End Date: November 22
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Pages: 159 (hardcover)
Selected By: Elle Tea
“Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place.
“Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries… This is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world.” – from the Goodreads summary.
First, let me warn you of something of which I was completely unaware when I chose this as our monthly book selection: this story will be infinitely easier to understand if you have read at least the first book in The Kingkiller Chronicle, The Name of the Wind. There is a brief blurb saying this very thing during the author’s introduction, but that requires, of course, that you first purchase the story, so consider yourself well warned. In my defense, I will say that the story had not yet been released when I made the selection, there was nothing indicating that it required previous knowledge of the Kingkiller Universe, and I have read two other short stories involving minor characters from the previous novels which did not require any sort of familiarity with the world or any of its other inhabitants.
And now for my review. 🙂
I absolutely adore Auri. I loved her in The Name of the Wind, and I absolutely adore her even more now that I’ve caught a glimpse of her life behind her previous veil of mystery. As unassuming and enigmatic a character as she appears in the novels, she is, upon closer inspection, quite possibly one of the most passionate characters within the Kingkiller Universe. There is nothing spontaneous or thoughtless about anything she does or says; she is careful, considerate, and empathetic to a point of near-madness, internally agonizing over even the slightest notion that she may have caused some upset in the natural order of her little universe below the University, and yet she experiences such genuine delight in even the smallest of things.
In The Name of the Wind, she is presented in a way that makes you wonder about her origins, pity her isolated existence, and appreciate her kindness towards Kvothe – the protagonist of the Kingkiller series. Her solitude was akin to his own but escalated by a marked degree: while he had school, his fellow students, and his studies to turn to, she seemingly had nothing and no one else, and, since The Name of the Wind is told from Kvothe’s own perspective, I had the distinct impression that she essentially lived for their little meetings.
In The Slow Regard of Silent Things, however, I can honestly say that I don’t feel a bit sorry for her any longer. Her origins are again hinted at – in the previous novels, it was assumed by Kvothe that Auri had been a former student at the University – a conjecture which is given even more credence after this brief tale. But, while – regardless of her life before the Underthing – she now finds herself alone, she is certainly not lonely, and she is most assuredly not hanging on her moments with Kvothe. Rather, her life is full, and she has chosen for herself where she wants to be and how she wants to spend her time. She has made it a point to surround herself with things which fill her with happiness and which “need” her, and she has taken it upon herself to make it her mission to find those things which are lost or incomplete and provide them sanctuary, a place where they “belong” and can be made whole.
“It was wise enough to know itself, and brave enough to be itself, and wild enough to change itself while somehow staying altogether true. It was nearly unique in this regard, and while it was not always safe or kind, Auri could not help but feel a fondness for it.”
This is a typical Rothfuss tale: lyrically beautiful. Not everyone is a fan of his style, but I really love it. For one thing, his style reminds me of storytellers of old; I have read each novel twice – once to myself and once aloud with the Manimal – and I can honestly say that just speaking the words he has written is like magic – there is just such a fierce love of language entwined around every sentence… it’s luxurious to hear and speak his tales before an audience.
Another thing I really love about his style is that no time is wasted in explaining things; there is no moment of, “I am in this place, and this place looks like this and smells like this, and these are the things you hear.” Rather than ripping you from the tale to give you background information as an aside, from the onset you are automatically assumed to be part of this world – not only that, but you have been part of this world for at least as long as the storyteller(s), and the terms, geography, characters, languages, religions, and politics unfold around you with the story. Thus, in The Slow Regard of Silent Things, you are peeking into a fraction of Auri’s life, and Auri never stops living to explain things to herself or an invisible audience; instead, locations and characters gradually fall into place.
So, yes, I really loved it. Really, really. And now I may have to go back and re-read the two novels; I didn’t realize just how much I missed this series until I read this short story, and at this rate I don’t think Rothfuss is ever going to publish that third and final installment.
But for those of you who have read at least The Name of the Wind, this will do a fair bit to tide you over while you wait.
With Which Character Did You Most Identify: N/A.
Elle read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.
Caveat: BillMo was unfamiliar with The Kingkiller Chronicle series prior to reading this short story.
I’ll admit it: I was completely confused for the first 30 – 40% of this story. I wasn’t at all familiar with this series, so I assumed that – when Auri was presented as a rather elfin and magical character, combined with her early thoughts about that portion of the Underthing which she had dubbed Mantle (which I somehow twisted in my head to Mantel) – she was some sort of faerie or pixie who dwelt on or near a fireplace.
I know. Shut up.
But once I figured out that she was not some sort of tiny fae creature but, rather, a young woman living beneath a University… well… things began to make quite a bit more sense to me. And once that happened, I found that I did like the story – though it was still confusing at times.
Not having read the preceding novels, I was unaware that she was beneath a school until one of the other Ladies informed me of such. Until our Gigglemug meeting, I was also never sure to whom the “he” statements referred, nor was it clear to me why Auri seemed so keen to gather gifts for “him” and why hearing the faint sounds of music were in any way indicative of “his” presence. It was also a bit of a puzzle as to whether the alchemy and herbalism she seemed so skilled at were supposed to be considered sciences or magic.
That being said, I will also admit that – despite my confusion – I really love Auri. I’m still not completely familiar with her back story or how she is presented in the novels, so forgive me if some of my assumptions about her don’t ring entirely true, as I’m basing them solely on what I read in these few pages. (Also, I want it set down for posterity’s sake that I really feel Auri’s way of thinking, doing things, and moving through the world must have been modeled after our very own Elle Tea.)
But I loved her attitude, first and foremost. I loved that her little hidey-hole was so feng shui; all of the items she had collected there were placed so carefully and belonged exactly where they were, until such time as she found where they really deserved – and were meant – to be. And I loved that everything she did seemed so interesting to her, and she did them so completely, with every fiber of her being. When Auri made soap, she didn’t just stand there and melt a bunch of junk in a pot – no, she selected her ingredients with such painstaking care that, in the end, it seemed less like A Girl with a Bar of Soap and more like An Artist with Her Creation. Her simplest gestures – from looking for gifts to pondering why a gear had only nine teeth – were so intense and infused with so much genuine concern for the “rightness” of the natural state of things that, as obsessive-compulsive as they seemed at times, it can only be said that she did it all with love. She loves everything, all the forgotten and lost things, all of the unwanted and cast off bits and bobs… she loves them all.
I don’t know what “his” gifts to her were in the novels, but she put so much love and consideration into her selections for “him” that I find it hard to believe “his” were anywhere near comparable, not even if they were worth a billion dollars. But I hope they were.
And I hope the novels have a happy ending in store for Auri. Based on this short story, I can say that she definitely deserves one.
With Which Character Did You Most Identify: N/A.
BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.
The Divine Ms. Em:
I always hesitate to go a full five cups, as I compare it to the likes of The Name of the Wind and Lonesome Dove or a great epic by Michener, but I have to admit I love this little book just as much as anything I have read. It makes me happy with every new page. Rothfuss is indeed a very talented writer – I think he is also very full of himself, and he knows it… but he doesn’t just talk the talk, he also throws the prose.
I rarely read a book that makes me want to immediately read it again – but this is one of those books. Auri is a delightful character that is tragic by our standards, but she is completely immersed in her own world and her own things and the place of things and the feelings of things and the right and wrong of things. In Auri’s world, there are bashful doors and doors eager to be opened; she has her days and her order of things, and she knows the absolute right things to do and the wrong things that should absolutely not be done at all. She is certainly not tragic by her own standards in her daily quest to make things right. There is a proper place for everything, where it belongs and longs to be, if she can only find it!
I just can’t convey how very much I enjoyed this peek into this talented, precious character’s world, where everything has feelings and a place and a purpose of its own. I would highly recommend this short story to anyone with an imagination.
With Which Character Did You Most Identify: I don’t really relate to Auri, as she is the only character, but I find her absolutely delightful. I would like to take her home and feed and fatten her up and let her find where all the things in my house are supposed to be and where they are happy.
Ms. Em read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.
Caveat: Lady Esbe was unfamiliar with The Kingkiller Chronicle series prior to reading this short story.
I must first apologize for the brevity of my review. I’ve been extremely busy and quite frankly found myself reading and saying, “did I miss something, am I that tired that I can’t recall what happened the last twenty pages”. To be honest, I got 20 pages in and restarted the book, because I wasn’t altogether convinced that I didn’t skim and couldn’t understand for that reason alone.
I agree with the author that this is not a work to start with for him. I came into this with no expectations and as it went on, I had no more expectation than when I began the book. He explained in the afterword he let the story develop as it may. That it did. It meanders from one place to another within the Underthing as Auri goes about her days in preparation for her impending mysterious guest, at least to the reader. The descriptions were profound and I found myself picturing every little thing in the Underthing. The many locations of the Underthing takes on a personality of its own causing either anxious or feeling of calm. I was also curious about the world above the Underthing. To be honest, I was expecting a bit of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
However, I was more struck by, what I like to call Ode to an OCD Sufferer and possibly calling attention to other mental illnesses. Every action Auri took was so meticulous, redundant and with purpose for herself that I could identify with her slightly, but she was OCD to the extreme. For each action or journey, whether great or small caused her to wash her hands, face and feet. Her care for minutia is understandable in her practice of alchemy. However, I did find her extreme care slightly annoying, even when I could identify with certain actions having to take place on a certain day, in a certain way.
In short, I enjoyed the book more than The City. While it seemingly went nowhere, Auri was steadily moving toward her vistor’s arrival. Auri had a clear purpose, albeit a bit manic. I could also appreciate her belief that all things have a place in the world and to attempt to keep balance as much as possible. However, there were times where I felt she was trying way too hard, to the point of driving herself into a manic depression. I also enjoyed her desire to give, and this I can relate to. There is nothing like finding that perfect thing to give someone else that suits them. She has a joy of giving and I hope that her guest is appreciative of her meticulous and painstaking effort to make him comfortable, welcomed and revered. I am unwilling to mark down this book because I was in a horrible mental state (way too tired) to appreciate every nuance. I appreciate the author’s ability to create a world I could easily visualize and Auri’s reverence and some of her selflessness. I also appreciate while we are building toward a visit, very little of it seemed without a resolution. While I won’t discount it for my downfall, I don’t feel like I am curious enough to read the stories before or following this.
With Which Character Did You Most Identify: N/A.
Lady Esbe read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.