If you enjoyed Auri, the whimsical girl living under the University whom Kvothe met while playing his lute in The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man'sIf you enjoyed Auri, the whimsical girl living under the University whom Kvothe met while playing his lute in The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear, and you enjoy "the dreams of fish" and "sailor's songs" and eccentric playfulness, this is the book for you. But if you're Mola, who cautiously tolerates Auri but finds her whimsy almost disturbing, you may want to pass on this book. (Or at least wait for the price to drop a bit.)
Why? This is a strange book. It tells a story with a barely-recognizable beginning, middle, and end. It exists largely within one person's head. Its events are pedestrian and perambulatory: exploring, tidying house, acquiring and consuming food. And its sensibilities are those of a perturbed mind. Yet for all of that, it seems to work. (Or at least, it works if you are one to take a story as it is, without over-analyzing all the components of a story. If you are a lit-crit fanatic intent on sucking all the life out of everything you read, don't come talking to me about your omphaloskeptic analyses of it. :-) )
Here Rothfuss tells the story of a week in the life of Auri. Kvothe presents her as a likely former student, driven slightly strange by some prior event, hiding from the world as best she can. Here we learn more about her, in a week just prior to The Wise Man's Fear, Chapter 11. We learn of Auri's abiding sense of the rightness and wrongness of everything in the many hidden rooms beneath the University. Of (the place we would call) her home. Of her careful consideration of what to give Kvothe when she meets him. Of her sense of morality, living as she does off things found and things taken. And we see in much greater detail (albeit narrower scope) the sweep of her regular haunts in the Underthing.
Perhaps most interestingly, we see small hints of Auri herself. She does indeed seem to be a former student of alchemy, retaining some apparent facility in the art. She is self-aware enough to recognize that something's not quite right about her. (view spoiler)[Most intriguing are the stray isolated references to what might have been the events that "broke" her. That "She knew how quickly things could break", and that she knew "It could come crashing down and there was nothing you could do" and that if you didn't step lightly "the whole world came apart to crush you" -- perhaps most revealingly, "Like a wrist pinned hard beneath a hand with the hot breath smell of want and wine...." (hide spoiler)] What really happened to Auri? We still don't know. But we have a heartbreaking, cut-flower suggestion of what it may have been.
More than anything, we are left with greater (non-magical) sympathy for Auri and for whatever happened to her. And along the way, we get to enjoy Rothfuss's lyrical prose put to greatest effect in a story featuring the character who, more than any other Temerant figure, presents the greatest scope for it. I enjoyed this story, I hope to enjoy its subtler flourishes on a second read, and I hope to enjoy its continuation when Rothfuss decides the time is right (perhaps, the story leads us to expect, at some time in Book Three).
A couple last notes. Don't read this until you've read The Name of the Wind and, ideally but less critically, The Wise Man's Fear. And if you have read those books, don't read this expecting a continuation or illumination of them. A few parts suggest that this story may in time play back into that main storyline, but this is not Kvothe's story, and I would expect very little of it to have meaning in what may come in Book Three (and beyond, should such occur).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more