Welcome, Rothfuss fans and/or angry mobs, to a review of “Kingkiller Chronicle 2.5,” which is a terrible moniker for this Temerant-set novella. The Slow Regard of Silent Things roots itself in Rothfuss’ imaginative world made famous by The Name of the Wind. But those looking for an extension of Kvothe’s story won’t find it here. In fact, Rothfuss writes a wordy intro to this novella explaining exactly why readers (or angry mobs) might not want to buy or read this story. And you know what? Good on him. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is so unconventional that it feels utterly distinct from the two Kingkiller books with which it shares a world and a character. And although I’d heard through the grapevine that I could easily skip this story, the short page count and my recent deep dive into The Wise Man’s Fear piqued my curiosity. So I read The Slow Regard of Silent Things, and I enjoyed it–to an extent.
Most of the points I’d typically cover in a review feel moot here. Rothfuss explains in detail why The Slow Regard of Silent Things won’t be for everyone. That’s because the story focuses on Auri and her life in the Underthing. It’s also because the novella “doesn’t do a lot of the things a classic story is supposed to do.” And it’s these two points that make the plot difficult to summarize. It’s not a continuation of Kvothe’s story, but you do need the context of the core Kingkiller books to feel at home here, which puts the book in a strange position. Auri’s tale doesn’t have a formal hero’s journey, climax, denouement, all that stuff. Instead, The Slow Regard of Silent Things follows Auri (one of my favorite characters from Kingkiller, by the way) over the course of a few days as she prepares for Kvothe to visit. For a book that’s ostensibly about Auri, it still feels like it’s just a Kvothe story in an Auri mask.
During her preparations, Auri explores her home beneath the University. She loses objects and has to employ creative solutions to find them. She enters rooms that just don’t feel right, then takes it upon herself to fix them. She makes soap. For eight pages. She searches for gifts to give to Kvothe. Slow Regard is at once a long vignette and a series of tiny vignettes.
Your mileage with this story may vary, but I enjoyed the short, breezy adventures within. Don’t get me wrong–it does not feel like a Kingkiller story in the epic, sweeping way that The Name of the Wind does. But Auri feels at home in her small world underneath the “real” one, and the story feels at home in the larger world Rothfuss is building throughout the series.
At the same time, this story is uniquely Auri. Rothfuss’ prose in the core novels induces reading flow, sometimes making 50 pages feel like 10. In a way, it mirrors Kvothe’s proficiency with words. The lyrical writing gently urges the reader along as though transitioning from verse to chorus to bridge with lilting melodic flourishes. Auri’s story is different. She describes things with vague feelings. If she existed in modern times, you might say she observes the world as a series of vibes, and she seeks to correct the bad ones with an intriguing feng shui/alchemy analog. In true Rothfuss form, he has given us a glimpse into his world through a character that serves as a brilliant lens.
Nate Taylor lends his illustrative talents to the novella, too, giving Slow Regard an added layer of worldbuilding and storytelling that is otherwise absent from the stories of Kingkiller.
But…should you read The Slow Regard of Silent Things? That’s the question, and the answer eludes me like the ghost of a melody, fading into the recesses of my brain. The best I can do is this: maybe. If you, like me, loved the first two Kingkiller Chronicle installments and desire a quick step back into that world, chances are you’ll find something of value here. But Rothfuss makes it abundantly clear what this story is from the get-go, and you should heed his words. If you’re here for the red-headed bard, steer clear. If you love Auri and don’t mind a quick side-quest, give it a shot.