totally new world and tone.

I wanted to read something gritty and sparse while I wrote ‘Cards’, but Jordinn’s story is totally different, and I think I needed help. I read Sanderson almost exclusively while writing ‘Vessels’, and though I don’t think my novel can even compare to something Sanderson wrote, I definitely took a lot of lessons from his prose.

In order to write Jordinn’s story, I needed to read a book that would teach me how. I think ‘The Name of the Wind’ is that book. At least for now.

Anyway, I’m supposed to hang out with a friend today, but she hasn’t responded to my texts yet. So, until she does, I’m going to be editing ‘Vessels’ and keep working on the new novel.

I wrote about 600 words on Tuesday while I waited for a friend, and though that is small progress, I want to keep the momentum going.

If you haven’t read Rothfuss, I recommend giving him a chance. So far I’ve found ‘The Name of the Wind’ highly addictive. It’s the first of three, and the third has yet to be released.

I’m already worried about the potential of having to wait.

Have a good day, Blogland!

BZ