Do you remember where you were the first time you opened the first book of the Kingkiller Chronicles?
Do you remember the long nights where you couldn’t stop touching the pages, and the words couldn’t stop touching you?
Did you lose your breath as you finished reading the first page? I know, you passed out again, didn’t you. That is probably going to happen a lot as you read this. So grab some chocolate, adorn yourself in roses and dashing attire, and turn on some fine lute music because I am about to tell you…
Why We All Love The Kingkiller Chronicles
Like almost everyone else on the Internet, I absolutely loved both the Name of the Wind and the Wise Man’s Fear. Here is everything that made me fall madly in love with this incredible series of fantasy books.
Warning: Heart palpitations, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and swooning may follow after reading each of these. Whenever you see this box please make sure someone is nearby to revive you.
Almost universally, everyone enjoys the lyrical prose from the Kingkiller Chronicles. It only seems fitting that we begin this panegyric with what I think is the most important reason of why everyone falls so madly in love with the books.
The Four Doors: Sleep, Forgetfulness, Madness, & Death
The concept of the “Four Doors” is linked with the beauty of the writing. The four doors is a poetic re-imagining of sleep, forgetfulness, madness, and death.
Every. Single. Time. Kvothe Calls the Name of the Wind
[box type=”alert” size=”large”]”I need you to breathe for me”[/box]
Kvothe calls the name of the wind four times: once in Imre after Ambrose breaks his lute, once “in terror and fury” to defend himself from Felurian (which I think is the most powerful description of the action so far), once to save Denna’s life in an inn, but I love it the most when he calls it at the sword tree, gently, “the way you must reach out to catch a gently floating thistle seed.”
After losing it momentarily he calls it “like the name of an old friend that had simply slipped my mind for a moment. I looked out among the branches and saw the wind. I spoke the long name of it gently and the wind grew gentle.”
Ok so maybe he calls the name of the wind five times, but you can understand if I lost count because I got all flustered. Just read this passage and tell me you can keep your concentration through passages like this!
[box type=”alert”]I listened. I closed my eyes. I heard the whisper of a name.
I spoke it soft, but close enough to brush against her lips. I spoke it quiet, but near enough so that the sound of it went twining through her hair. I spoke it hard and firm and dark and sweet.[/box]
The Stories that Move a Thousand Miles & Change Shape
One of my favorite books of all time is Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Very cleverly, the stories that the reader is introduced to in the first part of the poem begin to change as they are retold and recounted by various people as it progresses.
The same principle is at work in the Kingkiller Chronicles on almost every other page (as it is really in most poetry) and something that is always refreshing to see and delightful to read. It really comes into focus when he returns to the University and begins to hear familiar stories but as a certain red-haired adventurer/dashing young arcanist notes, “no story can move a thousand miles by word of mouth and keep its shape.”
Some stories also change shape, even when the person right across from you is narrating them ;p
Kvothe’s “First Song” in the Name of the Wind
Can music be the same thing as writing? Kvothe certainly tries to leverage the power of the one and suffuse it with the dead letters of writing. On such instance is the effusive “plumb bomb.”
Known around the Internet as the “plumb bomb,” Kvothe recount’s his first song to Auri and its just beautiful, sad, and utterly amazing.
[box type=”alert” border=”full”]I shook again, tasted plum, and suddenly the words were pouring out of me. “She said I sang before I spoke. She said when I was just a baby she had the habit of humming when she held me. Nothing like a song. Just a descending third. Just a soothing sound. Then one day she was walking me around the camp, and she heard me echo it back to her. Two octaves higher. A tiny piping third. She said it was my first song. We sang it back and forth to each other. For years.” I choked and clenched my teeth.[/box]
No Really, THE WRITING
The writing in almost every page of the Kingkiller Chronicles is something to be marveled at. Whether Kvothe is talking about love or food or music his story is always rich and imaginative.
So here is some more of the lovely lyricism:
[box type=”alert” border=”full”]“She is curious about the shape of his mouth. She wonders if this could be the one, if she could unclasp the secret pieces of her heart to him…[he] looks at her, and for the first time he understands the impulse that first drives men to paint. To sculpt. To sing…there exists between them something tenuous and delicate. They can both feel it. Like static in the air. Faint as frost.”[/box]
The Cryptic and Playful Songs
I don’t think I am alone in my ardent and unrestrained adoration for a playful and lyrical riddle. I would one day like to write a series of them for children, but that day is far off.
Songs in the Kingkiller Chronicles are almost always of the playful folk variety that you would expect to hear people singing on a cold winter night near a glowing fireplace with an ale. The wonderful thing about these folk songs is that the secret wisdom can slip by if you get lost in its rhythm (which you might, from time to time), but if you manage to listen, they contain some of the oldest and most sacred knowledge in the world.
Here are a few of my favorite songs from the Kingkiller Chronicles:
- Come Wash in the River
- Copper Bottom Pot
- Aunt Emme’s Tub
- The Lay of Felurian
- In the Village Smithy
- Violet Bide
- Home Westward Wind (a favorite of Kvothe’s mother)
There is a nameless song that Kvothe plays for Vashet, which he describes as the “song that hides in the center of me. That wordless music that moves through the secret places in my heart. I played it carefully, strumming it slow and low into the dark stillness of the night. I would like to say it is a happy song, that it is sweet and bright, but it is not.”
What are some of your favorite songs from either The Wise Man’s Fear or the Name of the Wind?
When Kvothe Becomes the 237th Wielder of Saicere or Caesura
Every hero or heroine needs his or her magic weapon and the way in which they come to it is always a very special moment. While the exact manner in which Kvothe obtains Saicere in the Kingkiller Chronicles is rather perfunctory, the lyrical beauty emerges when we discover that he is the 237th owner, which is a strange and magical number.
Oh yea, and it’s more than two thousand years old.
Grimward and Grinning Towards The Fae
Would it be a book of epic fantasy if it didn’t have a fairy land? If you haven’t read Chapter 99 through Chapter 104 of the Wise Man’s Fear in a while, I suggest you go do that immediately.
This is also where our hero gets his shaed of gathered shadow, woven with moon and fire and daylight.
Felurian, Lady of Twilight, Lady of the First Quiet
The Felurian, we are told, is death to men, “but a glad death, and one they go to willingly.”
I know, I know, what in the world is Felurian doing here!? Well it’s because I read a lot of Keats at Cambridge and wrote a grand paper on his poem Lamia coupled with my love of anything femme fatale.
While the Mary Sue-ness of this specific encounter is undeniable, I quite enjoyed the sing-song back and forth shared by Kvothe and Felurian.
Besides, in love you’ve got to take the good with the bad right?
The Silence of Three Parts
“The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. This was appropriate, as it was the greatest silence of the three, wrapping the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumn’s ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.”
In the opening to each book of the Kingkiller Chronicles, we are introduced to three types of silence: a hollow silence, a sullen silence, and a poetic silence that is deep and inscrutable and belongs to Kvothe.
In our age where everything seems loud and hurried silence is something that has become rich and rare. This is one of the more moving openings in all of fantasy literature and one of the reasons I love this series.
Constantly Asking Yourself: Who Are The Chandrian & What Are They Up To?!
“Someone’s parents,” he said, “have been singing entirely the wrong sort of songs.”
The Chandrian are the enigmatic villains introduced in the Name of the Wind, have the best song written about them, and as far as I am concerned, the best song of the Kingkiller Chronicles.
When the hearthfire turns to blue,
What to do? What to do?
Run outside. Run and hide.
When his eyes are black as crow?
Where to go? Where to go?
Near and far. Here they are.
See a man without a face?
Move like ghosts from place to place.
What’s their plan? What’s their plan?
While speculation abounds as to what their motivations are, at least Halilax’s (who may or may not be betrayed as his scheme nears its end in Doors of Stone) I think, is to either unite the lands of the fae and the mortal world or to open the doors of stone and unite the lands of the living and the dead.
The Chandrian are riddles themselves and I think there is a good chance the audience could end up liking them more than they like Kvothe by the end of the Doors of Stone.
After all, what wouldn’t you do to bring the love of your life back to life?
“Cyphus bears the blue flame.
Stercus is in thrall of iron.
Ferule chill and dark of eye.
Usnea lives in nothing but decay.
Grey Dalcenti never speaks.
Pale Alena brings the blight.
Last there is the lord of seven.
Hated. Hopeless. Sleepless. Sane.
Alaxel bears the shadow’s name.”
Sing this song aloud and enjoy it while you can. You’ve already read the names of the Chandrian!
The Wonderful Chapter Titles of the Kingkiller Chronicles
Any reader of this blog knows I love a bon mot (especially if it occurs at the beginning of a fantasy novel) and an elegantly written title.
Here are some of the titles that I loved from the Kingkiller Chronicles:
- Wind or Women’s Fancy
- The Mating Habits of the Common Draccus
- Interlude—The Parts that form Us
- Interlude—Silence of a Different Kind
- The Ever-Changing Wind
- Thieves, Heretics, and Whores
- Of Beginnings and the Names of Things
- The Name of the Wind
- The Nature of Wild Things
- A Sea of Stars
- The Doors of My Mind
- Shadows Themselves
- Apple and Elderberry
- The Jealous Moon
- The Thrice-Locked Chest
- The Lay of Felurian
- The Ever-Moving Moon
- The Stories of Stones
- The Spinning Leaf
While those are most of my favorite chapter titles, let me know if you think I missed any and I will add them in!
The Doomy Curse of Selitos
This, coupled with the Lay of Lanre was one of my favorite moments in the Name of the Wind specifically and in the Kingkiller Chronicles thus far.
After watching the prosperous city you protected with your just and watchful eye get utterly destroyed and your beloved citizens butchered, you might think to kill the person or party responsible.
But if someone names your true name, it gives you a little more time to think and come up with something far more miserable than death.
Here is Skarpi, as he sips his “Fallows Red” in the Half-Mast and relates the story and the particular moment where Selitos utters a black curse across the furrowed brow of Lanre…to his audience of gathered children:
Selitos spoke the long name that lay in Lanre’s heart, and at the sound of it the sun grew dark and wind tore stones from the mountainside.
“This is my doom upon you. May your face always be held in shadow, black as the toppled towers of my beloved Myr Tariniel.
“This is my doom upon you. Your own name will be turned against you, that you shall have no peace.
This is my doom upon you and all who follow you. May it last until the world ends and the Aleu fall nameless from the sky.”
That Moment When You Realize that 9/10 Statements Kvothe Says to Denna are Exactly 7 Words
[box type=”alert”]“Do you know the seven words that will make a woman love you?”[/box]
I was reading through the Kingkiller Chronicles on reddit recently and came across a user who suggested this and it absolutely non-plussed me.
Rather than verify if this is actually true or not, I am simply going to bask in the pure idea that this is true and beautiful because as Keats says “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,–that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
The Butterfly-Munching Cthaeh, Far-Seeing Tree-Thing of Pure Evil
“I am the Cthaeh. You are fortunate to find me. Many would envy you your chance.”
I really wish this was an evil talking tree, but it seems more like a wicked fae spirit trapped in a tree which has flowers that can cure any wounds or heal any disease. Trapped in a tree, it’s also purely and perfectly malicious. It can see all futures and tries to corrupt their outcomes.
It also enjoys eating butterflies, which makes the Cthaeh’s malevolence all the more palatable for someone like me who is generally rooting for all that is evil in a book to succeed. I’d like to plant one in my backyard, or perhaps more wisely, in the backyard of my most hated foe.
The Bandit Fight Scene When Kvothe Goes All Taborlin the Great
It was surreal to see Kvothe using magic, cutting into the corpse of the slain bandit and laughing as he assaulted the bandit camp. Adding to what made me love this part of the story so much was Martin’s solemn, lyrical praying amidst the mayhem and lightning.
When Kvothe Plays “The Lay of Sir Savien” to Earn his Silver Pipes
How can you not love this moment? Kvothe plays one of the most difficult songs (even when one of the strings on his lute breaks) and his elusive love interest sings to him like a nightingale from within the shaded forest of the Eolian audience.
[box type=”alert”]”I buried my face in my hands and wept. Not for a broken lute string and the chance of failure. Not for blood shed and a wounded hand. I did not even cry for the boy who had learned to play a lute with six strings in the forest years ago. I cried for Sir Savien and Aloine, for love lost and found and lost again, at cruel fate and man’s folly. And so, for a while, I was lost in grief and knew nothing.”[/box]
When Kvothe Plays Josn’s Lute
Music and stories play an enormous role in the Kingkiller Chronicles. Often and unsurprisingly, they are intertwined and contribute a lot of the rich lyrical tapestry that Rothfuss is creating in both the Name of the Wind and the Wise Man’s Fear.
When Kvothe plays music, Rothfuss weaves the physical act of his poet’s strumming in with the psychological joy and sorrow of the music itself.
[box type=”alert”]“The strings felt strange against my fingers, like reunited friends who have forgotten what they have in common. I played soft and slow, sending notes no farther than the circle of our firelight. Fingers and strings made a careful conversation, as if their dance described the lines of an infatuation. Then I felt something inside me break and music began to pour out into the quiet. My fingers danced; intricate and quick they spun something gossamer and tremulous into the circle of light our fire had made. The music moved like a spiderweb stirred by a gentle breath, it changed like a leaf twisting as it falls to the ground, and it felt like three years Waterside in Tarbean, with a hollowness inside you and hands that ached from the bitter cold.”[/box]
Master Elodin, Master Arcanist & Master Namer
Every university must have its cracked professors and the university where Kvothe studies is no exception.
Elodin teaches only one class, “Unlikely Maths,” with the time listed as “now” and the place “everywhere.”
I love this character for multiple reasons, and he is one of the main things that I love when reading the Kingkiller Chronicles.
Elodin’s Teaching Style
Elodin serves as a great counterpoint to Kvothe’s knowingness. He is like the book’s way of saying yes Kvothe, you are clever and witty but Elodin still knows more than you and will variously abuse you to keep your smart-assery in check.
Sometimes Elodin starts out poetically in order to make his take-down even more harsh when it ends in vulgarity:
“Master Kvothe, I am trying to waken your sleeping mind to the subtle language the world is whispering. I am trying to seduce you into understanding. I am trying to teach you. Quit grabbing at my tits.”
And sometimes, he is just beautiful and wise in his words:
“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts. There are seven words that will make a person love you. There are ten words that will break a strong mans will. But a word is nothing but a painting of fire. A name is fire itself.”
When Lyra Calls Lanre from the Doors of Stone
Whenever I re-read the Kingkiller Chronicles, especially The Name of the Wind, this particularly lyrical passage always stirs me. It follows the primordial rhythms of ancient poetics making great use of repetition.
In the midst of silence Lyra stood by Lanre’s body and spoke his name. Her voice was a commandment. Her voice was steel and stone. Her voice told him to live again. But Lanre lay motionless and dead.
In the midst of fear Lyra knelt by Lanre’s body and breathed his name. Her voice was a beckoning. Her voice was long and longing. Her voice called him to live again. But Lanre lay cold and dead.
In the midst of despair Lyra fell across Lanre’s body and wept his name. Her voice was a whisper. Her voice was echo and emptiness. Her voice begged him to live again. But Lanre lay breathless and dead.
But Lanre heard her calling. Lanre turned at the sound of her voice and came to her. From beyond the doors of death Lanre returned.
Speculating on What’s In The Thrice-Locked Chest & How to Open It!
The thrice-locked box is a puzzle I love to think about and has drawn great speculation from everyone who reads the Kingkiller Chronicles. It weighs 400 pounds when its empty and we know that hacking at it with an axe will not open it, though it certainly amuses a certain innkeeper.
How would you get into Kvothe’s thrice-locked chest?
Why do You Love the Kingkiller Chronicles?
It’s certainly one of the more complex, beautifully written series of novels to emerge during our golden age of fantasy literature. There are lots of exciting moments balanced with an equally large number of somber, moving scenes ensuring we will all be returning to these books for years to come.
What made you fall in love with the Kingkiller Chronicles?