Spatial (and temporal) phenomena in the Kingkiller Chronicles
At first glance, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, volumes I and II of Patrick Rothfuss’ as yet incomplete trilogy Kingkiller Chronicles, appear to fulfill many conventions of heroic fantasy. The books are set in a world called the Four Corners (of civilization), consisting mostly of feudal states, a mostly rural and agrarian landscape. This world has a distinct but slightly vague ‘old-timey’ atmosphere – there is little technology, transport is mainly by horse-power, there seem to be no fire-arms and no media. However, a form of postal service exists, science and medicine are taught at university and women have access to university education, so it is hard to place this fictional universe within a ‘real-life’historical epoch. The narrative centres around Kvothe, the many-talented hero. It features a quest (Kvothe is looking for the mysterious Chandrian who killed his parents when he was a child), a love-story, encounters with demons and fairies, sword-fights and the traditional map which invites readers to trace the hero’s travels through nearly the whole fictional universe of the Four Corners. However, as becomes clear again and again, thebooks play with fantasy conventions and tend to disappoint expectations. As a number of readers have complained in reviews, Kvothe’s quest doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, as he gets ‘stuck’ at a university (or theUniversity, as there seems to be only one) for years and seems to forget about his quest for periods of time altogether: “This [vol. II] is a great big book indeed, but not much happens”, one reviewer claims. A second reviewer goes as far as to claim that the novel (vol. I) “doesn’t have a plot”, while another appreciates just that: “There is no action; there is, rather, description of inaction, of, in fact, silence. And the silence takes place ina quiet, under-populated inn. It’s all nuance”. However, for readers hoping for action-packed adventures the long descriptions of the inn, the school narrative that takes up so much space and other relatively low-action episodes that describe the hero’s travels (the Maer’s courtship, Felurian, studying in Ademre, etc.) in detail, must appear disappointing or irrelevant, just as the books’ concern with ‘meta’-elements such as its nestled layers and its preoccupation with stories and names, storytelling and ‘reality’ has been perceived as pretentious and stilted by a number of readers. An in-depth discussion of all the attempts of the author to subvert fantasy conventions would exceed the scope of this article, so the focus will be on spatial (and to a lesser extent temporal) aspects and motifs and how the author uses those to subvert fantasy conventions, sometimes leaving his readers confused – and either frustrated or intrigued by the puzzles.