When I first heard about The Slow Regard of Silent Things from Daw Books by bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss, I had mixed emotions. I really like Rothfuss’ writing. After reading The Name of the Wind (2007), the first installment of the King Killer Chronicles, it was evident that this guy can write. I mean, it’s the “dang, I wish I could put words together like this guy” kind of writing. It’s that fine line between jealousy and admiration kind of impressiveness.
First, I’ll explain my apprehension about The Slow Regard of Silent Things.
The original King Killer Chronicles book was an engrossing tale of colorful characters with precise personalities that made the complexity of the plot fly by. It was a big book with a big story that ended without a conclusion. It was billed as “Day 1” of the series, so it was expected that “Day 2” would come along shortly (“shortly” turns out to be about four years). So by the time The Wise Man’s Fear (2011) finally hit the shelves, I’d read and reviewed a gazillion books and stories. Going back and remembering all of the intricate plot details and fabulous cast of characters was a task this old man’s brain just couldn’t do. I would have had the same problem with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series if I hadn’t dove into that one well after the fourth book A Feast for Crows (2005) came out. In fact, I discovered Rothfuss about the same time I began the Martin series. Sure, like most members of fandom, I do have a long list of classics I’d love to go back and read again, but it’s a difficult task to schedule. So until I can squeeze that time in, The Wise Man’s Fear still sits idly on the shelf, unread. And yes, a crisp unopened copy of A Dance with Dragons sits on that same shelf.
And then The Slow Regard of Silent Things comes along.
A close look at an interesting character in the King Slayer Chronicles, Rothfuss admits in the books forward that it may be best to read the first two books before tackling this one so the reader can have a better perspective. This type of disclosure can be detrimental to a book’s sales, but understandable from the author’s standpoint. The protagonist is a fan favorite and its important that Rothfuss remains loyal to the character. Having a vague recollection of the story and characters in the first book, I decided to chance it, to trudge on and read this much shorter tome anyway. And I’m glad I did.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief (just under 150 pages) story about a complex young girl named Auri who lives in the ancient labyrinth of abandoned rooms and tunnels deep beneath the University. Heavily anticipating the upcoming visit of her dear friend, Auri meticulously prepares for his arrival. She is a fascinating character whose actions balance delicately between those of a sweet girl with pure compassion of everything around her and one awkwardly controlled by an obsessive compulsive disorder. At times readers will feel sorry for her and other times they will read in awe of her emotional ties with her surroundings. You don’t need to read the other books for this. It is an emotional journey through a dark place where everything seems alive.
Looking even deeper into her spiritual ties, readers will get to know the real talent of Rothfuss. His prose are always so clearly detailed and eloquently displayed that every paragraph exhumes a poetic sense of observation. It as if every phrase, every sentence, every individual word is chosen with a slow articulate regard, all with the raw purpose of bringing the life to the silent inanimate things everyone else would pay no attention to. And that is what happens in The Slow Regard of Silent Things. From a tiny ball of twine to broken brass gear, everything has a purpose and everything has a place. And through Auri, Rothfuss gives these things purpose and puts them in their proper place.
The funny thing about this story…it was the “living” things that truly seemed out of place.
The audio version of this book is read in a calming voice by the author that lends well to the thoughtful nature of the protagonist. But the print copy includes some illustrations by Nate Taylor that is loyal to the author’s imagery.
As an experiment, I asked somebody who has never experienced works by Rothfuss to read this book. The author’s presumption was correct. They did indeed express some confusion. Not so much in the writing, but rather in the lack of background for the Auri character. This was a little disheartening because I thought it was his best work to date. So much so, I just might have to go back and reread the first book so that I can comfortably read the second book. As news that this series may be coming to television and perhaps even the big screen, it may be wise to go all in before any influential hype dilutes the story. I doubt the poetic prose can translate to the screen as well as it does to the literary palate, but I’m confident a segment of The Slow Regard of Silent Things will be an award winner.