Felurian, Please Go Away

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.

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36 thoughts on “Felurian, Please Go Away

  1. I just got past Kvothe’s departure for Felurian and his arrival at the Pennysworth. I enjoyed his time with Felurian PRECISELY because—finally—Kvothe get’s laid!! He develops his lovemaking skills without the awkwardness and morning-after guilt he would have experienced with mortal women. Kvothe and Felurian were naked just as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. No shame. Perfectly natural. The pace could have picked up; but I think the length of this passage serves to drive home the point that time was not measured by days as in the mortal world. Time was meaningless and forgotten.
    His encounter with the Cthaeh was not profound as it could have been, but he picked up some glimpses of truth to guide him upon his return to his world.
    And you have to admit Kvothe’s shaed got the attention of everyone—especially the ladies. And in two spans’ time, Kvothe swept Losi off her feet and gave her a night they will both remember. This was only possible because of the time he spent with Felurian. I simply choose to avoid asking too many questions and to accept Felurian as she was portrayed.

    1. That’s a good reason and, if Rothfuss had expressed it in about half the time, I think I wouldn’t have any problem with Felurian. I suppose that, compared to the other sections of the story (in both books), the Felurian section just didn’t move well for me.

      I think you mentioned the central issue: “The pace could have picked up.” If that happened, I would have breezed through the Felurian chapters and had no problem with it.

      As far as questions go, most of the book left me constantly asking questions of what was going on, how do certain things work. When the Felurian chapters came, I found myself asking only one thing: “When is this section going to end?”

  2. I´m trying hard to read this book (Portuguese translation) without skiping pages and even chapters, but this meeting whith Felurian is overpassing the limits.
    Since I began to read this book a question is frequently coming into my mind: Does this guy has an editor?

    1. Yes, he does have an editor. During the signing I went to in March 2011, he mentioned some of his own hesitations about how long The Wise Man’s Fear was running. The response: As long as it wasn’t longer than Shogun (the longest book ever), he didn’t have to take anything out.

      The Felurian section pushed my limits to the absolute edge. Everyone I know who has reread the book has skipped over the Felurian section, without exception.

      It does get better, a lot better. The last chapter of the Felurian section is a game-changer, and a good one at that. Skip or push through, the book does improve greatly.

    2. Meeting Felurian is a very important to the whole story.Without her Kvothe would have never learned how to make love .The things Cthaeh told Kvothe also have influence on the story.

      1. I have no dispute with the way you describe it, Az. I just wish the Felurian section wasn’t so… empty. And the sequence with the Cthaeh is brilliant.

  3. Loved your post on this. The reader in me felt the exact same way you did, I was praying for Kvothe to leave the Fae already. The immature boy in me loved the idea of sitting around with a naked beautiful women having constant sex.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. I find it interesting that I’ve had this post up for a while, but people keep having the same response to it. I think that means it isn’t just a fluke, but people do have the same reaction to that section of the book.

  4. Hilarious! I’m listening to the book, and I’m also sick of Felurian. It is a good idea; just a bit overdone. She is introduced on disk 23, right at the end of the 2nd track, and sticks around through disk 25, track 7.

    That’s 2 hours, 58 minutes, 56 seconds!

    1. That’s ridiculous. That’s too long for a deus ex machina to stick around.

      Thanks for mentioning just how long this horror goes on in audio form. I knew it was a long time, but this puts it in another perspective entirely.

  5. I also found the section with Felurian rather boring. I also, like another mentioned, found it a bit of a turnoff that suddenly Denna was reduced to almost no import within this section. I did enjoy that “game changer,” though. It certainly ups the stakes of the overall storyline.

    I will say that I still prefer the second book to the first one. To me, the section in book one between Kvothe’s parents’ deaths and his arrival at the University was unnecessarily long. Not that important things didn’t happen there, but it seemed little more than Kvothe saying, “Life sucked. Life sucked more, and then it really sucked. Oh, and did I mention my life during that time sucked liked like a black hole on steroids? Oh, and before I forget, yes, life sucked.” I think so much of that section could have been massively trimmed. Book two, by comparison, gets to more interesting material more quickly.

    That griping aside, I loved both books, and my complaints are just nitpicking. That Rothfuss has successfully written a pair of novels that are essentially big ol’ flashbacks while still maintaining tension throughout the story… that’s just amazing to me. Part of the reason I despised Stephen King’s novel WIZARD AND GLASS was because it was little more than a massive flashback. Even a small flashback scene is difficult to write well. Rothfuss makes it work for an entire novel, and that says so much for his skill as a writer. What’s even more impressive to me is that he does it focusing on a character I’m not entirely sure I even like.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Bill. I have to say your thoughts about Rothfuss and The Kingkiller Chronicle are some of the most accurate I’ve heard about the series, the characters, the action, and the overall writing. And, yes, Wizard And Glass is one gigantic flashback and little else.

  6. Just read the whole book, not a speed reader, but not slow. While the section on Feluion did go on for a while, the importance is game changing. I think there could have been more interplay with the fae at the conclusion (at all levels). One of the better written books I’ve read recently.

    1. Jim, I won’t dispute the quality of the book as a whole, nor will I dispute the importance of Felurian. You’re right, Rothfuss is doing amazing things with The Kingkiller Chronicle. I just wish that one section had more of the subtlety and smoothness the rest of the book has.

  7. I liked The Name of the Wind even if Kvothe never had a sex scene there. The one with the Felurian… >_< I skimmed past it as well! When I saw your blog, I was like: I'm not alone! O_O

    1. You are far from alone, Grace. I feel, from the comments that keep rolling in here, that the Felurian section of The Wise Man’s Fear is the low point of Kvothe’s tale.

      As for a high point, I could try to do a blog post on that, but it would be really hard to pick one thing.

  8. “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…”

    This is EXACTLY what I thought and did!

    1. The majority of people who love these books, in my experience, have been at odds with the Felurian chapters. I think I can say this is the low point of Rothfuss’ storytelling, given the amount of bane this section inspires.

      My hope is when book three arrives, we won’t have to fight through any sections like this.

      1. Honestly, I loved the section with Felurian and got through it in one sitting. I agree the story feels very different at that point from the way the author was writing prior….it hit me immediately and I found myself wondering why the change. That did not dampen my enjoyment. As I read more, I realized that as a teenager myself, life did change when the mysteries of sex and love entered my experience. Kvothe is much changed after his experiences in his time with Felurian, and then the Adem. Sex is a game changer in life, so the change in the cadence and atmosphere in the book is, to me, not out of place.

        I am thoroughly enjoying the book and though I have not yet finished it, I am looking forward to the next release in October. I am also looking forward to learning if Kovthe fulfills his promise to Felurian to return to her, and how he will extricate himself from staying with her, or if he will.

        One last observation….I’ve oft heard in my training in the business world that people are ten times more likely to complain than compliment. If that is true, there may be more people out here who enjoyed the section than you think 🙂

        At a minimum, the author gave us all much to think about.

      2. Since you brought it up, I have to say, I love the section with the Adem. Love it.

        I agree as well with Kvothe’s encounter with Felurian changing him. I never had issue with that, only that Rothfuss took such repetition with it.

        I hope you continue to enjoy The Wise Man’s Fear. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts as a whole once you’re done with it.

        You’re absolutely right about the tendency to complain over compliment. When I was a teaching assistant, my supervisor always said, “No news is good news,” in that regard. Part of it is that I’ve heard from every re-reader I know that they always skip the Felurian section when they go through again.

        So you’re right that Rothfuss has given us plenty to think about and discuss.

  9. I agree 100%. This part of the book sticks out like a sore thumb; it was so off from his typical style and pace. Looking back, I wondered if it had been something his editor pushed, or another story he really wanted to integrate. It felt forced and kinda fanboyish.

    1. I’m not sure who was pushing for Felurian. The fact that Kvothe spent the night with her and lived is mentioned in the first book when he starts telling his story.

  10. Just finished this section as well, and even though it only took me a few hours to get through, I found myself for the first time in the series getting bored.
    The pacing in these books is so brilliant that even though there isn’t a lot going on at times, I still find myself unable to put them down. This wasn’t the case for the entire Ferlurian section, however.

    Maybe if he had introduced the Ctheah earlier and Kvothe started paying it frequent visits on his never ending quest for answers, it would have been a little more engaging. That, or he could have kept the fact that she was making him a cloak a secret so that there was a little bit of mystery that made you want to keep on reading.
    I don’t know.

    Oh, and at first I was appalled that he showed little regard for Denna’s feeling while sleeping with the Felurian at the drop of a hat, but I was willing to forgive that due to the draw she had over mortal men. That was until ten minutes out of the Fae and he’s off bedding a random tavern girl. Just seemed really out of character for Kvothe.

  11. Hey there,
    You must be a really slow reader to have taken FOUR DAYS to get through the Felurian chapters. In your defense, I was so captivated by that section of this brilliant book that I spent a sleepless night with Kvothe and Felurian to cruise through those chapters.
    I loved the difference this presented to how the rest of the book was written, and I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Rothfuss did this on purpose to accentuate the impact of being in the Fae.

    1. Hi Cris!

      First of all, yes, I am a slow reader. A five-hundred page book is going to take me at least a week to read, if I’m reading fast. People read at different speeds, which is interesting since everyone is reading the same text.

      I’m glad you were captivated, since that gives a little justification for the Felurian section’s existence. I don’t mind there being a difference between the Felurian section and the rest of the book; I just felt it drug on quite a bit.

      May I ask what about it captivated you?

      1. Honestly, I don’t know. But if I was to hazard a guess, I might suggest that perhaps after all of my hardships in life and love that the thought of becoming spellbound by a perfectly attentive seductress in a place as beautifully dangerous as the Fae feels quite appealing to me. As I didn’t want Kvothe to leave for the mortal world I can only suggest that it is representative of my own desire to be in such a position.

        The again, it may have just been good reading that catered to my particular taste 🙂
        Thanks for responding so fast friend.

      2. That’s a fair reason. Actually, it’s more than a fair reason.

        Rothfuss appealed to something in you that drew a stronger connection to the story. That’s one of the man’s strengths.

        I’m always happy to discuss books and writing with people. It’s just a bigger bonus for me to do it here.

  12. Thank you so much for this. I thought I was the only one who had these feelings. I read fairly quickly and read the entire book in a little under a week but I did feel like those chapters were torture. I still cannot see their value.

    1. Thank you for stopping by. I love hearing more about how people read and how long it takes to get through a book.

      Every book has it’s low point. I think it’s safe to say Rothfuss has gotten past his. I hope that’s the case at least.

  13. I’d like to point out that Kvothe’s time in the Fae with Felurian lasted 64 pages, but the section where he hunts bandits for Alveron with Dedan, Hespe, Marten, and Tempi went on for at least 124 pages, depending on where you start counting. And that’s not including all the pages after they reunite at the Pennysworth. I’m not saying the section set in the Fae wasn’t slow, but it certainly wasn’t disproportionately slow compared to the rest of the book.

    1. That’s a fair point. I enjoyed the bandit-hunting more than the repetitive sex.

      For me, the slowness came from my lack of enjoyment as much as it came from anything else.

  14. Thanks for this! I was really feeling guilty for not enjoying this part of the adventure and now I’ll pick up the book and push through it.

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