I’m still reading The Wise Man’s Fear, but that almost changed today. For about four days, I’ve been reading through Kvothe’s encounters with the dread Felurian, a Fae so powerful that any man who sleeps with her dies or loses his mind. Since Kvothe’s escape is something mentioned on the back cover of The Name of the Wind, his dealings with Felurian are more about what happens between them.
Before I go much further, I must say Patrick Rothfuss is a masterful writer, regardless of what else I might say here. I don’t get swept away reading a book any more, at least not enough where I loose track of time; with The Wise Man’s Fear, this has happened no less than twice.So, four days, Kvothe, Felurian, they’re naked, she doesn’t use capitol letters. I read about 55 pages of this and realized there wasn’t anything happening. Surely it’ll soon be over, right? No. I sludge through another chapter, knowing the story will pick up again, right? Wrong again. At this point (about twelve hours ago), I start having angry thoughts about this book, not from the plot, but in the lack of story. It’s been said that love and hate are two sides of the same coin; whoever said that wasn’t lying.
I take another shot at reading the book a few hours later, again sure that Kvothe’s time fornicating with Felurian will end. It doesn’t. In a rage, I start flipping through pages, trying to find the end of the dull storyless appearance of Felurian. Twenty pages, that’s how many more I have to fight through.
Now, I haven’t skipped chapters since I read Dune: House Harkonnen and Dune: House Corrino. The Fremen chapters in those books have NO impact on the story since none of those Fremen are named Usil, Muad’Dib, or Paul Atreides. In a book I would give a B or a C letter grade, I’ll skip chapters if I feel it makes the book better. Skipping Felurian, one of the major pieces of Kvothe’s lore, is a crime, especially in a book I would give an A- to. I decided skipping those chapters would make me resent the book as well.
I could fight through it, but I’d been doing that for four days already. Felurian has already set me back a week from finishing the book, so giving her any more time felt like I would be letting a non-character steal from me.
That left the bad option. For me to not continue listening to Kvothe’s tale would be making not one, but two books be a waste of time, not to mention my recent trip to the Rothfuss book signing. It’s the kind of thing that would make me hate The Kingkiller Chronicle. I’ve sold so many people on that book, customers, close friends, I’ve even given the book as a gift no less than twice. Turning to hate on this point would be a betrayal of all the work I’ve done, enough to poison the writer in me.
Lucky for me, my good friend Jonathan (Reality Check Fail listeners may have heard him on a few podcasts) finished reading The Wise Man’s Fear weeks ago. He’s one of two speed readers I know, so they can spend a day or two with a 900+ page book and be finished with it. Jonathan clued me in to where I was and what I had to look forward to in the immediate future. I felt relieved and curious, so I went back to reading. Jonathan made a very important point, one I feel I should share, even if I paraphrase it:
What takes Jonathan ten minutes to read might take me several days to get through.
I’m concerned with pacing in books. I know what it takes to keep me reading a book. From rising action to a lull before a storm, from action to intimate discussions, there’s a time and a place for everything in a story. I don’t read at a fast pace. The fastest I’ve ever finished a book is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which I got through in three days. The longest amount of time it’s taken me to finish a book is probably Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, though it is over 1000 pages. What these books have in common is a solid understanding of pace, even though they run at different lengths. These books rise and fall and maybe even fall a little deeper. Neverwhere is driven by nuance, mood, and setting. The Way of Kings is dominated by character focus and setting.
With Felurian, Kvothe only has the slightest witticisms and only plays a little music. He pays no thought to Denna and gives lip service to the Chandrian. He sits and muses about where his meals might have come from or about what carnal act Felurian might teach him. There isn’t any nuance when the characters present just want sex, are willing, and lack clothes. Mood would be reminiscing lust, but one mood can’t carry 75 pages, it doesn’t matter what that mood might be. Setting? It’s outside, there are trees and no stars; really, that’s it. The character focus consists of Kvothe saying he was a horny teenager, while Felurian has no depth to speak of. Her appearance isn’t that well developed either, in my opinion.
When you can blink through something like this, it’s a speedbump. If you clear about twenty pages a day, this sort of thing becomes a mountain. Once that mountain looks so much like an obstacle rather than an adventure, the fun ends and takes the enjoyment with it.
The solution is to find a way out, around, or through. I got through the encounters with Felurian and I hope to again enjoy The Wise Man’s Fear, though it’s officially not as good as it’s predecessor now, but things can still change. I can take one thing away from this experience: I need to pace my stories to hold my attention, that way the speedreaders will never have a chance to be disappointed and neither will the rest of the audience.
To every story I write, I now say this: Felurian, please go away. I’m trying to enjoy a good story.