MJS may not be a great writer, but he is a strong story teller.
His prose is simple and direct (don't look for poetic descriptions or beautiful languagMJS may not be a great writer, but he is a strong story teller.
His prose is simple and direct (don't look for poetic descriptions or beautiful language or subtle plot developments) and at its weakest with dialogue (which can be downright clunky and anachronostic at times).
Original or innovative? Perhaps not. But definitely fun....more
Readers of Rothfuss's prior Kingkiller novels know Auri as a minor character who is reclusive and a bit odd. After this short story, it becomes clearReaders of Rothfuss's prior Kingkiller novels know Auri as a minor character who is reclusive and a bit odd. After this short story, it becomes clear that she is (in today's language) obsessive-compulsive and probably autistic. In truth an exciting inspiration for a story.
"Some places had names. Some places changed, or they were shy about their names. Some places had no names at all, and that was always sad. It was one thing to be private. But to have no name at all? How horrible. How lonely."
Don't worry, Rothfuss didn't break that primary rule of writing: show, don't tell. Names are important in his world (and are the subject of much discussion in his two previous books). This idea is long established in the fantasy genre (so don't credit Rothfuss with any new idea or implementation here). In this book, place names are very important (that's why he tells you so there on page 30). But he doesn't have to tell you, by page 30 he has shown this idea with a lot of important names: Mantle, Port, Van, Rubric, Umbrel, The Twelve, Withy, Darkhouse, Clinks, Vaults, The Yellow Twelve, Tenners, Dunnings, Bakers, Black Door, Wains, Throughbottom, Crumbledon, Sit Twice, Faceling, and Tumbrel. I may have missed a few in these first 30 pages. But any reader can see how important place names are ... there are so many.
I must admit I was most intrigued by some unnamed stairs (it's important for the reader to know they are unnamed as the fact is mentioned more than once). How deliciously horrible! I'm hoping the stairs will turn out to be very important!
To the author's credit, (autistic) Auri is probably trying to exert control over her world (the names are clearly her names for these places). And the excessiveness of the prose is meant to reflect the obsessive-compulsive nature of the sole character in the story. Kvothe in the prior books magically controls the wind by knowing its name. Auri is trying to control her chaotic (but void of people) world. Kvothe knows one name; Auri knows dozens.
The story is intriguing, atmospheric -- with language more like a prose poem than a traditional story -- but somewhat a mess. Not so much a mess in the way Rothfuss discussed in his Endnote. The unusual structure, tone, and plot (such as it is) are beguiling.
Rothfuss is honest in his foreward: "You might not want to buy this book." [Too late!] "First, if you haven't read my other books, you don't want to start here." [Because you might never spend money on another book of his.] "It doesn't do a lot of the things that a classic story is supposed to do. [Like use the English language well.].
It's a sad day for the English language when readers keep insisting that Rothfuss is a great writer and a perfectionist. He himself promotes this label by admitting in the Endnote that he revised this story "roughly eighty times." But if he had to pay me $1 for every time he demonstrated his lack of understanding between "to lie" and "to lay" ... his payment to me would exceed the price of a copy of his book. You'd think once in those eighty revisions, he'd fix this glaring and repeated error. Given how upset she is when things are not exactly right, Auri would probably hate to read her own story. I guess the English words "great" and perfectionist" have changed their meanings (to what I haven't a clue).
"The angle of the light was perfect, and Auri saw the first pipetangle clear as anything. Minnow-quick, she turned and glided smoothly through, not letting any of them touch her."
I read this sentence over and over again, desperately trying to figure out who/what "them" might be. After a four more paragraphs, he finally used the word "pipes" for the first time. Aha ... that's what she didn't touch!
And what is this complex network of pipes, some small, some large, buried under the city? We know what they are not, because the buried, long-forgotten rooms had chamber pots (even though many of the pipes carry water). I have so many more questions about the plumbing of this world than I did after reading over 2000 pages of his previous two novels.
Early in the book Rothfuss captures my own assessment of this book (and his writing in general):
"The tiny wrongness was still there, like hint of gristle in her teeth. It wouldn't bother her if everything else here wasn't almost circle perfect."
The gristle wouldn't bother me if he didn't put on airs of being such a perfectionist.
The good news ... the unnamed stairs do turn out to be very important and they do receive a name before the tale's end.
Just please, please remove the gristle from the steak. Every time I want to savor another delicious bite, I find myself gagging a bit. ...more
The harsh critics are correct ... Rothfuss has a problem with characterization (especially with female characters) and plotting and pacing. And for alThe harsh critics are correct ... Rothfuss has a problem with characterization (especially with female characters) and plotting and pacing. And for all his reputed obsession over editing, there are some curiously problematic moments.
But the unrestrained fans are reacting honestly. Rothfuss offers little that is original in fantasy literature (don't expect much in terms of new ideas), but the whole soars above the parts....more