Book Review: The Slow Regard of Silent Things
Several years ago I encountered a book by Patrick Rothfuss that was highly recommended by a webcomic artist I had been following online. I don’t remember all of the details of Greg Dean’s reasons for suggesting the books, but I decided to give them a shot. All I knew from the start was that the stories were set in a fantasy world involving magic, mystery, and murder. The first book was the first in a series, the Kingkiller Chronicle, entitled The Name of the Wind. I loved it and immediately tracked down the second book, The Wise Man’s Fear. The third book in the series, The Doors of Stone, has not yet been completed or published. (This has caused a great deal of angst among some of Pat’s more ardent fans, many of whom seem incapable of waiting patiently for good things to come to pass.)
While working on this series, Mr. Rothfuss has also taken on some other literary projects, including writing two picture books that are not for children. And he was invited to contribute to an anthology of rogue tales. This last project was the reason why Volume 2.5 of the Kingkiller Chronicle was written.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is not your “typical” book. There is a beginning, middle, and end, there is a character, a setting, and a plot, and there is conflict. But there is only one character (unless you consider the unnamed “him” who never appears in the story), and the conflict is between the only character and herself and her environment. Even the author recognised that this was not the kind of book that most people would want to read. In both his foreword and his endnote, he explains how he didn’t actually plan on publishing it. This was a story that he started to write with one end in mind, it turned into something completely different, and so he thought he would set it aside as a “trunk manuscript.”
What is a trunk manuscript? It is a story that you write and discard because it isn’t worth the time to publish, it isn’t going to have a wide enough audience, it isn’t finished but you don’t know what to do with it, or any number of other reasons. (I like this blog post from YA author Jennifer R. Hubbard as an explanation of trunk manuscripts and what to do with them.) This is a concept that I will be sharing with my students next year when we do our writers workshops.
A couple of important notes about this book: If you haven’t read the first two installments of the Kingkiller Chronicle, you probably won’t like this story, even though it isn’t a part of that narrative at all. If you are looking for an action-packed adventure story, you definitely won’t like this. As Pat himself points out, the biggest action scene in the book is the main character making soap. If you are looking for witty dialogue, or any dialogue at all, you’ll be disappointed. There is not a single line of dialogue in the whole story.
On the other hand, if you have read The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear and you want to know more about this enigmatic character Auri, this is a great book to read. It is all about her and what she does with her time. It is odd, it is quirky, it is “none of the things a book is supposed to be” and yet I loved it anyway. I felt a connection to the character and her constant desire to set everything aright. Auri is a little broken, not quite all there, and yet she manages to find a niche in her world that lets her survive and even thrive. There is something beautiful in that idea. So even though a lot of people out there in the Internet are hating on this book and hating on this author, I am not one of them. I really enjoyed this book and I am really glad that Patrick Rothfuss took The Slow Regard of Silent Things out of the trunk and put it into the hands of his publisher.