2,000 pages. I just read TWO THOUSAND PAGES. What just happened? That’s as much as the first four The Expanse books put together.
So, sorry about the delay since my last book. I’ve been…busy.
In my defense, with the giant tone shifts in between parts of the book, it’s like I read several books, just all squished together into one overarching story. Let’s see, if I list them out, Kvothe’s adventures break down into little sections like this:
A. Life is great with my Edema Ruh family Troupe. I met my buddy Abernathy and he taught be basic sympathy. It was awesome.
B. OH GOD EVERYONE’S DEAD. The Chandrian killed them all. How will I live? How will I eat? Spoilers: shittily.
C. Woohoo, I got into University. But I barely have any friends and 3 of the professors kind of hate me. On the plus side, I’m actually good at magic/sympathy, and also at music. Let’s get into trouble.
D. Woah, something crazy happened at the town over. I think it’s the Chandrian. Let’s go check it out…and…woah, Denna’s here. Oh shit, a draccus.
E. Shit, got into too much trouble, have to take the semester off. Went to an entirely different continent it seems like. Now I’m playing royal games with nobles.
F. Now I’m leading a mercenary crew. This is…interesting. Let’s go kill some folk. Or you know, try not to die at least.
G. Let’s hang out with Felurian in the Fae lands for awhile. This is kind of great. Well, except the part about the Chtaeh. We’ll just ignore that.
H. Oh shit, I got Tempi in trouble. Let’s try to un-fuck this situation up by going with him to Haert where the Adem mercenaries hang out. Oh, double shit. Well, I’m stuck here now.
I. Woohoo, not dead from the Adem. Double woohoo, I found an Edema Ruh Troupe to hang out with. Hey wait…Ruh don’t have slaves…
J. Got back to the University! I’m the shit; stories are being told about how awesome I am; I’m not poor anymore; I can fight; I can practice sympathy; I’m getting better at naming. Let’s just…finish the story here. No? This is a tragedy? Fuck.
Intertwined in this are side stories about old me in the present, telling this story; adventures antagonizing Ambrose; and me failing at courting Denna because I’m a goddamn idiot. Oh, and loan sharks/student loans – they’re bad, mmmkay? Well, sometimes at least.
Truth be told, I actually really liked the plot lines involving Denna. Later on, I started getting the feeling that that specific plot started bordering on an Idiot Plot, but oh well. In the first book at least, the chapters I enjoyed the most in the book definitely involved Denna. Their playful flirting banter, how he was just so afraid to make a move, about how different their relationship was than any of Kvothe’s relationships to anyone else. I loved it all. I started to get a little more frustrated with it in the 2nd book, because I started truly believing that it was devolving to an idiot plot, but oh well. They were still good reads.
I think my favorite subplot in this is his time in Ademre. I really liked the characters of Penthe and Vashet, and how he trained with them. Penthe especially: I loved the way she tried to learn Athuran with Kvothe and was really the person to be nicest to him in the entire community.
“Vashet told me barbarians have strange rituals with sex. She said I should bring you to some flowers. These are the best I could find this season.” -Penthe
Like how cute is that? haha. Especially when you consider that she could beat him to a pulp super easily. I hope we’ll spend more time with that world in Book 3, you know, if it ever comes out.
Following that, I also really liked the plot in the Fae. It was described well, and there were just enough confusing descriptions to really show how weird the Fae world was compared to our own, and to highlight how little Kvothe remembers of his time in the Fae world. Plus, this is when Kvothe gets to become a man, right? So woot.
Less Favorite Subplots
This is the end of the story, Bast…this is not a dashing romance. This is no fable where folk come back form the dead. It’s not a rousing epic meant to stir the blood. No. We all know what kind of story this is.” -Kvothe
In the opposite vein, I actually didn’t really like getting the main story interrupted by returning to “the present”, where Kvothe is currently struggling. There are so many unanswered questions that aren’t even really hinted at. How come he can’t practice sympathy anymore? Why does he suck at fighting now? Where is his sword, Saicere? Why is Bast his friend and why is Bast so invested in getting him un-depressed? It’s frustrating not knowing the answers to all of these questions, or even getting hints as to what happened.
I know that a large part of this is probably just that this brings the story down to its inevitable end: A Tragedy. And I don’t particularly enjoy tragedies. Truth be told, I probably will dislike a lot of Book 3 when it finally comes out because I’m getting the feeling that Book 2 ends at the apex of good things in Kvothe’s life. Shit has to happen for him to go from being on top of the world to being a depressed innkeeper in the present just waiting to die.
Other than that, I didn’t particularly like the Maer storyline either, to be honest. And perhaps this is just a credit to the author – if I feel frustrated at things that Kvothe is frustrated with, then perhaps the writing is so good that I’ve empathized so well with it. But yeah, he totally gets the shaft in that entire ordeal. He saves the Maer’s freaking life, and nobody can know?!?! Then, on top of that, he has to go and help the Maer woo this girl, which he does successfully, and then he gets cast out because she’s freaking racist? He risked his life multiple times for this; he got totally hosed on that deal, pffft.
Also, I think a little of what bothered me about reading it was the sudden and jarring tone shift. One second, he’s having adventures at the University, fucking with with Ambrose, and flirting with Denna. And then the next, he has to leave and he’s in this new land, with new characters and a totally different culture. It was rather abrupt for my taste, but perhaps that was the intention?
I obviously really liked Penthe, as you could tell from above, but there are some truly well fleshed out characters in this book.
“Suspect? I beat you like a red-headed stepchild. You were my little sympathy hand puppet!” -Devi
His loan shark / student loan offerer, Devi, for instance was a pretty interesting character. Here, you have a loan shark that doesn’t work on muscle; she works using the threat of malfeasance, and is actually quite nice to Kvothe overall. Well, except when he came and falsely accused her of hurting him, and tried to use sympathy to overpower her.
Her motivations are interesting, in that on the surface, she just wants exorbitant interest from Kvothe. But as you run through the story, you realize she really wants favors. It’s most apparent when Kvothe announces that he’s found a way to sneak into the archives, a place they’ve both been banned from.
“Forty talents. Guild rates. And I will take you to bed.” -Devi
I thought this was both insightful and hilarious when I first read it. This is when you first learn that maybe she wants more than money. She was banned from the University, but still wants to learn things on the down low, and is truly desperate to find a way how. Also, this is when you also learn that she’s nuanced – she can offer you money, she can cajole you, but she also is willing to use her attractiveness as well.
All in all, I think it makes her one of my favorite characters not named Kvothe.
“Once there was a boy who came to the water. This is the story of a girl who came to the water with the boy. They talked and the boy threw the stones as if casting them away from himself. The girl didn’t have any stones, so the boy gave her some. Then she gave herself to the boy, and he cast her away as he would a stone, unmindful of any falling she might feel.” -Denna
The other character I really liked was Denna. Kvothe spends a huge amount of time in the book struggling with his relationship with her. I think the parts involving Denna are very well written. The flirtatious banter they have is pretty fantastic and fun to read; their adventure together in the first book doubly so; and their serendipitous meetings over and over are fantastic.
I do worry that I only like her because Kvothe likes her so much though. When I think about it, her character isn’t super fleshed out beyond being *the* girl that Kvothe has a crush on. What do we know? She’s super attractive, super flirty, kind of poor, is a good musician, and (like Kvothe) doesn’t have a family.
The only time we really learn anything more about her past is through little snippets like her sad story above, or when she’s helping out the one girl who was just beaten by a guy she skipped town for. Then, we learn that she’s well versed in the art of whoring, and…well, we don’t technically know for sure, but as she stated, “Even the fanciest horse is still a horse. That means sooner or later, you’re going to get ridden.”
As far as I can tell, she probably left home awhile back for some boy, and he broke her heart. And ever since then, she’s been traveling, and trying to make her way on her looks. She would *prefer* to make it on her musical talent, and she’s working towards that, but that’s the state of affairs at the moment.
It’s kind of infuriating to me (and to Kvothe!) that she won’t take his help. We learn from the Chtaeh that her mystery patron beats her, and she thinks that all that she’s good for is being pretty and being beaten. But Kvothe back at the Maer’s place offered a way out of all that. And she said no because…pride? Bah.
“I have an apple that thinks it is a pear. And a bun that thinks it is a cat. And a lettuce that thinks it is a lettuce.” -Auri
The one character that kind of just exists in her own little world is Auri, the girl who has obviously cracked from being in the University, and who know basically lives a hippie/homeless existence underground. But we know a few things: she’s smart, she’s flighty, and she likes Kvothe.
One of the more touching scenes in the book is when she alone of all his friends comforts Kvothe the most when he’s inconsolable. It helps to show, not tell, how close the two are, even if not in a romantic sense. Also highlighting this well is how happy she is when Kvothe returns from his adventures back to the University.
“I know. You have a stone in your heart, and some days it’s so heavy there is nothing to be done. But you don’t have to be alone for it. you should have come to me. I understand.” – Auri
Her childlike innocence is endearing in so many ways. It’s easy to see why Kvothe empathizes with her so much and wants to just take care of her. It’s also interesting to note that Elodin feels the same way. She surely has a bigger part to play going forward. I just wonder what it is?
She has her own little book branched off from the main story apparently. I’ll probably pick it up.
When I first started reading this book, I thought it started off really slowly. *Too slowly* even. And I very nearly gave up. But I’m glad that my friend Arielle convinced me to keep going. The storytelling was fun, the different settings kept the story from getting stale, and the book evoked strong emotional responses as I related to Kvothe.
Was everything perfect? No. Sometimes I felt like things were in Kvothe’s way “just because.” For instance, I don’t really get why Hemme hates him so much. Carcaret’s hatred of him was kind of in a similar manner, but at least that’s explained later. But, with that being said, I can take small things like that as plot devices to move the story along, and am happy with the result overall.
Now I get to wait with everyone else who has been waiting since 2011 for the third book in this trilogy that closes the story arc. Or maybe I shouldn’t. I’m not a patient person, and I don’t like tragedy besides.
Can I just pretend this ended with “And then Kvothe lived happily ever after?” Maybe I’ll just do that.