Book Review: The Slow Regard of Silent Things

I’d heard a lot of good things about Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles series before I read it last year, and at this point I know I’m probably going to be a Rothfuss fan for life.  So when his new novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, came out I snapped it up immediately.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a bit of an odd story.  It follows Auri, one of the characters from The Kingkiller Chronicles, as she goes about her week.  Auri is probably one of the more interesting characters in the series – a clearly broken slip of a girl who lives in The Underthing, the forgotten passages and chambers below the University attended by Kvothe and many of the other characters in the main series.  Auri personifies all of the objects around her, and has an obsessive need to have everything in its proper place.  She spends the majority of this story trying to find an appropriate gift for Kvothe while trying to find the proper places for some of her new acquisitions.

By many of the ways people tend to judge successful writing, this should not be a good book.  To be totally honest, it is not the most exciting story – it’s a bit like reading about someone going grocery shopping.  As Rothfuss himself points out, he spends 8 pages detailing the process of a girl making a candle.  On the other hand, this is a beautiful bit of writing.  Seeing the world through the eyes of a girl who isn’t quite all there makes everything strange, and wonderful, and fascinating.  Seeing the world through Auri’s eyes is wonderful and heartbreaking all at once.  As the story goes on, it is increasingly easy to empathize with this poor girl, and a lot of her seemingly crazy observations hit a bit close to home.

My only quibble with the book has been echoed my many a Rothfuss fan – the Forward and Afterwards are unnecessary.  He starts off telling you not to like the book, and sort of concludes by making you feel awkward if you didn’t.  These bits would have been fantastic blog posts for his fans, but they didn’t need to be bookends for this piece of writing.  It is strong enough to stand on its own.

For fans of the Kingkiller Chronicles, no, this is not the book we have been waiting for.  It does not answer all of our burning questions or conclude the tale of Kvothe.  It gives us tidbits, and hints, and glimmers, but it doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know, or at least strongly suspect.  And while that is probably wildly frustrating for some, I’m perfectly ok with it.  I love this awkwardly rambling story about this tiny broken girl and her need to put things right in the world.  It is the subtleties and hints and unspoken things that make it such a great piece of writing.  It is a completely opposite tone from Kvothe’s bombastic telling of his own story, and that makes it absolutely perfect for a look at Auri’s world.  This probably isn’t the sort of story for people who see themselves as the hero in their own life, and want to read about sweeping tales of adventure on a grand scale.  But for those of us who see ourselves as the broken sidekicks in the stories of others, well, this is a story for us.  It isn’t exciting or adventurous, but it is sad, and sweet, and beautiful.  And that is enough.

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