Themes Explored: voyeurism, fantasy, high fantasy, fae folk, fae lore, favors, revenge, father-son relations, familial conflict, mentor-protégé relationship, death, lifem imagination, bargains, legends
Synopsis: A short story featuring Bast from the Kingkiller world. It takes place prior to the opening of The Name of the Wind and follows Bast around for a day (From Goodreads).
Review: The Lightening Tree is a short story Patrick Rothfuss wrote after being asked by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois to be in their anthology called Rogues. According to his blog, Rothfuss had planned on contributing a story about Auri, but it ended up becoming the novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things. , Instead, Rothufss wrote a short story about Bast. In case you forgot or have not read the books, Bast is Kvothe’s student, apprentice, and assistant who lives with him at the Waystone Inn. He is a main character in the frame story, but ends up in more a peripheral role for the main narrative. Bast is initially described as dark, charming with a quick smile, and cunning blue eyes. He possesses sharp and delicate features, which give him an almost unnaturally beautiful visage. It is later revealed that Bast is a Fae creature, though which kind has yet to be revealed, under a glamour. His Fae appearance is similar to his glamour, except his eyes become fully blue with no sclera and his boots become cloven hooves. Apparently, he is 150 years old and a noble of the Faen Courts. His full title is Bastas, Son of Remmen, Prince of Twilight and the Telwyth Mael.
Bast and Kvothe have a close friendship, however, the origins of their relationship have not yet been revealed. In the first book, Bast alludes to having created a plan to restore Kvothe’s power by making him remember the past and all of the things he accomplished. The Chronicler becomes entangled in this plan because Bast attracted him to the Waystone Inn by leaking Kvothe’s location to attract attention. Unlike the other characters in the Kingkiller Chronicle, Bast seems to care for Kvothe very much and refers to him as “Reshi”, which seems to refer to his role as Bast’s mentor. He treats Kvothe in a very reverent manner and keeps encouraging him to use his abilities. Bast is a very ambiguous character throughout the series. In public he is described as graceful and lascivious; however, in private he shows a much darker nature.
In The Lightning Tree, Bast is the focal character and it is revealed that he conducts mysterious business deals and trades with the children of Newarre. In essence this story is about a young man who works in an inn, is powerfully attractive to and attracted to women. He helps children with their problems in a complicated system of exchanges, all of them slightly crazy and others of them obviously include magic. This story takes place in the space of a month before the events of The Name of the Wind. It follows Bast during a single day in Newarre. Bast’s charming alien nature emerges as he manipulates several of the village children, often through the use of Fae magic. The main narrative arc, though it is debatable if it is an arc, focuses on him assisting the child Rike, who wants Bast’s help getting rid of his abusive father, despite the fact that he broke Bast’s rules.
Bast is probably the most enigmatic character in the Kingkiller Chronicle. His short story is a record of incidents, somewhat connected. It is a charming tale, a bit more laid back and artful than the books. There is not sense of narrative urgency, the narrative is very loose. However, Bast is a charming lead, who is a loveable rascal yet also has the capacity to be quite scary. He trick he plays at the end is both clever and effective and makes the reader crave more.
Rothfuss’ greatest strength as a writer is his way with evocative details and alternating between light hearted charm and darkness. This is on full display with The Lightning Tree. On one hand it is a charming tale about a day in the life of a mischievous character, on the other it is a tale about a hormonal male’s flirting with voyeurism. I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful, if slightly creepy, tale. Rothfuss is a talented writer and one of the best modern high fantasy storytellers. However, it makes me all the more impatient for the third installment of The Kingkiller Chronicle. Come on Rothfuss, I need some more Kvothe! When will the wait be over?
Rogues, Bantam Books, 2014, ISBN: 9780345537263