Good Food at the Waystone Inn [The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss]
I started to write this post almost two years ago, when I first read The Wise Man’s Fear. Or rather, I took some notes, and then gave up because at that time, I was still worrying too much about writing “perfect” book reviews. I’m a bit more relaxed about that now.
And really – with books that are so close to perfect, what does it matter if my review isn’t perfect?
Because The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are very close to perfect. There’s one little thing that keeps them from climbing to the top of my favourite list, and that is that I love tearful reunion scenes, and there’s a definite lack of those. But it’s definitely in second place, and unless Rothfuss really messes up the third part (hurry up with that, by the way), it’ll be hard to dislodge it from there.
If I enjoy a book, I often compare it to food. So, these are the notes I mentioned earlier, scribbled early in 2011 and taken off my corkboard just now:
a roast of murdered family and quest for revenge, with a side of magical education, a sauce of budding love, and a salad made of laughter.
What I didn’t mention in those notes is that this “meal” has also damn good potatoes, which is my food-analogy for the world a fantasy story is set in. There are some stories that have good “meat”, but still leave me feeling “hungry”, because the writer skimped on the potatoes and didn’t bother to develop the world properly.
No complaints here. It’s a large world full of different cultures and languages, and Rothfuss doesn’t feel the need to show off how much work he’s put into creating it by describing every little detail of it. Much of it is just alluded to, many of the sentences in made-up languages are left untranslated, and either you keep track of the bits of information sprinkled here and there, or you don’t. The story is still fun.
To get back to the “meat”, like I said, “a roast of murdered family and quest for revenge” – not that uncommon. But like some cooks have some secret ingredient that they won’t share with anyone, the Kingkiller Chronicle has the Chandrian mystery spice mix – “what’s their plan,” indeed? Except for staying hidden? I love it when I can’t predict the rest of the plot halfway through a trilogy. (And I’m currently rereading NotW and WMF again, with pen and paper within reach, in the hope that if I keep notes, I will figure out something. Now I should just find myself some friends who have read them too so I can discuss ridiculous theories with them. I haven’t done that sincebefore Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, and I miss it.)
My best friend and me always joke that “there’s a school for every damn thing”, but I still enjoy the University. And all the different kinds of magic. No wand-waving and spell-saying here. Instead, conservation of energy – my physics teacher would love it! (I swear, you could have passed that class by simply answering each and every one of his questions with “conservation of energy!” You’d have been right at least half of the time.)
And, very important, the “salad”. It’s a little weird, but if I’m eating a large meal, if I have a salad, I can eat much more. Actually, it doesn’t matter what I eat, I need something raw, juicy and crunchy. I can’t even eat a sandwich without some sort of vegetables. I can’t swallow it otherwise.
In a book context, that means humour. I need a joke here and there to be able to read and enjoy a book. And even if the Kingkiller Chronicle is woefully short on tearful reunions (I’m currently rereading another favourite trilogy to get my fix of those), there’s plenty to make me laugh. My favourite scene is probably Kvothe walking through Tarbean in just a towel, and convincing that tailor he’s a noble’s son, though just flipping through the pages, I found a couple more that made me grin or chuckle.
And it has plenty of quotable lines. I have several notebooks that I use to write down quotes I’ve read somewhere, and the Kingkiller Chronicle has filled quite a few pages of them.
I’ve even used one of them to teach our apprentice about pesticide safety – the three most important rules of the chemist:
Label clearly. Measure twice. Eat elsewhere.
And if you’re “eating” stories, do eat at the Waystone Inn and have Kvothe tell you the story of his life.