The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a novella set around one of the side character’s in Patrick Rothfuss’ fantasy epic, The Kingkiller Chronicle. This is a Sunday-afternoon ramble on why I love it so much.

Introducing Auri…

The side character is Auri, a mysterious waif found by Kingkiller protagonist Kvothe. One could argue that in Kingkiller she’s got a little of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl about her, dipping in and out of Kvothe’s life in the university where he is studying to become an arcanist, always sweet, always secretive, always scurrying away at the end of their encounters to the ‘Underthing’ – the maze of empty spaces underneath the sprawling University. 

Yet I’ve always felt that Auri was more than that, and clearly Rothfuss does too. Like many Rothfuss fans I’m looking forward to the final book in the Kingkiller trilogy in which I expect, amongst other revelations, we might find out who Auri actually is, and what her past has been – but in the meantime, this novella from Auri’s point of view is – to my mind – a wonderful deepening of her character. 

A warning not to read this book?

Now, at the beginning of the novella, Rothfuss actually warns some readers away from his book. Then in the endnotes he gives a sort of apology, noting that the story ‘doesn’t do the things a story is supposed to do…A story should have dialogue, action, conflict. A story should have more than one character. I’ve written a thirty thousand word vignette!’

I do agree. I loved this book. Really loved it. But then I already knew Auri and something of the world in which she lives. I think I would unreservedly recommend the novella to any existing fans of the Kingkiller Chronicle, and suggest to anyone else that they might want to read Kingkiller first. The novella is absolutely a little strange. It’s Auri wandering for six days in the maze-like ‘Underthing’, with the only tension and conflict coming really from inside Auri’s own mind. 

High stakes need not be world-ending ones…

BUT that’s what makes it wonderful to me. Sometimes I feel I have enough of world-ending stakes in fantasy. The belief that ‘world-ending stakes’ and ‘high stakes’ are equivalent is, I think, wrong. You can have high stakes amongst the most day to day things, it all depends on context, on who you are, and what your place in your own world looks like. 

Anxiety and soap…

In Slow Regard, the low point for Auri comes after some small animal eats her carefully prepared stash of soap, leaving none for her to wash with… a low-stakes drama you might think, but not for Auri. Slowly, surely, everything comes apart after that. Not in any tangible way. Not even in a way discernable for an onlooker. But for us, given our privileged view into Auri’s mind, we see the very real and high-stakes effects of this turn of events. 

The actions Auri has to take to restore order to her life are almost nonsensical, yet make complete sense in the specific context of her mind. For me – and this is only my interpretation – I found it quite evocative of the kinds of impulses and challenges and ways of coping with the world that come during times of anxiety. There is a loneliness to Auri, and a tension wrought by her past coupled with a joyfulness in the little things of the present, that make her a character both vulnerable and strong – and really, really interesting. 

So… read this book?

Yes, in my opinion, read this book. You may like it more if you come to it after Kingkiller, or you may appreciate it nonetheless for the elements of it that are out of the ordinary, and evocative, and strangely inspiring.