There is a commonly agreed upon structure to modern storytelling. We learn about it in class and see it in books and movies, even if we do not understand how it works. First, we meet the characters. Stakes are established. There is a plot, driven by the wants of the various characters coming into conflict. The characters meet, exchange dialogue, and oppose one another. Most of the time, someone comes out on top, their wants overpowering the wants of their antagonist. Very rarely do stories stray from this template. In film we call in the three-act structure. Occasionally there are creators who do everything in their power to break tradition and give us something truly unique. Usually, those creators do not find an audience. Usually.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a novella by Patrick Rothfuss, taking place in the same world as his Kingkiller Chronicle series. In fact, this novella takes place between chapters during The Wise Man’s Fear, the second novel following Kvothe the Bloodless. If you have not read the series, then I highly recommend it for a variety of reasons which can be found in other posts on this blog. This novella is not like the novels and may not make much sense or draw you in if you are not familiar with Auri, the University, and the world in which the story takes place. Rothfuss originally imagined this tale as a much shorter story, with Auri playing the role of the trickster. But, as he wrote, the story changed. Auri was not a simple trickster, and the short story begged to be longer. So Rothfuss kept writing and, true to his personality, panicked when he saw what he had written. Suffice it to say the panic was unwarranted.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things breaks storytelling tradition. Throughout the novella, there is only one human character: Auri. Everything about the world is filtered through her eyes and through her unique perspective on the way of things. She lives in a subterranean network called the Underthing, full of forgotten apartments, pools, laboratories, and unexplored dark corners. There are no other characters. There is no dialogue. No readily recognizable antagonist. One of the most dramatic and tense scenes in the story is when Auri suffers a panic attack due to some unforeseen stress. An item out of place, a wrong wind traveling in the tunnels. It is difficult to explain how she interacts with the world and do it justice, so I will simply recommend you read the novella and try to understand the mind of this broken girl. But her strangeness is fascinating in way which draws us in. When she panics, we panic. When she finds joy in something mundane, so do we. The inanimate objects in her life, set dressing in any other book, have more personality than most protagonists. Auri has a relationship with each and every one of them, and we feel their connection.
Rothfuss ends the novella with an author’s note, like most do. In it, he describes the writing and publishing process behind The Slow Regard of Silent Things. There was a common refrain in his story, heard from everyone who read the novella before publication. They all liked it, encouraged him to publish it, but worried no one else would enjoy the story. The moral of the story is that there is an audience waiting for stories to break tradition, to take what we know about storytelling and turn it on its head. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a book for that audience, and we understand that the best stories take risks. There is more than one structure to storytelling.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things may be found in store, online, or wherever books are sold
Total Read Time: 4 days
This has been a mini-review of The Slow Regard of Silent Things! The next review will be back to feature length, this time talking about Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski, better known as the author behind the Witcher series of novels and video games. While Season of Storms stands on its own, I highly recommend the rest of the series.
Thanks for reading!