The Sword and Laser discussion

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)
This topic is about The Name of the Wind
423 views
2014 Reads > notw: Two-dimensional characters

Comments Showing 1-50 of 53 (53 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

Trevor Vallender (tsvallender) So I've finally started reading along with S&L after meaning to for some time! TNotW has been on my list for some time so it was a good one to dive in on! I started a bit early, so I actually finished it already, and came away with mixed feelings. I came close to lemming just after Kvothe joined the university, primarily as the characters just seemed so two dimensional. Kvothe is near on perfect, such a perfect hero as to be fairly boring, and while this sometimes works if the supporting cast play off him well, I just didn't feel like any of them were any deeper. I've seen others with similar complaints say Rothfuss's world building makes up for this, but the world seemed pretty dull too, with the legends seemingly extremely unoriginal. The lack of female characters as anything other than whores, wives or sisters bothered me too.

I think it was Rothfuss's language which redeemed the book for me, which is beautiful in places, and hilarious in others, and the story did pick up towards the books conclusion. I think it did so enough that I'll read Wise Man's Fear in the near-future, but only just, and I'm finding it hard to understand how the novel has gained such a reputation.

Anyone else feel similarly?


Jack (wineontheveldt) I had the same reaction as you my first time through but the exact opposite reaction this time around. I think the major characters like Denna and Elodin and Auri jump off the page. I think the structure of the story threw me off because I kept thinking the characters would all have their big moments in the end, like Harry Potter, and when that didn't happen I was just like... What? Re-reading I see that the characters are important to shaping the man Kote later.

As for Kvothe being too perfect, I've never really understood this. He isn't any more perfect than most fantasy protagonists that I've ever read, only he's more competent than most. He's more competent and yet is rewarded LESS because of it. To me, that's refreshing to read. I'm sick of muscle bound chosen ones who stumble their way through the plot and magic system only to become the savior of the world. The world is definitely not saved. If anything it's much, much worse in the time of Chronicler and we see a young man who was "perfect" but who has fallen because of it. *shrug*


message 3: by Gary (last edited Aug 02, 2014 07:20AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary My reaction is very similar, Trevor. I found Kvothe a rather affected, Marty Stu character, and the secondary characters all versions of things I'd seen many times before. His "problems" are all either overcome with ridiculous ease and/or the product of a rather contrived self-imposed egoism that comes and goes with the necessity for him to have something to do as a "side adventure" or to move the plot a particular direction. The actual storyline (view spoiler) is the very definition of old hat at this point. Later installments might go in another direction, or tweak that core set up in some way, but it's not in this book.

The writing is what saves it. Rothfuss keeps a steady pace and dips into the occasional outright elegant bit of language. There is the occasional stutter... but by and large he has a real facility for prose that not a lot of folks can match. Though that storyline is very tired, he updates it with his prose in a way that I'd argue makes the book a sort of generational retelling of an archetypal myth, and in that sense it's worthwhile. He updates the dialogue and the vocabulary into the 21st century, turning what might be seen as an otherwise derivative story into a revitalized or rebooted version of what is a core cultural, storytelling continuum.


message 4: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Jack wrote: "As for Kvothe being too perfect, I've never really understood this. He isn't any more perfect than most fantasy protagonists that I've ever read,"

You say that like it isn't a bad thing.

only he's more competent than most. He's more competent and yet is rewarded LESS because of it.

Which is a pretty common geek delusion -- "Oh, I'm this totally awesome nice guy who's good at lots of stuff, but the world doesn't appreciate my obvious greatness." It's tiresome enough in real life without having to read it played straight in a fantasy novel.


Gary Sean wrote: "'Oh, I'm this totally awesome nice guy who's good at lots of stuff, but the world doesn't appreciate my obvious greatness.'"

The nerd equivalent of the martyrdom complex maybe?

That might be just me over-thinking some rather petty wish-fulfillment storytelling....


Dharmakirti | 942 comments Hmm, I never got the impression of Kvothe being perfect. I tend to find him to be too smart for his own good, impulsive and a bit arrogant.


message 7: by Dustin (last edited Aug 03, 2014 05:18PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dustin (tillos) | 365 comments Dharmakirti wrote: "Hmm, I never got the impression of Kvothe being perfect. I tend to find him to be too smart for his own good, impulsive and a bit arrogant."

That is why I couldn't stand him most the time. He is very compentent and knows it, acts as if he deserves to be brillant. I'd prefer a more perfect and humble character given the two choices.

I expect fantasy heroes to be extremely talented. Saying fantasy need more average heroes to save the world, is like saying NASA needs more average people to build rockets. If anyone could defeat the Chandrin, it wouldn't be an interesting story.


Dustin (tillos) | 365 comments Trevor wrote: "The lack of female characters as anything other than whores, wives or sisters bothered me too...."

....... what??


message 9: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Dustin wrote: "I expect fantasy heroes to be extremely talented. Saying fantasy need more average heroes to save the world is like saying NASA needs more average people to build rockets. "

Who ever said fantasy needs to be about heroes saving the world? I'm perfectly content with fantasy about merchants trying to turn a profit, pirates seeking lost treasures, and soldiers trying to stay alive.


message 10: by Trevor (last edited Aug 02, 2014 11:32PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Trevor Vallender (tsvallender) Jack wrote: "he updates it with his prose in a way that I'd argue makes the book a sort of generational retelling of an archetypal myth, and in that sense it's worthwhile"

Very well put. I'm inclined to agree, and that does put it in a slightly different - better - light.

Maybe "perfect" was the wrong word, but I think you've hit the nail on the head mentioning the geek delusion.

Jack wrote: "....... what??

I mean to say the two dimensionality is even more noticeable in the female characters, they are rarely characters in their own right, just props for the males. Even Denna seems to serve no more purpose than to give Kvothe someone to be infatuated with.

Auri is perhaps the only exception and was a brilliantly fun character. Easily my favourite in fact.


message 11: by Gary (last edited Apr 25, 2015 06:07PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary Dustin wrote: "I expect fantasy heroes to be extremely talented. Saying fantasy need more average heroes to save the world is like saying NASA needs more average people to build rockets."

There's an old Saturday Night Live routine for "Shimmer Non-Dairy Floor Wax"

https://screen.yahoo.com/shimmer-floo...

"It's durable and it's delicious!"

I bring it up because it's one thing for a fantasy character to be extremely talented, and it's another for the character to be extremely talented at a large number of wildly disparate activities as a teenager. Kvothe is/has:

1. unusual (I'm thinking "one of a kind") talent at magic.
2. an extraordinary musician.
3. an acting/stage performer/master of disguise.
4. accomplished street criminal thieving/burglary skills.
5. able to charm a woman whose profession is charming men.
6. negotiation/interpersonal skills that allow him to--among other things--convince an admissions council to not only let him in for free, but give him a stipend.

There's probably a few other things he's mastered in book one.... At some point in future installments, he's apparently going to be a deadly warrior, politician, etc. Most of those things do have some sort of backstory (though I'd argue that a few are contradictory.)

He does get himself into trouble from time to time out of, apparently, ego or inattention, but I don't think we ever seriously feel he's in danger, do we? At least, I didn't.


message 12: by Alain (last edited Aug 03, 2014 05:11PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Alain Fournier | 41 comments I agree that aside from Kote/Kvothe all the other characters were pretty shallow.
I would go to the extent that most of them are one dimensional. For instance I know at "Hogwarts" University that Kvothe had two good friends but I honestly cannot distinguish between the two.

As other mentioned Kvothe was too perfect I don't recall him being bad at anything. His doubts towards his relationship with Denna seemed unwarranted given how well he does everything else. It reminded me a bit of the unwarranted self doubt exhibited by Nicolas Seafort in David Feintuch's Seafort Saga novels although to a far lesser degree. Maybe the only connection is it annoyed me significantly in both cases.


message 13: by Sean (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sean | 350 comments He does get himself into trouble from time to time out of, apparently, ego or inattention, but I don't think we ever seriously feel he's in danger, do we? At least, I didn't.

Did you miss the part where he's been hiding out in the middle of no where for years, supposedly murdered at least one monarch (remember, the series is called the "Kingkiller Chronicle"), and possibly caused the war that's going on in the background?

As for Kvothe being a bit of a Stu - maybe a touch. Still, I think the biggest defining trait of a Sue/Stu is that no matter what they do, they will never suffer any consequences. And from where we know Kvothe ends up, I don't think that applies. Yes, Kvothe is really good at a lot of things, but at some point he's going to screw up in so major a way that he has to disappear.


message 14: by Gary (last edited Aug 03, 2014 06:11PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary Sean wrote: "Did you miss the part where he's been hiding out in the middle of no where for years, supposedly murdered at least one monarch (remember, the series is called the "Kingkiller Chronicle"), and possibly caused the war that's going on in the background?"

The book is mostly a flashback, but those events haven't been described as of yet. We'll have to see if they are the result of his ego or inattention. So, you're right that it's possible there is an over-arching non-Marty Stu fundamental plot (maybe...) but when it comes to the events of the actual book not so much.

Sean wrote: "I think the biggest defining trait of a Sue/Stu is that no matter what they do, they will never suffer any consequences."

Not facing the consequences of their actions is probably not the definition of a Marty Stu character that most folks would use. That's a thing, certainly, but not the main trait. Rather, a Marty Stu character is one who is never seriously challenged because he's just better at everything than everyone else. There's a good description/definition up on TVTropes:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php...

Kvothe fits several of those elements.


Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments Jack wrote: "I had the same reaction as you my first time through but the exact opposite reaction this time around."

That seems to be happening for me as well. I'm about 2/3 of the way through my 2nd readthrough and it's a completely different book than I remember. This time through, I'm picking up just how hard Kvothe works to be so accomplished at things, which is something most fantasy novels neglect, but also that there's something else going on with him. I'm picking up connections in what I thought was throwaway dialogue the first time through. And it doesn't sound like his story ends well at all, for him or the world. (It helps that Jo Walton's reread series at Tor.com is giving me perspective.)


message 16: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben (bennewton_1) | 253 comments I'm only 100 or so pages in but even at this stage it seems pretty clear to me that Kvothe is not a reliable narrator.


Alain Fournier | 41 comments Joe Informatico wrote: "Jack wrote: "I had the same reaction as you my first time through but the exact opposite reaction this time around."

That seems to be happening for me as well. I'm about 2/3 of the way through my ..."


I saw thatJo Walton did a reread and avoided reading it since I wanted to experience the novel unfettered by anyone else's perspective. I admit I was tempted to read it since I highly respect her opinion.


Julian Arce | 71 comments Gary wrote: "Dustin wrote: "I expect fantasy heroes to be extremely talented. Saying fantasy need more average heroes to save the world is like saying NASA needs more average people to build rockets."

There's ..."


I'm sorry... but what?? I have the complete opposite interpretation of Kvothe as what Gary seems to point out. Point by point:

1. unusually (I'm thinking "one of a kind") talent at magic.

No one has said "one of a kind" he is very good to be sure, and they remark that they haven't seen such a good student in X amount of years, but not that impressive either. And what is precisely the things he is one of a kind good at? His sympathy is strong, but no one claims him to be a genius child. So far that in book 2 (spoiler) he comes across someone with a stronger Alar. He is very good in building stuff, but no one has declared him the genius of the ages either. He is very intelligent, and he knows it, and that makes him arrogant. That actually makes him more humane and real for me.

2. an extraordinary musician.

If you have been raised by a troup and talented musicinas, what you would be? He is a great musician, and his fellow artist say so, but is not like he is the only one, and he is also quick to show his respect for other talented musicians.

3. an acting/stage performer/master of disguise.

Again last point, he was raised in a troop. And the master of disguise comes from... where?

4. accomplished street criminal thieving/burglary skills.

this seems to refer to his days as an orphan... this makes it sound like he belongs in a thieves guild, where he really was nothing more than a street beggar/petty thief that barely scrapped enough to not die of hunger or cold. He can pick locks, yes, but that's about it.

5. able to charm a woman whose profession is charming men.

Who? You mean Denna? I think that "charm" is too strong of a word. I think Denna sees him as a fellow misfit and castaway kid in a complicated world. There is, to begin with, more empathy than anything else. Also it sounds as if she, who is in the "charming profession" is at his feet, when in reality is him who is obsessed by her all the time, while she just flirts and teases whenever she seems to be in town. (sorry for the language).

6. negotiation/interpersonal skills that allow him to--among other things--convince an admissions council to not only let him in for free, but give him a stipend.

I hardly call him a negotiator, specially considering all the other things that happened in the rest of the book. Neither does he has great interpersonal skills, and I might even add that his arrogant attitude is what keeps getting him into trouble. Yes, he dazzled the Masters, a 14 year old kid bright enough to spar with students 6 or more years their senior. Don't Universities sponsor these kinds of students? It happens all the time - actually I think that the book is even more real because he has a really hard time coming up with the money to pay his studies, most of Book 1 has to do with just that - a young man trying to make ends meet... Kvothe is more common than most heroes.

I actually find his narration to do the opposite. As opposed to the farfetched stories people tell about him, he tries to really drive the point that stories are not all fairy tales, that he had to struggle. He starts off by declaring "I am one of the Ruh", saying "I´m not who you think I am, or what people make of me, I am much more, and also a lot less"


message 19: by Gary (last edited Aug 05, 2014 06:38AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary I'm not going to point-by-point back atcha, though I do appreciate the detailed response. However, to answer the specific question you posed:

Julián wrote: "And the master of disguise comes from... where?"

The book is told in flashback with Kvothe able to play the role 24/7 of a harmless, everyday tavern owner. What I was getting at there was that as, apparently, one (if not the) most important movers and shakers of the world with legendary fame and influence, that's a pretty strong disguise.

In general, I think most of your reaction is something that has been brought up in this thread kind of tangentially. It's what Sean called "a pretty common geek delusion." I call it The Heroic Rationale. That is, the hero is the hero because we're told he's the hero and we get most of the story from his POV. Because of that perspective focus, the protagonist of a book gets the benefit of an aspect of human nature: we're all the heroes of our own personal narrative. As humans we spend a good amount of time rationalizing and daydreaming our day-to-day mundane lives. In fiction, we associate that process with the protagonist of the story, and that character gets the benefit of our constant need to justify ourselves to ourselves. In many books, movies, etc. we can see how this plays out when readers establish an emotional connection with the protagonist--even when that character is really meant to be a villain. Think of "assassin" stories, or mafia movies in which the lead is the "hero" but is, if examined objectively, the bad guy. Nonetheless, on some level we root for Michael Corleone, MacBeth, Alfie, etc.

So, for instance, Kvothe does have money troubles. But... realistically, that doesn't make a lot of sense. He has extraordinary musical and performing abilities that sway people with literally a single note of his playing. He could make a lot of money if he wanted. His money problems are really artificially inserted. Does that mean he suddenly has wealth pouring out of his ears? No, just that that plot device doesn't really hold up to scrutiny. I'd argue there are at least four comparable problems with the character (mentioned above, but not in a lot of detail) that stand out.


message 20: by Sky (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sky Corbelli | 352 comments Ben wrote: "I'm only 100 or so pages in but even at this stage it seems pretty clear to me that Kvothe is not a reliable narrator."

This, this, a thousand times this.

Kvothe is a guy talking about his own life story, a story that's been blown so far out of proportion that he has miles of wiggle room to take creative license with it. How often do you tell someone about something you did last week without a little bit of embellishment? Now, what if you were the only first-hand source? Would you be more or less prone to making yourself look better?

I'm not saying that everything he says is false, but I seriously doubt everything he says is true. I mean, he describes Denna as perfect in every way, and when Bast points out that she had a big nose because he'd actually seen her, he has to backpedal and amend his description. Without Bast there, he clearly would have just gone with it.

What I find more compelling about the book is how he ended up the way he is, as an innkeeper who obviously knows more than he should, but is just as obviously not the same person he claims to have been.


message 21: by Mykander (new)

Mykander | 19 comments Julián wrote: "Gary wrote: "Dustin wrote: "I expect fantasy heroes to be extremely talented. Saying fantasy need more average heroes to save the world is like saying NASA needs more average people to build rocket..."

So you too can become a great musician if you're raised for half your childhood (the early half where you spend a significant amount of time just learning the basics like speech and walking) in a musical troupe despite the other actual development half spending as a beggar orphan?

You can make the same assessment for most of your responses. I don't necessarily like the "geek delusion" comment, but if the shoe fits...


Julian Arce | 71 comments Gary wrote: "I'm not going to point-by-point back atcha, though I do appreciate the detailed response. Specifically, however, to answer your question:

Julián wrote: "And the master of disguise comes from... w..."


I disagree on many accounts. As for the "master of disguise" he used to play a lot of theatre... would it really be so hard to play an innkeeper? And to that, we see him screwing that up multiple times - he shows knowledge that he shouldn't, he gets recognized by a patron... so much for a master disguise.

On the Heroic Rationale, my reading of the book is actually the complete opposite. Kvothe is, at many times, scaling down his actions and deeds. Example, the "assasination" story that has him calling thunder or demons... where he actually used a "sympathy flash-grenade" and barely manages to escape with all limbs. I actually feel as he is trying to show that things are not as flashy as they happen in stories - often times they are more mundane.

As for the money issue... how many good musicians you know that aren't famous? Show-biz is a tough place to enter... add to that the "time" which is some kind of fantasy Renaissance where it was hard to make a living as an independent musician. Add to that your roots that make half of the people think less of you... add to that that you're also studying in a place that makes people think that you're up to no good. Add to that a very wealthy nemesis... is it really so hard to believe the money problems.

Granted, the altercation with Ambrose is a plot element made in part to have him struggle financially - but the point of Kvothe is that heroes are more flesh-and-bone that stories make them to be


Julian Arce | 71 comments Robert wrote: "Julián wrote: "Gary wrote: "Dustin wrote: "I expect fantasy heroes to be extremely talented. Saying fantasy need more average heroes to save the world is like saying NASA needs more average people ..."

He spent years 0 to 11 (or 12?) surrounded by music and arts... that was Mozart in a nutshell (sans the gypsies) and he was a real genius kid by age 10 or something like that.

Besides, so what if he is a good musician? He isn't good at everything - in Book 1 he doesn't seem to be exceptional in Medica, in Book 2 he tries a bunch on different things and abandons a lot of them because he simply wasn't good enough. Yeah he learned Tema in a day, but other languages with different roots are hard to learn for him (again, Book 2)


message 24: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben (bennewton_1) | 253 comments Sky wrote: "Ben wrote: "I'm only 100 or so pages in but even at this stage it seems pretty clear to me that Kvothe is not a reliable narrator."

This, this, a thousand times this."


At least someone agrees with me! I was starting to second-guess myself with everyone seeming to take his deeds completely at face value.


Alain Fournier | 41 comments Ben wrote: "Sky wrote: "Ben wrote: "I'm only 100 or so pages in but even at this stage it seems pretty clear to me that Kvothe is not a reliable narrator."

This, this, a thousand times this."

At least someon..."


I don't see it. Unless he is deliberately downplaying his accomplishments. As mentioned by Julian in post 22 the story Kvothe is recounting is far less fantastic than the one being told by third parties.


message 26: by Gary (last edited Aug 05, 2014 06:28AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary Ben wrote: "At least someone agrees with me! I was starting to second-guess myself with everyone seeming to take his deeds completely at face value."

I think that's a valid issue. It raises an interesting question: are the critiques being leveled here about the characters really about Rothfuss' storytelling ability, or are they about Kvothe's? It's entirely possible that Rothfuss is engaging in a shell game, and that the flaws or errors in the characters and plot in the story within the story are intentional creations by Rothfuss inserted in order convey a whole level of development subversively.

That could be what's going on. Other authors have done such things, and I don't think it's beyond Rothfuss' powers.

However, it's a pretty extraordinary claim. I haven't seen a lot of evidence that the book is that subtle. The issue with Denna's nose, for instance, does point to a bias, but going from that minor, subjective taste disagreement to a whole elaborate, three volume fantasy literature subtextual construct is an awful big leap. It needs a lot of evidence to support it: a lot more support from the text, probably references to other works by the author to show that he engages in such elaborate and subtextual storytelling, and even comments from the author outside the text.

Sidenote: I'm going to post a link to my review of Frank Herbert's Dune here. Sorry for the self-promotion, but there are examples of the kind of evidence I'm talking about in that review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Trevor Vallender (tsvallender) I almost (almost) want to go back and reread chunks to see if I can see any hints of unreliable narration as that would certainly add to the novel and make it seem more compelling, but I'm inclined to agree with Gary here, I certainly saw no hint of it on my first read. It also feels like Kote, in trying to escape his old identity, would if anything downplay his achievements, although I suppose there is an argument he becomes swept up in his own narrative and begins lusting for the old days, as Bast's intention.


John (Nevets) Nevets (nevets) | 1519 comments Since NOTW came out it was speculated that Kvothe was an unreliable narrator. After the 2nd book came out (and possibly before) Rothfuss made it clear in talks that this was most likely true (wouldn't answer specifically yes or no). Now the real question is how unreliable of a narrator is he. I tend to think he get's the big events mostly right, but what he fills in between those, may be more questionable. But, I could be way off, and we will have to wait for book 3 to get more clues.


message 29: by Gary (last edited Aug 05, 2014 07:23PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary John wrote: "Now the real question is how unreliable of a narrator is he. I tend to think he get's the big events mostly right, but what he fills in between those, may be more questionable. But, I could be way off, and we will have to wait for book 3 to get more clues."

I think you're right. Anytime you have an in-character narrative flashback story there's going to be a certain level of unreliability, so the question is (as you note) how much, but also in which particulars?

Rothfuss does make some effort to vitiate the standard level of unreliability that we might assume for a flashback narrative. Part of Kvothe's early backstory is that he does Abenthy's lessons to improve retention to such a degree that he essentially has eidetic memory. That means his ability to remember conversations, details and such is meant to be pretty accurate.

Of course, he could be lying about that part of his training... but then we're getting into a whole different level of unreliability that's really satirical.

So, assuming he's not being unreliable about how he was trained to be reliable, we're left with him being unreliable in a personal way--out of ego, because he doesn't want to face certain things himself, or that he wants to present those who have died in a positive light. Still all important possibilities.


message 30: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Assuming Kvothe is unreliable in his account, does it make a difference? What made Book of the New Sun interesting is that Severian was an interesting character even if you took everything he said at face value, with the inconsistencies in his story pointing to something even more fascinating. Here, though, we have some guy in a bar spinning a bullshit tale about how awesome he is. Apart from a veneer of irony, that's no different from Rothfuss telling a story about a guy who really is awesome.


Alain Fournier | 41 comments John wrote: "Since NOTW came out it was speculated that Kvothe was an unreliable narrator. After the 2nd book came out (and possibly before) Rothfuss made it clear in talks that this was most likely true (woul..."

Did he indicate if it due to Kvothe deliberately misleading people or due to the unreliability of one's memory?


John (Nevets) Nevets (nevets) | 1519 comments IIRC, I may be a bit of an unreliable narrator since this was a few years ago. Rothfuss described both as reasons one may be an unreliable narrator. He also made a point of reminding everyone that Kvothe grew up as a performer, so how could he not give the audience a show.

I think it's probably a bit of both. I think we all remember what we want to, and hope we can paint ourselves in a good/ different light. Combine that with wanting to tell a good story, and this is what you have. And just because you have a perfect memory for facts, or words written/ recited, doesn't mean you have the same for feelings, or any additional insight into others feelings/ motives.


message 33: by Joe Informatico (last edited Aug 06, 2014 08:04AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments Gary wrote: "It's entirely possible that Rothfuss is engaging in a shell game, and that the flaws or errors in the characters and plot in the story within the story are intentional creations by Rothfuss inserted in order convey a whole level of development subversively.

That could be what's going on. Other authors have done such things, and I don't think it's beyond Rothfuss' powers. However, it's a pretty extraordinary claim. I haven't seen a lot of evidence that the book is that subtle."


See, my first time around I had pretty much the same thoughts. It felt like Rothfuss was writing a really subtle deconstruction, but superficially it came across as "I'm a Marty Stu who knows he's a Marty Stu--isn't that unique?" The whole endeavour came across as flawed to me.

It's only on the second reread that I'm really picking up the foreshadowing and depths and speculation. I usually read for themes and concepts, so if an author's really good at using language, it's easy for me to miss that given the way I usually breeze through books. This time around I'm picking up a lot more detail. Kvothe isn't a "naturally" great musician--he's put years and years of practice into mastering that skill. He isn't an unheard of genius at magic--he had the benefit of an early apprenticeship with Abenthy that most of his peers didn't, and even then the book makes it clear Elodin was far more of a prodigy than Kvothe ever was. It's a lot clearer to me that Kvothe isn't just a prodigy, Elodin isn't just an absent-minded professor, and Denna isn't just a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. They have something else going on. But the framing story with Kote shows us a damaged man hiding from the world and wishing he could die. However awesome he makes himself out to be in the past, it made his present and that of the world worse.

Is it a new idea? No, but maybe every generation needs its own version of Dune or Elric of Melniboné or Don Quixote.


message 34: by Skip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Skip | 517 comments I really was surprised at the Marty Stu comments, because the parts of Kvothe I liked were his flaws. Kvothe is so used to being right and ahead of everyone else in the room that he expects to always be right and always reading things correctly. He is in such a rush to get to his goal, he misses the larger picture. He hears what people say, but he doesn't listen to them. He is so involved with himself that he forgets about others. People are used to treating him as an adult, and he is used to being treated as an adult, but he lacks the social awareness of most people his own age. So when he acts cold or unthinking, it is not intentional, he just lacks comprehension of how others will see his actions. Add to that his brutally reinforced trust issues, and you have all the trappings for a good tragedy.

Yes he makes short work of his challenges, but consider who he is. First, he is the nominal hero of the story, if Kvothe was a really good actuary, we probably wouldn't want to read a book about him. Second, he was a trained entertainer/actor in a very physically and mentally demanding style. His father ran the show and was training his son in all aspects of it to take over for him when the time came. Both parents were obviously well educated in one way or another, so his training at a young age was rivaled only by fairly wealthy nobility in its breadth and depth. Plus (view spoiler) Most of his prowess can be chalked up to him being bright and physically fit. He is better than most of his class, but compared to the people with real talent, he doesn't seem the best at everything.


message 35: by G.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

G.R. Paskoff (grpaskoff) | 55 comments Zzzz...huh? Oh, sorry, I fell asleep after the word 'actuary.' But you bring up a good point. He is the hero. And if people didn't enjoy reading about heroes there would be fewer books about them. I am really amazed at the level of discussion that is discussed here about character development, and I mean that in a good way, though it seems that people hold books and movies up to completely different standards. Nobody goes to the theater to see "Spiderman" and comes out saying, "You know, that Green Goblin guy was kind of two-dimensional." Why are flat characters in movies so much more accepted than characters in books. Is it because a movie has to condense everything down to two hours?

I really enjoyed the Kvothe character and Rothfuss's prose is mesmerizing at times. Yes, I felt there were a few scenes that were contrived to move the plot in a certain direction, and how many times does he need to hammer home Kvothe's poverty? But overall, his character was very fleshed out. If other characters seem less so, maybe it's because we, as readers, are not given a glimpse into their minds. Maybe Rothfuss intended it that way. Perhaps if we could see things from Ambrose's point of view we might regard him differently like taking the story of Beowulf and retelling it from Grendel's perspective. Alright, maybe that's more extreme than necessary. Ambrose is a jerk no matter how you look at him.


Kevin | 701 comments Sean wrote: "Assuming Kvothe is unreliable in his account, does it make a difference? What made Book of the New Sun interesting is that Severian was an interesting character even if you took everything he said ..."

If this is your take away from this story, you're really missing 3/4 of it.


Richard Balmer | 4 comments My problem with Kvothe's Marty Stu-ness is that it made the story really predictable for me. Because a Mary Sue is basically infallible the way an author creates sympathy with him or her is to put them through awful situations outside their making, and there were certain sections of the book - Tarbean and everything with Ambrose especially - which felt contrived just for that purpose. Almost nothing in this book has surprised me and I'm forty pages from the end, which is disappointing.

That said, there are aspects of Rothfuss' characterisation I like. The way he subverts the reader (and Kvothe's!) expectations and makes takes the time to slowly reveal Denna as more than just a stereotypical "manic pixie dreamgirl" is neat, and I like the way he gives his parents a respectful, mutually supportive relationship. Hell, this book made me realise just how unusual healthy relationships have been in my recent reading material!


message 38: by Gary (last edited Aug 09, 2014 05:07PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary Richard wrote: "My problem with Kvothe's Marty Stu-ness is that it made the story really predictable for me. Because a Mary Sue is basically infallible the way an author creates sympathy with him or her is to put them through awful situations outside their making, and there were certain sections of the book - Tarbean and everything with Ambrose especially - which felt contrived just for that purpose. Almost nothing in this book has surprised me and I'm forty pages from the end, which is disappointing."

I would have to agree. Plot-wise, I don't think there's a lot of surprises in this book. However, I do think that's kind of the point. It's not meant to be an innovation but an update. That sounds like I'm bashing it, I'm really not trying to. What Rothfuss appears to be doing in this book is taking the dynamics of the genre and updating them into a 21st century context. I'd suggest that the lead character is part of that context, and the Marty Stu elements that we're talking about are a function of that update process. Or, rather, it's a parallel dynamic.


message 39: by Zach (last edited Aug 13, 2014 05:47AM) (new) - added it

Zach Chapman | 35 comments I feel like Kvothe is that lame/generic overpowered character in a fighter game that any button-masher can use effectively. The game comes out with an update to patch this op character, then everyone complains, but you secretly celebrate.

I agree that these characters just blow over in the wind. They're just names with little interesting about them to make me care.

As for the prose, (aside from the excellent first few pages) I don't care for it either. There's a ton of imagery, but it's just dull, or uninteresting or it drags on too long. There are many repetitive images.


Darren I just can't understand people finding these characters flat. Rothfuss writes dynamic characters. I can see people complaining about arrogance, because it's written in the first person, and watching someone else be awesome is never the same as listening to them tell you how awesome they are. I personally read Kote's voice as rueful, rather than gloating, and people should remember that he is recounting largely horrible life choices; of his youthful pride and arrogance. Kote the narrator is full of regret. I see how some people could read it differently, but I can't see how anyone could find these characters flat. Not for fantasy, not for any genre.


message 41: by Gary (last edited Aug 16, 2014 09:46PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary I think "flat" or "two-dimensional" are probably not the right terms to describe the issues with Kvothe/Kote and a few other characters in NotW. They are terms that we are most familiar with, but they don't quite describe the issue that I think a lot of folks (myself included) are picking up on in this book. The problem isn't so much that the characters aren't developed, as the development itself is rather illogical or unrealistic.

Maybe it would be best to say they are based on a sort of abstract idea of character that isn't really literary in the traditional sense, or based on anything in the "real world" for that matter.... What I mean by that is that among the influences on Rothfuss listed in the pre-show podcast were RPGs and video games, and that really shows in the characters. Kvothe is very much a role-playing game PC. No, he's not capable of doing everything, but his character stats are clearly just a little better than everyone around him. He is the embodiment of the RPG/computer game thinking that experience leads to development--sort of the gaming version of Nietzsche: "that which does not kill us makes us level up."

The RPG/computer game character concept is clear throughout the book. Things like starving in the wilderness make you a better lute player rather than give one debilitating, agonizing, chronic internal injuries from malnutrition; ignoring one's ability to make money as a street performer allows one to develop street skills (thieving, stealth, etc.) rather than just being a massive waste of energy and potential; being able to convince people to do things is the result of character stats, and an off-page (behind the DM's screen) die roll, not the power of one's actual argument.

The characters--particularly K/K--are very much influenced by that kind of dynamic/development concept.

For some readers, I think that works better than others. If one is inclined to that gaming/development process to begin with, I think one would hardly even notice it. Arguably, it's a strength of Rothfuss' writing in that he's able to articulate that dynamic into his writing in a way that some folks will recognize, and others will relate to....


message 42: by Zach (new) - added it

Zach Chapman | 35 comments Gary, very well put.


message 43: by Gary (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary Zach wrote: "Gary, very well put."

Thanks for saying so, Zach.

I should add that I think it ties into the ideas expressed in this thread regarding the "common geek delusion" or what I called the Heroic Rationale. That is, if Kvothe/Kote is a character who parallels RPGs/computer game characters then the book is going to tend to appeal to readers who embrace that kind of thing.

For others, more accustomed to other literary character schemes or less accepting of that concept of character, it might read as hamfisted or awkward.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Richard wrote: "My problem with Kvothe's Marty Stu-ness is that it made the story really predictable for me. Because a Mary Sue is basically infallible the way an author creates sympathy with him or her is to put ..."

IMHO the wish furfillment aspect of the book is definately there but there is more going on.

I think he is shown in both books to be reckless and prone to making bad decisions, and that, in fact is pointed out multiple times, by his original teacher and the Master Namer after his "test", and demonstrated on just about every other page of the book.

For example:

(view spoiler)

or

(view spoiler)


Elizabeth Morgan (elzbethmrgn) | 272 comments The part that made me fall in love with this series in the first place is that although Kvothe has all these talents (having worked hard for them or just lucked out growing up in a Trooper family or the sexytime spoilers from book two), making him Generic Fantasy Hero, he stuffs it up. All the time. He makes stupid choices and then someone will kick him when he's down. I really like that, it's the only thing that makes him a sufferable character for the length of three novels.

It makes me think of Homer Simpson: "I am so smart. S-M-R-T". Yeah he might know stuff but he's also only a kid and still pretty stupid.


message 46: by Sean (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sean | 350 comments I wouldn't call him stupid - more impatient and occasionally overconfident. Kvothe is very smart and skilled, and he occasionally let's that go to his head.


message 47: by Gary (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary I think that if one reads this book as a novelization of a RPG or computer game then one starts to see the problems that a lot of folks have with the character. It's not that he lacks development. It's just that what is often described here as arrogance or naivete really reads more like a player taking on a character in a game and playing him rather badly....

Doing things like leaping off the roof as a result of a conversation with a professor, or having a blase attitude about being whipped are things that a player does while assessing the life bar on his character stats. Outside of desperate situations, a real person doesn't continue on with 2 hit points--or, at least, he doesn't start up a new "side adventure" without recovering. The character reads more like the way a player interacts with a PC rather than a person actually walking around in that skin.


message 48: by Sean (last edited Aug 16, 2014 07:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sean | 350 comments I think that's more a matter of opinion, really.

I got the impression that Kvothe took that "leap of faith" because he thought it was part of a test, and that Elodin would keep him from being hurt and probably take him on as a student, which is what I'd expect from the average fantasy story. That didn't happen, and it takes Kvothe a while to figure out that Elodin isn't like the other teachers at the University.

As for his being whipped, well, if you decided to pump yourself full of painkillers before hand, you'd probably be pretty blase about it, too. Besides, of the possible punishments, that's the one he's least opposed to - I believe the other options tend to be things like paying a fine (which he can't afford), or expulsion (which would be even worst). It's all about perspective.

Also, you have to remember - Kvothe is maybe fifteen or sixteen at this point, so he's probably not going to think some things through.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments But, that is just the thing, the 15 and16 year old thing just is not an excuse. As he himself points out more than once, he learned caution in during his homeless years. Plus he is just reckless beyond a normal person his age.

"I just got wipped. Let's go to the library!"
"Elodan, who everyone says is crazy, who just showed me his former room in the asylum, who has treated me in a most peculiar way, says to jump off a building, so I will!"

Etc.


message 50: by Sean (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sean | 350 comments Okay, I've taken some time to gather my thoughts, and hopefully this won't come across as rant-y.

First, I imagine the kind of caution he learned living on the streets is different from the kind of caution needed in an academic setting. In the former, lacking caution can get you hurt or even killed; in the later, the worst they can do is expel you.

re: Visiting the library. I still don't think that's him being stupid or incautious. Kvothe's big flaw at this point in his life is that he's impatient - which isn't helped by the fact that more often than not, his impatience is rewarded rather than punished. Yes, he was whipped, but he was also advanced to the next level of student and given access to the library's collection, which is what he wanted in the first place. If he'd been willing to wait a little, he wouldn't have gotten whipped, he wouldn't have started a feud with Ambrose, and his life would have been a whole lot easier. But he didn't.

And he didn't want to get proper medical attention because then he'd either have to admit to taking certain drugs (which he probably shouldn't have had) or risk being killed via overdose.

re: Elodin. For my take, Kvothe sees Elodin as a kind of Mr. Miyagi figure (which, let's face it, he kind of is). Being genre-savvy, Kvothe figured that the whole thing was probably a test, so he went along with it without question - and it bit him in the ass. Minor spoiler: something similar happens in the second book, only this time Kvothe learns that he can't quite trust Elodin to have his best interests at heart.

And for the sake of accuracy, Elodin didn't tell Kvothe to jump - he just claimed to have escaped by flying out. Kvothe decided to jump all on his own.

Finally, if Kvothe didn't do half this stuff, the story would be incredibly boring. No one wants to read about the characters who don't take risks. Yes, Harry Potter should have just gone to Dumbledore every time he suspected something bad was going on, and he did eventually learn to do that. But imagine how boring PS/SS would have been if Harry hadn't decided to try to stop the bad guy on his own.


« previous 1
back to top