Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 35,000 words, 160 (sparse) pages
Read: October 28-19, 2014
The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are Patrick Rothfuss’ excellent “normal” high fantasy novels. The brand new Slow Regard is a novella set in the same world, featuring a minor character (Auri, the fey girl at the University). This intriguing little book sits completely aside from the main series of novels. But it should not be read on its own.
Properly, Slow Regard feels like a short story. A long one, but Rothfuss is a verbose writer. Or perhaps it’s a poem. It lacks most of the things that stories (particularly novels) normally have. In Rothfuss’ own words there is no: conflict, dialogue, or action. It has one character. It’s very beautifully written. This isn’t much of a surprise, as Rothfuss is one of fantasy’s most artful prosesmiths. Basically, this is an exploration of Point of View, specifically Auri’s more than a little schizophrenic/OCD POV. It captures that masterfully, being simultaneously beautiful and heart-wrenching. Rothfuss deftly slips us into her strange world view. Pretty much he wrote it for himself, but some of us will enjoy it as well.
Does it work? Mostly. As a portrait of madness? yes. As entertainment? the prose carried me through about 3/4 of the way. I started to falter at the 10-15 page “soap making adventure.” Ultimately I liked it. The story has an ethereal quality that is rare and delicate. But would I if I wasn’t a writer and fond of technique? I’m not sure. It’s not so long that one can’t power through.
I would have liked to see a little more (some) fantasy. As written, Auri’s worldview could be entirely psychological. There is one dark hint that something bad happened to her at some point — but I’m not sure. I would have liked to learn a little more about the world and the “lore.” We don’t. We learn about the basement and the vast collection of empty rooms and small trinkets that Auri “cares for.”
You’ll have to judge for yourself if Slow Regard is for you. If you loved Rothfuss’ other books (as I did) and also have a fondness for arty “plot-light” creatives like David Lynch or Terry Gilliam (as I do) you’ll probably love it. If you require something to actually happen in your stories… well, maybe not.