By Guest Contributor Sallie
Author’s Warning: I bought and read through both books that I’m about to talk about. I enjoyed them. But, there’s a very obvious flaw in it that has infuriated me to no end. The author is probably a cool dude. I usually have the unpopular opinion about this. Take it or leave it. Just know because I, random internet person, dislike something that you, the most important person to you, love, doesn’t change the fact that you love it. Now, on with the show.
Patrick Rothfuss’s “Kingkiller Trilogy” is viewed as the next Tolkien. Unfortunately, it is not. Tolkien was given a pass at his general sexism because it was honestly the time of sexism. Patrick Rothfuss isn’t given that hand wave. Why? Because it is the future where women have goals, lives, and general existences beyond “omg, guy is hot for us.”
This is not saying I totally hate “Name of the Wind” and “Wise Men Fear.” I obviously read both of them. Obviously. Damn you Rothfuss, you got my money. The world building in these books is really interesting. As is the ominous story that leads us from Kote to Kvothe. A tired innkeeper named Kote tells stories about the time he was, a fucking man-god that ruined everything, named Kvothe. Kote works with a servant Bast, which is a fae prince, that given two novels still hasn’t been fleshed out beyond “omg, master, I am here for you… but am I?” Ugh. Seriously. Three novels span three days of Kote telling a story, but two freaking days are dealt with his hormones. He spends a freaking eternity romancing a fey goddess who kills everyone but him. I got to learn a lot of about fairy sex, and I didn’t want to.
There are two problems with the Kingkiller Trilogy. Number one is the sexism. I address this first because this is the most noticeable to me. The female interest in an enigmatic female character called Denna. She’s called a lot of things. She’s basically a prostitute. Men pay money for her to hang out on their arm, as she is so pretty. Our lead character tries numerous times to try buy her out. She refuses each time. So, in the second book when they’re both viewed as lovers, Kvothe offers her freedom which she denies, angrily rebukes him and then runs off.
Why? Why is every female character you meet a prostitute you must save? Yes, there are other female people in this series, but none consume as much space as Denna. She is viewed as the female lead, and she is fucking shitty. She represents the “Sorry, I’m a prostitute and you must save me” trope. It’s a boring trope, and it’s insulting to fantasy readers. What does she give to the story? Nothing but angst for Kvothe. Is she actually helpful? Nope. Does she give some sort of climatic arc for the main character? Nope. She just exists for him to think of when he wants to put his dick in something that isn’t his fantasy ninja teacher or a fae queen. She’s not a good character. And people might argue that Fela is a good character in this book, but she’s fourth tier. She gets mentioned once or twice before disappearing. She’s not integral to the main plot.
My second problem with this set of books is Kvothe. He is a Gary Stu. If you find yourself immediately recoiling from that statement and shaking your head at the monitor, that’s okay. You’re allowed to love Kvothe. He’s a multi-faceted character. He’s also a fucking. Gary Stu. Hear me out.
He learns everything lightning fast. Which is fine. We’re all allowed to learn things quickly. But he learns things, fucks up maybe once, and then has those things down pat for the rest of eternity. And that is if he gets to fuck it up. Sometimes he’s just amazing at it. See the entire fairy-sex-chapter in “Wise Men Fear”. I know sex, but I still know that the first few times I was like one of those wacky-wavy-inflatable-tube-men. And my game would be way off if an all-powerful being was like: “do it good, or I’m going to smear you into next year/eternity.” But of course, Kvothe would. “Oh yeah, Fairy Queen kills everything. But me, PERFECTLY PERFECT HUMAN MAN BOI. Watch me seduce an age old being. Continue to watch. Are you watching? Yeah. This is going to go on for a long time.”
Gary Stu knows all things. Knows better than everyone else. And whoops, when he fucks up it is a lesson for EVERYONE, not himself. Sure, he gets whipped and called Kvothe the Bloodless, because he makes a potion where he can’t bleed. Does anyone remember WHY he’s being whipped? NOPE. Just that he was awesome doing it. He’s always handling things super easy. He learns a forbidden martial art and bangs his teacher with no problem. He infiltrates and saves the king with no problem. Sure, the queen later goes, “I don’t like him, can we banish him?” And he gets banished. But there’s really no effort there, and it is after he realizes an impossible secret and saves the king.
Kvothe is a fucking piece of egotistical shit that has fun-as-hell adventures. Screw you guys.
And if you tell me, “well it is Kvothe telling the story. He’s an unreliable narrator. Also, he’s bad at potions.” Yeah. He’s bad at one thing. It would like being bad at tying your shoes, but you can fly—so fuck that, I guess? But, more importantly, I’m tired of hearing the unreliable narrator excuse. The old man writing about his journey is doing it because he can’t discern truth from fiction. Kvothe’s deeds are so awesome they’ve been built up into the impossible. So, the guy wants to know the truth. And Kvothe is like: “I’m not amazing as they say I am. I’m WAY FUCKING COOLER!” If the old guy wanted more bullshit, he wouldn’t have tracked Kvothe down. So, no, Kvothe is not an unreliable narrator—he’s a Gary Stu.
That being said, there’s a lot of ground to cover in the last book, Rothfuss. What happens with the door? Why does Kvothe kill the king? Demons? Bar owning? Bast? Fucking a shit ton of plot, you should hit upon now before discussing fucking fairy sex? Yeah. Get on it. Also, let go of the white-knuckled grip you have purple-prose. There’s a lot of writing in there that I’m like: “this feels unnecessary.” Then again it might have been all the damn fairy sex.