You may not want to buy this book.
I know, that’s not the sort of thing an author is supposed to say. The marketing people aren’t going to like it. My editor is going to have a fit. But I’d rather be honest with you right out of the gate.
These are the first words that you read of this book. Unless you skip the Author’s Foreword, something that is only acceptable in Classics where the foreword is an explanation of the entire story that you’re about to read that seems to be written to make you feel stupid. The foreword of The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a warning. This book may not be for everyone. Even if The Kingkiller Chronicles is your favourite series, this book may not be for you, and this is what Rothfuss wants his readers to understand. Because this book is unlike anything that I have ever read before. It’s not really a story, so much as a snapshot into the life of Auri, a character we know next to nothing about.
There is no dialogue. This book goes for 150 pages and there’s no dialogue. The only dialogue we get is in the Author’s Endnote, so it doesn’t really count. And the only character we get is Auri. Everything she comes into contact with is inanimate. But these things seem animated because we see everything through Auri’s eyes.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things takes place in the week before Kvothe visits. Not that Kvothe is ever mentioned by name. He is the mysterious “he” for whom Auri prepares. And we only know this because of the Kingkiller Chronicles.
Quite literally nothing happens in this book. But nothing happens so beautifully that we keep reading. I think the point of the story is to explore Auri’s mindset. She is an enigma. And after this book she is still an enigma, but we understand her a little more. Rothfuss, again, demonstrates his ability to deploy information in the most wonderful ways. Every once in a while, Auri will stop talking in the abstract and poetic and start dropping scientific terms that I have heard before, but couldn’t tell you what they mean. Without actually meaning to (although, obviously he meant to) Rothfuss gives us a few insights into Auri’s life at the University before she became the Auri we almost know. She used to study Alchemy. Something that inserts itself into the story without you realising.
On a darker note, we get a glimpse into Auri’s mind. She can go days without eating, and only realises she needs to eat when she wakes up dizzy or falls over or something else to that horrifying effect. She has compulsions about washing her hands and feet and face. She has something huge and dark and terrifying in her past that she will not think about; that she actively stops herself thinking about. She will sometimes have to stop what she is doing because everything around her suddenly seems angry. And, worst of all:
On the third day, Auri wept.
And that is the entire chapter. Something truly terrible happened to Auri, and we still don’t know what it is. I don’t think it was her studies that broke her, at least not entirely.
We also get a glimpse into how Auri sees Kvothe. He seems to be this larger than life presence that kind of shapes Auri’s life, in a way. You remember how we met Auri? She was listening to Kvothe practise his lute in The Name of the Wind and it took her weeks to actually announce herself. It’s so interesting to see how the relationship between the two of them kind of grounds Auri. She shapes her activities around the fact that Kvothe will visit in a week, and she needs to give him presents. It’s so wonderful to see the thought Auri puts into what she gives him. Those brief exchanges that Kvothe and Auri have in the main series are so magical, that it’s nice to see what happens behind the scenes.
I feel like the entire book is leading up to what Auri decides to give Kvothe, but the book is so much more than that, that to say it seems reductive. However, I think that this quote is the closest thing to a spoiler that I am likely to talk about, so, you have been warned:
First his clever candle, all Taborlin. All warm and stuffed with poetry an dreams.
Second was a proper place. A shelf where he could put his heart. A bed to sleep. Nothing could harm him here.
And the third thing? Well … She ducked her face and felt a slow flush climb her cheeks …
Despite what is seems as though Auri is offering, I don’t think Auri is in love with Kvothe so much as she is in awe of him. I feel like Kvothe is the only person in a long time to actually take the time to get to know Auri on her terms; the only one to look after her. As such, Auri holds him in the highest regard. I would say she loves him, but I hesitate to say romantically. I feel like it’s more the love a devout religious person would have for a beloved priest. It’s so difficult to define, and I feel like that is the point.
Besides, I really don’t want her to be in love with Kvothe since Kvothe is all bent out of shape over Denna, and I don;t want to see Auri get hurt. So there is that.
I think what I loved most about this story was the language. It was fantastic, but in the original definition’s sense, meaning “imaginative or fanciful; removed from reality“. Not only is Auri’s inner monologue just written in a surreal way, but every once in a while Rothfuss will add a word that sounds real but actually is just a little bit wrong. Such as the “prickly chimbleys of Crucible”. I have a feeling that “chimbleys” is supposed to be “chimneys”. But see what I mean? By just changing a few letters, Rothfuss makes the ordinary sight of chimneys seem magical.
I have said it before, and I will probably say it again, but Rothfuss is a master of the English language. He just is.
But what struck with me most with The Slow Regard of Silent Things, though, was this quote from the Author’s Endnote:
This story is for all the slightly broken people out there.
I am one of you. You are not alone. You are all beautiful to me.
It kind of sums up the story and Auri’s character in just a few sentences. Plus, what a beautiful sentiment in and of itself.
I refuse to give this book a star-rating. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is beyond such measurements. I found this book fascinating. But not everyone will and so I feel like any star rating will be misleading to those who may not like the lack of story or the whacky language. But if anything I have said has intrigued you in any way, then head to your local bookstore now and pick this book up. It will be well worth it.