"Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place.
"Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.
"The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows....
"In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world."
While eagerly awaiting Day 3 of Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicles, I hunted down a copy of Slow Regard, thinking it was Day 3 (shows how much I did my research, eh?). I saw the book sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and thought, "That is waaaay too skinny to be a proper conclusion to Kvothe's adventures. Gasp. So what treasure is this?"
Treasure, indeed. As the blurb indicates, this novella focuses on Auri, the girl who lives beneath the University featured in The Kingkiller Chronicles. Auri happens to be one of my favorite characters in the series, maybe even one of my favorite characters ever written. Right alongside Tyrion and Samwise. So when I saw that this slender volume was all about Auri, I snatched it up and devoured it the first chance I got.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is not a typical story. Even Mr. Rothfuss explains in the Author's Endnote, "It doesn't do the things a story is supposed to do. A story should have dialog, action, conflict. A story should have more than one character." Well, it doesn't, and the story works magnificently. The conflict, the tension, comes from a race against time. Auri has only six days until her friend returns for a visit. Everything must be just so in Auri's world, and if something is out of place, she must find a proper place, and if she cannot, her brokenness surfaces in very convincing panic attacks.
In truth, I was hoping for some spoilers, hoping for some insight into Auri's past, who she was before she was broken, how she came to be broken, what she knows that might help Kvothe the Bloodless in his search for the villains who ... (no spoilers, if you've read the series, you know what I almost let slip). While I was disappointed that the novella didn't cough up any of these secrets (maybe just a hint about Auri's past), it was still a delight to explore this strange, magical girl's day-to-day and the facets of her unique and shattered mind. I learned that Auri is obsessive-compulsive, and that she's a Namer. Two things I hadn't realized while reading the novels (how I missed the latter, I don't know).
The real treasure, however, is Auri's voice. The trove of words found in this book, many of them made up, left my mouth feeling full of moonlight and unicorns. Seriously. The language Rothfuss speaks through Auri is magical and so very appropriate. The mashed-up syllables all work beautifully together, and bring to mind the word-magic of Lewis Carroll. Only, Auri's word-magic is actually decipherable.
And let's not forget the illustrations. Yes! This book is illustrated. Nate Taylor's sketches depict the things that Auri slowly regards in lovely detail. Honestly, without the illustrations, I might've had trouble imagining the brazen gear and the steamworks running through the tunnels. They brought the pages to life.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is poetry and a meandering exploration of a world underground. Your host is shy, selfless, reclusive, and creative. Bring Auri a gift, tell her what's inside it, and she'll lead you into her world, and in her world, a sewer, a boiler room, an abandoned brothel become places of wonder.
In short, it's been a while since a story has enchanted me from beginning to end. Hell, even the Author's Endnote had me sniffling. Yes, broken. Me too.
5/5 Magic Wands
The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss is published by DAW Books, 2014. It is available at Amazon and all major book retailers and at your local library.