Themes Explored: loneliness, wonder, suspicion, mystery, friendship, obsession, magic, soap making, love, naming, surprise, melancholy
Synopsis: Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place. Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries. (From Goodreads)
Review: I am not quite sure what to make of this novella, it is not a story in the traditional sense. Instead, it is more a cross between a stream of consciousness and a linguistically nimble character study. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is essentially an exploration of six days in the life of Auri, the mysterious girl living in the tunnels underneath the University, called the Underthing. Kvothe befriends her when he is a student at the University and she is introduced in The Name of the Wind. In this novella, Rothfuss details Auri’s daily life and her preparation for a visit from the man who gave her a name. The story is not about what Auri does during her day but rather what motivates her to do stuff and how she interacts with the subterranean world. Rothfuss included a forward about how this is not a traditional narrative and most people will not like his writing style. I appreciate his honesty because narrative style is a significant departure from The Kingkiller Chronicle books. I will probably need to read The Slow Regard of Silent Things several more times in order to fully understand the story. Because it is odd.
In The Kingkiller Chronicle Auri is a character of mysterious origins who has been sneaking in and out of the University for years. She is innocent, sweet, and ethereal. Kvothe is the only person she approaches because of his mastery of the Lute and she enjoys watching him play, which allows him to eventually gain her trust. They eventually become friends and form a bond, but Auri will never answer questions regarding her past and is uncomfortable being asked. I was really hoping this novella would explore her past. Instead her past still remains an intriguing mystery. Anyways, while she occasionally exits the Underthing to collect goods, she never interacts with other humans outside of Kvothe. The Slow Regard of Silent Things details what Auri finds important in her life and the things she collects, protects, preserves, and what gift she plans on giving to Kvothe. In other words, there is no real plot to this novella. It is merely a collection of vignettes that detail a different day in Auri’s life. Not a lot happens, she merely wanders from place to place and explores the abandoned items. Her materialism is one of the only characteristics that make Auri seem human. Otherwise, she is more like a wispy fairy darting hither, thither, and yon.
From the opening page it is evident that Auri is not a “normal” person in any shape or form. There is something about here that is slightly off. She personifies every object and space she encounters. Everything is given a name, a place to live, and sometimes she attributes feelings to them. Her most valued object is a green light she named Foxen. And Foxen oscillates between being brave or fearful based upon Auri’s feelings. She seems unable to adequately express her own feelings so she projects her emotions onto Foxen. When not focusing on Auri, Rothfuss explores the Underthing. This place is atmospheric, claustrophobic, and enlightening based upon which area is being explored. Underthing is not a magical or ethereally beautiful place where Auri relaxes. Instead, it is a dark and creepy palce where no should ever have to live. Auri seems both out-of-place and perfectly at home, depending upon the day. There are several illustrations by Nate Taylor accompanying the story that add some visual depth to the writing. The illustrations depict some of the objects Auri sees, various locations in the Underthing, and some abstract sketches of Auri in different poses. I like the sketches and some of them are cleverly woven into the written sections.
My main problem with this novella is there is really no story or important events I can analyze. The main thing that is missing is a logical outcome. With each page turn I kept expecting some kind of realization or plot resolution, but one never comes. However, I cannot complain too much since Rothfuss does warn his readers that is just a few days in Auri’s life and nothing more. Yet, I really wanted more than some ramblings through Auri’s life. I desperately wanted an exploration into her past, especially since I doubt he will explore it in the next installment in The Kingkiller Chronicle. On the plus side, the writing is exquisite and Rothfuss does a lot of linguistic gymnastics. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is one of the more unique stories I have read in a while. I highly recommend reading The Kingkiller Chronicle first before reading this novella. Otherwise, all the allusions to other events and Auri’s impressions about Kvothe will not make any sense.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things, DAW, 2014, 9780756410438
The Kingkiller Chronicle: