Monday, 1 December 2014

Book Review: The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Those who know me well also know that it is dangerous to mention the name Patrick Rothfuss around me. His two books are burned, word by word, into my brain. Mention him around me and my eyes go faraway as I begin to gush about him and his blog and the beauty of his prose and how amazing his characters are and how gripping the plot of his Kingkiller Chronicle is and how excited I am for the third and final book in the trilogy and and and...

When I heard that Patrick Rothfuss was releasing a short novel featuring one of the characters from The Kingkiller Chronicle, I was thrilled. I found out that it was about Auri, one of the series' most intriguing characters, and I did several backflips of joy. And then I spotted, available for pre-order on the Waterstones website, a beautiful hardcover edition, SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR. I think I died; obviously I can't remember for sure, most likely because I was dead. Somebody was kind enough to resurrect me - probably Jason because he's the White Mage of our group and all - and you're damn right I hurled exactly 1299 pennies at the computer screen.

Obviously it was a pre-order, and so took some time to arrive. I kinda forgot about it for a while because I'm easily distracted. But a few weeks later, a parcel arrived...

It's beautiful!

I haven't been able to read it what with all the NaNo business and busyness, but in the last few days while I'd hit 50k and was winding down, I decided to give this book the read it was crying out for.

And... wow. How do I describe it? It was not what I expected from a book, but exactly what I expected from a book about Auri. Does that make any sense? It's joyous, bittersweet, sad and beautifully strange, and full of the childlike excitement and wonder that endears Auri to so many readers in The Name of the Wind. Rothfuss structures the book so neatly, so perfectly, that Auri herself would be proud.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is bizarre in that it has no dialogue. Apart from the brief appearance of an unnamed little girl who spots Auri during the book, there are no other humans shown. We see footprints, we hear the clamour of life echoing down from the world above, but Auri is the only person we meet.

It's wonderful. I am a total sucker for unusual books like this. When the writer does well, they are amazing. And here, Patrick Rothfuss has done very, very well indeed, because despite the lack of dialogue and the singular human character, it is such a gripping read. Auri's only company in the Underthing are the various objects she picks up along her journey - sprigs of lavender, jars and bottles, long lost perfumes, broken cogs - and like her, we grow attached to these objects as she seeks to put the world right and find a proper place for them. We feel her pain when things are moved, or seem out of place. We are overcome with fascination as she explores these long lost rooms buried deep in the ground. We quiver with excitement as the days pass by and her unnamed but very much known friend comes closer to visiting.

Also strange is the fact that the book doesn't feature action and conflict on the same level as The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear. But again, because this is a story about Auri, it works. We watch her exploring, and the excitement comes from discovering new places with her. There are terrifying moments such as when she swims to grab the brass cog in The Yellow Twelve, unsettling moments such as when she fears that people might be coming into the Underthing to disrupt her peculiar perfection. On page 77, a short chapter titled 'Hollow', my heart simply broke.

Of course, we have got to look at Nate Taylor's gorgeous illustrations. They're so clean, and detailed - they remind me of something from a fairy story. He captures Auri's innocence wonderfully too, her slight appearance, her cloud of bright golden hair, the vastness and mystery of the Underthing in which she resides. The full-page illustrations are stunning. Some of the pages are 'framed' by what I would describe as studies of some of the Underthing's architecture and it works brilliantly to really draw you in to the setting.

As a voracious reader and aspiring artist and writer myself, this book complete with Nate's illustrations was like tucking into a big, fat strawberry covered in chocolate. Delicious, sweet, the perfect treat that leaves you wanting more. The whole thing together is a work of art in itself; I am so impressed.

I literally do not have any qualms with it. I know that probably makes me a shitty reviewer, but at the same time I'm not the sort to whip problems out of thin air. The only thing I would say is that I definitely recommend reading at least The Name of the Wind before picking up The Slow Regard of Silent Things. It will lose none of its mystery if you do, but a few bits here and there would make a little more sense, and you would probably be a bit more invested in the story having drummed up a bit of curiosity! Plus the series is just awesome anyway. GO. GO AND READ IT.


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