A review by Nalini Haynes
Publisher: Gollancz (Hachette)
Format: hardcover, 176 pages
I have a confession to make. Up until The Slow Regard of Silent Things, I hadn’t read any of Rothfuss’s books. Shortly after Name of the Wind came out, I edited a one-off issue of a zine for a club. A teenage girl gave me some notes for a review scrawled on both sides of a scrap of paper. I spent over an hour deciphering the notes using the internet as my Rosetta Stone and putting the notes in some kind of logical order. After this experience I was not keen to actually read the book.
Fast forward a year or two. My son read Name of the Wind and loved it. I acquired a hardcover copy with the intention of reading it but postponed the actual reading until the trilogy was complete. Wise Man’s Fear came out; my son again nagged me to read Rothfuss’s work but the feminist critiques of book 2 were off-putting. My son looked awkward as I cited, in detail, criticisms I’d read.
“Yes, but the PROSE!” he replied. “You must read his work FOR THE PROSE. You will kick yourself when you finally read it.”
The Slow Regard of Silent Things allowed me to enter Rothfuss’s world from an unconventional and — according to the author’s note — not recommended point, by reading a novella that is much less of a commitment than a doorstopper.
Plus my son took David Mitchell’s Bone Clocks and hadn’t given me a review by the time The Slow Regard of Silent Things reached publication date, so someone had to review it. [shifty eyes]
So. Here we are and here is my review:
Auri is a solitary creature, a girl obsessed with Kvothe (the central character of the doorstopper trilogy) although he’s never mentioned by name. When she’s not obsessing, Auri tends her underground world, setting things to rights. It is her slow regard because she is a silent thing; it is also the slow regard of inanimate objects in Auri’s world.
Rothfuss’s voice in The Slow Regard of Silent Things is part Neil Gaiman in detailed simplicity and part Isobelle Carmody in her Red Wind children’s SFF series for eloquent lyricism coupled with simplicity. Rothfuss’s larger series (pun intended) is not suitable for younger readers, but The Slow Regard of Silent Things is suitable for a wide range of ages as it’s quite chaste. It has one animate character who is, herself, quite modest and proper although there are implications for the future of her relationship with Kvothe within the story.
The black and white artwork provides points of interest to the story, enhancing the misconception that this may be a story-book for primary school children (who could read it if they can cope with some stretching language but who aren’t the target audience). Pipes trail across the page as Auri follows pipes to ensure she does not become lost. Footprints trail a path cross-wise through the text as Auri fearfully recalls an incident — an invasion — that occurred some time ago, motivating her to action. Auri’s halo of dandelion hair catches the eye as she sits on a chimney stack reflecting on the night scene. Artwork enhances this quaint novella.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a descriptive novel of an odd creature’s life, her solitary existence, her feelings of isolation and possible mental illness. Told in the very close third person, this novella delves into Auri’s world and world-view, including her struggles to remember to eat, needing to give herself permission to eat and difficulties finding food. Without traditional plot arcs or character development, the entire novella is Auri’s ‘moment’. Tension focuses on Auri’s belief that she must tend the world while denying herself, simultaneously seeking to provide sumptuous gifts for Kvothe whose visit is imminent. A simple rhythm blends with lyrical phrasing to create prose worthy of reading for its own sake.
This novella is too far outside the mainstream to fairly rate it, even from my personal perspective. I have NFI how to rate it or even what measure to use. Read it and judge for yourself. Writers should read The Slow Regard of Silent Things for the prose.
Happy now, Son?