The Slow Regard of Silent Things is not your typical book, but that is no reason not to read it. It doesn’t follow a traditional narrative arc, it doesn’t have “conflict,” and doesn’t do most things that a typical story “should.” It’s a story about a slightly broken girl living her own way in a slightly broken world, and it is heartbreaking and beautiful in equal measures. For anyone intrigued by the craft of Patrick Rothfuss’ writing, or drawn into the mysteries of Auri and the Underthing, then this story is an immersive journey into a beautiful mind that finds itself within the wondrous world of the Kingkiller Chronicle.
A novella that lives alongside The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, readers might come anticipating the strength of the great world that Rothfuss created to continue into this book. And it does, but not in the way you might imagine. The world of the Kingkiller Chronicle is massive, layered, and nuanced. It has history and mythology, people and kingdoms, length and breadth that I can only imagine remains behind the dozens of drafts the stories have gone through. I became invested both through the vastness of the world and the craft expired through the retelling of the story by Qvothe. In The Slow Regard of Silent Things, there is a very different feel to the story. And yet, it still works, along with many of the other divergent quirks of the story, because both the story and the characters they follow are different.
Rothfuss’ use of language and style is the first thing that marks how unique a character Auri is, adding far more to her character through prose than it does to simply telling a story. It is quirky and erratic, yet familiar and it makes you pause and think. The use of language, punctuation, pauses and stops at off or “incorrect” places all go to showcase the different and unique mind of our protagonist. Auri is intelligent and remarkably talented, as shown by her understanding of alchemy and a powerful aptitude for naming. She is odd and steady in equal measures, yet as susceptible to emotional outbursts of frustration and sorrow as we all are. In short, she is simply human in a beautifully honest and vulnerable way.
This is a story the author wanted to write, which is the best reason to write something. It wasn’t written for all the fans and readers, as cleared admitted in his Foreword, and probably isn’t a book that everyone will like. It was a book that needed to be written, but was never intended to be published. And yet, when people read the early drafts, they found that they came to care a little more than they expected for Auri. It is a story about a sweet, fractured girl that Rothfuss knew he had to tell. Her role in the larger narrative of the Kingkiller Chronicle is a part of it, but her story doesn’t matter any less than characters like Qvothe. As a person, this story is about her and her world, the way she sees it and how she lives her simple life. The more the story explores her character, I think we all can’t help but fall in love with her. She is beauty and sweetness and innocence, and she represents that in each of us.
The story is secondary to the tender heart of Auri we get to catch a glimpse of through the intricate complexities of her character and how she sees the world. The story highlights the world in a completely different way, as shown through her eyes. She sees people and things (objects and places) in a similar light, each worthy of a name and a perfect place in which it can belong within the world. The aspect that caught me by surprise was how unconditionally innocent Auri viewed her own place within the world because it was so different from both how I am used to seeing characters respond to their environments, but also so different from how I react. This is her story, written and guided by her character, snarled and tangled and sweet as it is.
I didn’t know what to expect from this little vignette Patrick Rothfuss wrote, but what I received was far more than anything I could have imagined. I highly encourage you to read the very short author’s Foreword and Endnote, but if you’re reading this novella, you’re probably already the kind of reader who does that. This is a book for all the slightly broken people out there, because it’s written by one. It’s about a broken young woman, living in a broken world, and it’s a truly beautiful story that not only shows the beauty of the broken world, but holds up an honest mirror about the beauty within our own brokenness.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is written by Patrick Rothfuss, and is published by DAW Books.
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