The second of three novels in The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss.Kvothe, now a young man studying at the University, decides to take a few terms off and travel the world after a particularly eventful month leaves him on the outs with the Masters. Armed with a letter of introduction from a noble friend, Kvothe travels to Vintas, where he becomes embroiled in courtly politics, bandit attacks along the King's Road, a beguiling faerie enchantress, training from the legendary Adem mercenaries, and a troubling homecoming. All while trying to come to grips with his growing love for Denna, and trying to tease out information on the mysterious Chandrian, as well as the Amyr, a band of warriors who even the Chandrian still fear, despite the Amyr supposedly being disbanded hundreds of years ago...See also The Name of the Wind.
Affably Evil: Devi has a reputation as a ruthless loan shark who takes a vial of blood as collateral, giving her the power of life and death over her deadbeat clients. However, she's a young, attractive and perfectly courteous woman who even has a soft spot for Kvothe. It's eventually revealed that her willingness to harm her deadbeat clients with sympathy is mostly just a scare tactic. She uses it to gain favors, which is what she's really after.
Alchemy Is Magic: One of the courses taught at the University. It is very explicitly not "chemistry with a bit of magic," as shown when a fireproofing balm becomes extremely flammable when exposed to water—something that Kvothe thinks is a prank until he sees it with his own eyes.
Simmon: Repeat after me: "I know absolutely nothing about alchemy."
Kvothe at times. Sometimes he calls himself on it, as when he's complaining to Felurian that light acts like a wave, not thread, and then realizing how silly this is. Played straight with his reaction to the Lockless Box and the suggestion its sealed with magic, however. Its made pretty clear this is a mix of his university training and disdain for vintish superstition talking.
Inverted with Wilem. He will shoot down a lot of wild suggestions on any range of topics Kvothe or Simmon will put forward, especially Kvothe's speculation on the Amyr. Yet when Kvothe tells him he met Felurian, Wil accepts it readily, to Kvothe's surprise.
Aristocrats Are Evil: Most aristocrats are stuffy, elitist and selfish. Ambrose is a particular example, but Kvothe meets quite a number more like him. The Maer is selfish and used to getting his way. There are some aversions, such as Bredon and Simmon.
Armor Is Useless: The Adem don't wear armor. It apparently would just slow down their perfect martial arts moves. Armor also doesn't seem to be much use against them.
I was one of those. I meddled with dark powers. I summoned demons. I ate the entire little cheese, including the rind.
"Oh perfect, a musician on top of everything else." The Adem, part of whose hat is being The Stoic, consider musicians equivalent with prostitutes because they express their emotions. To a whole room. Again and again.
Artistic License - Martial Arts: The Adem mercenaries practice a martial art that is so powerful that 10-year-old girls can kick the snot out of men. The Adem also claim that being morally superior makes women better fighters.
Attempted Rape: Implied rather strongly with Kvothe, in a flashback to his beggar-orphan days. He manages to fight them off, though he had failed to previously at least once, and the memory of it saves him from Felurian's mind control
Black Box: There are certain rare items that are usable in Kvothe's time, but cannot be manufactured since they require magic that has been lost. Examples:
Caesura, as well as other Adem swords, never get dull.
Kilvin possesses many such objects, and shows Kvothe a pair warding cubes that can create an invisible physical and thermal shield. In fact, Kilvin invokes the trope himself to explain why Kvothe's efforts on the Bloodless are useful despite the existence of the warding cubes: unlike the cubes, the Bloodless can be replicated.
Blue and Orange Morality: Felurian. Kvothe specifically notes that she's not evil, it's just her nature. The Fae overall seem to play by a different set of rules. Bast seems to understand basic human morality, though he occasionally chooses not to follow it.
Book Ends: Bast reciting the "Elderberry" counting rhyme. At the beginning, it's to choose what bottles to pick for a mixed drink. At the end, it's to decide which of the soldiers to kill first, with which random implement about the camp. And, as before, the book begins and ends describing the silence of three parts.
Brick Joke: In the first book, Elodin asks Kvothe, "Do you know the seven words that will make a woman love you?" Several examples pop up: "I need you to breathe for me," "I was just wondering why you're here," "I guess I'm doomed to die loveless," "You know, I could have carried you," and "For all that, she lacked your fire," showing that the right words are based on context, as does Naming.
When Vashet tells Kvothe, "I will admit, I've never had a student offer himself up for a vicious beating in order to prove he's worth my time," Kvothe replies, "This was nothing. Once I jumped off a roof." This is a reference to Elodin's test of recklessness in The Name of the Wind.
In The Name of the Wind, Bast sneaked into Chronicler's room at night and opened a discussion with the line, "We need to talk." Mostly, Bast talked and Chronicler listened. In this book, it's Chronicler's turn.
In the first book, when Chronicler finally convinces Kvothe to tell his story, Kvothe remarks "You'd hold my story for ransom. You'd use my own best trick against me." This book reveals that's how he convinced Felurian to let him go, so he could make his song about her much better and play it the world over.
Kvothe continues to have trouble confessing his feelings to Denna
It's implied that the reverse is also true in Wise Man's Fear making this a case of Everyone Can See It. Kvothe has started doing much as Denna is doing(slighty different in that she is mostly doing it to survive, and he doesn't do it for money/presents), i.e. Essentially becoming a Chivalrous Pervert. He and Fela have a conversation about this wherein this exchange occurs:
Kvothe: I refuse to throw myself at her like every other man she's ever met. she hates it. I've seen what happens.
Fela: Have you ever thought she might feel the same way? You do have something of a reputation with the ladies.
Can't Argue with Elves: The Adem fit this trope to a T. During the time Kvothe spends with them, there isn't a single scene where an Adem proclaims how infinitely superior they are to pretty much every other culture in the world to Kvothe, who is constantly referred as a barbarian by the Adem. Kvothe, who doesn't take shit from anybody, only occasionally tries to defend himself and his arguments are defeated every time, even when he's factually correct.
The Casanova: Subverted—Kvothe discovers that, even though All Women Are Lustful, their idea of what constitutes a working relationship involves more emotional commitment than he can offer.
Cassandra Truth: Kote tries to convince one of his friends in the village not to head off to war by telling him the truth about who he is and why Chronicler is there. He is not believed. It's implied that some of the other things the boy has been told (his mother is sick and his girlfriend is pregnant) have also been dismissed.
Character Development: One example of major character development is Felurian who was a narcissistic personality when she "met" Kvothe. Even after they came to a truce, her lessons and other nice things she did for him were motivated by how it helped her. However, after Kvothe's ordeal with the Cthaeh, Felurian was moved to genuine pity for Kvothe, something that was apparently so rare for her she hadn't any idea how to comfort him.
Kvothe works on an intricate and difficult bit of artificiery that uses a kind of chemical that can seep through the skinnote This is a real thing, as is much of the magic in the story, albeit with fantastical effects. DMSO, or dimethyl sulfoxide is an example of such a delivery agent, many compounds will dissolve in it, and it moves readily through the skin, making it an effective delivery agent. It gets even worse when the sulfoxide group is replaced with mercury. The main researcher on dimethyl mercury had a drop of the compound fall on her rubber gloved hand, and was dead five months later of severe mercury poisoning., and the text stresses the danger when, after getting a single drop on his sleeve, he cautiously lifts the cloth away from his skin with tongs and cuts it off with scissors rather than risk touching it. Later, he's drugged using that exact same method.
Chivalrous Pervert: As of book two, Kvothe Really Gets Around, but he's very careful not to make any unwanted advances, and he has nothing but disgust for men who treat women poorly.
Closer to Earth: The Adem believe that women are morally superior to men and that only women can teach the Lethani because they understand it better and are better fighters because of it.
Cold Sniper: Kvothe singlehandedly kills 17 bandits from long distance using sympathy while in the Heart of Stone, which strips away the user's emotions.
Comic Sutra: Felurian has lots of colorful names for sex and/or foreplay acts: playing ivy, a thousand hands, waves upon lilies, etc. (Felurian once apparently administered waves upon lilies to herself, and quite well.) Kvothe gets in the act as well and invents swaying against the wind. Later, Kvothe observes that Vashet is so businesslike about sex that "it was more like seventy-five hands."
Cool Old Guy: Bredon quickly befriends Kvothe by teaching him to play a strategy game and giving him advice on how to manuever through court politics. Bredon doesn't seem to care what other nobles think of him, and might even indulge in pagan orgies.
Besides "Folly" which is still hung on the wall of the Inn, Kvothe gets an ancient sword he calls "Caesura" during the story. Kvothe mentions they are not the same sword.
When Kvothe makes up a story about Chronicler, he claims he has a sword of paper that can cut you from anywhere if he writes your name on it.
Cruel Mercy: What Kvothe did to Alleg with the waterskin.
Darker and Edgier: Than the first book. YMMV, but Kvothe kills a lot of people in this book, and in some pretty nasty ways. Also, a lot more sex. The author got complaints about the sex. The violence, not so much.
Deadpan Snarker: "That's us," Sim said agreeably. "We are chock full of arcane secrets." "We tinker with dark forces better left alone," Wil said nonchalantly.
The Dreaded: The Cthaeh, a being that can see the future perfectly and is one of the most evil things in existence. It specializes in creating butterflies of doom by acting as a malicious oracle, telling visitors whatever truths will cause the most damage. And if that weren't enough, the flowers that surround it act as a panacea so there's always someone trying to talk to it. Bast says that he would rather fight all the Chandrian together than exchange ten words with Cthaeth. There is an ancient order of immortal Fae, wielding bows that can kill a man with perfect accuracy from half a mile off. Their only purpose is to make sure no one speaks to the Cthaeth, and no one even goes near anyone who went near it.
Double Meaning: When he meets the Ruh impersonators, Kvothe makes a series of misleading statements to them that all have a chilling double meaning.
When Kvothe persuades Anne to let him try the stew while it's cooking, she says it wonít be her fault if his stomach starts aching. He laughs and says, "No, Mother, it wonít be your fault." It will be his own fault, because he is secretly adding poison to it.
Kvothe declares, "Anyone who does not enjoy this fine stew is hardly one of the Ruh in my opinion." The false Ruh who eat the stew will not enjoy it, because it is now poisoned.
He asks them if they know how to play "Piper Wit." When they donít, he picks up his lute and says, "Let me. Itís a song every one of us should know." A real Ruh would have known the song.
When they ask how long he will travel with them, he replies, "Until no one objects to my leaving." After he kills them all, he asks their corpses if any of them object to his leaving.
He declares, "I swear on my motherís milk, none of you will ever make a better deal than the one you made with me tonight." None of the fake Ruh will survive to make another deal.
Do You Want to Copulate?: The Adem are like this. They consider sex to be nothing particularly special, to the point where Kvothe's teacher asks the question almost verbatim when she realizes he is Distracted by the Sexy. In contrast, the Adem also have strict cultural taboos against showing emotion and playing music in public.
Earn Your Happy Ending: This book ends on a slightly brighter point of Kvothe's story, with him surrounded by friends, able to study freely at The university, and moderately wealthy for the first time in his life. However, Kvothe mentions that going forward a bit, things get darker real quick, so this is just a Hope Spot.
Failure Hero: Kvothe believes this about himself which is why he is hiding out as an innkeeper.
The Fair Folk: Felurian, The Sithe, The Cthaeh, Bast... we hear about a few more, as well.
False Reassurance: Several of Kvothe's statements to the false Ruh sound like he's completely on board with their behavior, but his words have a dangerous Double Meaning.
Famed in Story: Partly due to his own efforts, Kvothe is becoming this by the end of the book.
Fantastic Racism: Various ethnicities have stereotypes against each other. People think the Cealdim are obsessed with money, due to the abundance of Cealdish moneylenders and the strength of their currency. A lot of people hate the Edema Ruh, believing them to be thieves and kidnappers, which is actually untrue. Kvothe tells a story that portrays several nationalities by their stereotypes, then lionizes the Edema Ruh. It offends his audience.
Fantastic Slurs: Ravel is a slur against the Edema Ruh. As Kvothe puts it, "its use makes light of the systematic slaughter of thousands of Ruh." Shim seems to be a slur against Cealdish people, as it denotes a low-value piece of their currency; Simmon mentions that Ambrose called Wilem this at one point.
Fetish: Kvothe finds it extremely erotic to see a woman playing an instrument.
The researching on the Adem and Denna's letter about meeting a mercenary lead up to Kvothe's training with them. Learning about playing a "beautiful game" of tak from Bredon hints at the philosophy of Lethani.
An offhand reference to persecution of the Edema Ruh begins at the start and eventually culminates in the encounter with Lady Lackless.
Bast's strange reaction to Kvothe being mugged is a sign that he paid the soldiers to rob the inn.
"There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man." Kvothe runs afoul of all three.
The rhyme regarding the rings worn by Kvothe can be considered this; he acquires rings of wood, bone, and iron (at least) in his travels.
Read carefully the description of Meluan Lackless. Pay attention to her reason for hating the Edema Ruh. There will be a quiz later regarding a certain relative of Kvothe's (see "Stealth Pun" below).
Invoked at the same time as Brick Joke in universe by the Cthaeh:
"The Maer has already come close to the Amyr, though he doesn't realize it. Stick by the Maer and he will lead you to their door." The Cthaeh gave a thin, dry chuckle. "Whatever else you might forget, remember what I just said. Eventually you'll get the joke. I guarantee you'll laugh when the time comes."
Genre Blindness: Rather perplexeingly, given how savvy he usually is, Kvothe does not realize that Elodin's inane and pointless requests are not designed to directly give answers, but to enable a person to find the answers themselves, until long after he has left the class. This directly ties back to his Fatal Flaw: impatience.
Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Bast panics when he realizes Kvothe spoke to the Chteah. The Chronicler snaps him out of it with a slap, which is the opposite of their usual interactions.
Good People Have Good Sex: The Adem consider themselves to be on a higher moral level than "barbarians," and part of that is their total lack of sexual inhibitions. However, Felurian is completely amoral, and has terrific sex as well.
Hard Light: The shaed Felurian makes for Kvothe uses shadow for cloth and light for thread.
Horny Devils: Felurian magically causes men to be overwhelmingly attracted to her. She has sex with them until they go insane. Kvothe's memory of Attempted Rape saves him.
Hot for Teacher: Kvothe is turned on by grappling with his Lethani instructor so much that he gets a boner. Luckily, she takes care of it for him whenever he needs.
When Tam calls Tempi's mother a whore, Tempi responds, "You are very kind. I thank you." Prostitution is unknown to the Adem because they have no sexual taboo and practice free love. If someone's paying you for sex, that says very flattering things about your prowess in the sack!
Dedan attempts to insult Tempi by saying that he fights like a woman. The Adem culture, however, believes that women are superior fighters because they have a better understand of Lethani morality. Tempi affirms, "Yes. I fight like a woman."
Intoxication Ensues: The "plum bob" alchemical concoction Kvothe is dosed with completely strips him of his inhibitions and moral grounding. When asked if he would consider murdering his mortal enemy in cold blood worse than stealing a pie, he asks whether it's a meat or fruit pie. When asked what would happen if he did kill Ambrose, he says, there will probably be a trial and people will buy him drinks. Someone had just bought him a drink for messing with Ambrose, but that was how he got plum-bobbed.
Ironic Echo: Kvothe enjoys doing this to people who have previously mocked him, often using the exact same phrasing.
Type I: Kvothe chastises Ambrose about the danger of candles after he anonymously burns Ambrose's room. Echoes Ambrose's comment in The Name of the Wind when Ambrose tricks Kvothe into bringing a candle into the Archives.
Kvothe: "Candles are dangerous things. Honestly boy, I don't know what you were thinking. You'd think a member of the Arcanum would have more sense."
Least Rhymable Word: Kvothe is interrupted in the middle of a song, right after he sings a line that ends in "silver." We never do find out what on earth he was planning to rhyme it with.
Little Miss Badass: Kvothe is paired with a fighter of a comparable level of skill to his own. This turns out to be Celean, a little girl, no more than ten years old. She wins. Over and over again.
Magic Music: It's implied that the "true names" of faeries sound like musical notes. The Adem, who consider singing indecent, mention "songs of power" in one very old story.
Matriarchy: Adem society is a Patriarchy Flip. The Adem all believe that women are morally and physically superior to men. One female Adem says with some pity that men have absolutely nothing to contribute to the world.
Magic A Is Magic A: Considering the way sympathy works, some of the audience wondered what's stopping you from using a person or a corpse as a mommet. The answer? Absolutely nothing. There's a reason they used to burn sympathists at the stake.
Meaningful Name: In-world, names are very important to say the least. Many (possibly most) of the names in the story are inspired by words in various Real Life languages.
Muscles Are Meaningless: A discussed trope. The Adem mercenaries say that women are better fighters even though they are smaller and weaker than the men. Vashet asserts that strength has very little to do with fighting ability.
Near the end of the book Kvothe dispassionately hunts down and kills the false troopers who have kidnapped and raped a pair of girls while pretending to be Ruh. Recognising the brutality of what he has done actually gives him nightmares wherein he sees himself as a pitiless monster hunting down his actual family.
When Kvothe and the Maer's mercenary group track the bandits who stole the Maer's tax money and attack their camp, Kvothe uses sympathy to systematically and mercilessly kill most of the bandits.
Mr. Fanservice: During the entire expedition in the woods of Vintas, Tempi usually wears his skin-tight mercenary reds. Except the time that he spends most of the day stripped to the waste, or the times when Kvothe and Hespa discover that the Adem have No Nudity Taboo.
The Amyr's credo is Ivare Enim Euge, which translates to For the greater good.
The Duke of Gibea, thought to be an Amyr in hiding by Kvothe, killed tens of thousands of people in medical experiments that resulted in "the most thorough [work] ever done" on the human body and physique, and the research has likely saved ten times more people than he killed.
No Guy Wants an Amazon: Notably averted by the Adem. The women are thought to be stronger fighters, yet they're screwing so often that no one, over the course of several thousand years, has figured out that sex has something to do with reproduction. That's a lot of screwing.
Noodle Incident: "Chapter Fifty Two: A Brief Journey." Also, Kvothe's trial in Imre, which he skips because it bores him.
Not So Different: Kvothe and Denna. Both stay somewhere where they're abused because it's the only place they can learn what they want to learn.
Oh, Crap: Many, many times. But probably the most notable was when Bast hears that Kvothe has spoken to Cthaeh.
The Omniscient: The Cthaeh, who can see all possible futures perfectly, and is "perfectly malicious." It knows the exact outcome of every single possible action it could ever make, and always chooses the one that will cause the most harm to the world. Bast describes people who come into contact with it as "plague ships sailing for a harbor," because their actions will set up terrible events to occur. Bast describes it as infinitely more dangerous than even the apparant Big Bad of the series, the Chandrian. Chronicler, however, isn't quite as convinced that it can have as much influence as Bast believes. The Fae in general however are so afraid of it that they kill anyone who talks to it from out of hearing range. And then shoot the crows too.
Precision F-Strike: Bast delivers the only instance of the f-word as of yet after Kvothe gets done talking about the Cthaeh.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: Any Adem mercenary. Played with in that they are extremely practical in terms of doing what it takes to win.
Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: When Kvothe gets drugged with a poison that completely removes his ability to judge morality, he can't figure out which is worse, killing a man or stealing a pie. But when it's suggested he might rape a girl, he just says, "I could never do that. Just like I couldn't eat a stone or walk through a wall."
Starving Student: Kvothe's struggle to come up with his tuition money continues to drive the plot.
Stealing from the Till: Kvothe's arrangement with the University's bursar allows them both to embezzle money from the Maer.
Stealth Pun: Part of the theory that Kvothe's mother is Meluan Lackless's (Lockless's) sister is based in a song written by Kvothe's father that Kvothe sings in The Wise Man's Fear. One of the lines is "It's worth my life to make my wife not tally a lot less". Meluan's sister's name was revealed as Netalia. Therefore, Kvothe's father wrote "It's worth my life to make my wife Netalia Lockless.
The Stoic: The Adem believe that showing emotion in public is unseemly. They're so committed to maintaining stoic expressions that they instead use hand signals to express emotion and add subtext to their words.
Sublime Rhyme: Felurian speaks almost entirely in rhymes. As mentioned above, Kvothe and Denna also get into the act when bantering. More easily noticed in the audio book.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Elodin decided to enter the Masters' Hall one night by climbing on the rooftop, then knocking on the glass window like a door. Lorren responded to this by unhinging the window and saying hello. (He's probably seen Elodin do much stranger things.)
Virgin Power: An interesting variation: When Kvothe meets Felurian, a faerie seductress who loves men to death or drives them mad, he's never been with a woman before. Afterwards, he composes a beautiful song about her, but she's rather offended when he sings of his experience with her being "nice". So he explains that that was his first time and he has no basis for comparison. As such, she ought to let him go so he can gain enough experience with women and compose a song that will do her justice. It works.
Voodoo Doll: Mommets, a key component in Malfeasance. Though an actual corpse serves this purpose later on in a grisly and disturbing fashion. There's a reason people used to burn arcanists at the stake.
Marten is rightfully freaked out when Kvothe kills the bandits using sympathy with a corpse.
Quite a few people are alarmed at the fact that he killed the fake Edema Ruh.
Xanatos Gambit: Alveron's scheme to send Kvothe after bandits would result in either the bandits being removed or Kvothe's position in the court and the Maer's obligations of support, significantly weakened.
Your Normal Is Our Taboo: The Adem. They have no cultural taboos about nudity or sex but are horrified if anyone were to even think about performing any kind of music in public. This stems from their belief that displaying emotion in public is uncivilized and should only be done in private with those you are closest to, as such their language involves intricate hand signals to get the meaning of your words across. Just raising your voice is extremely rude but showing your emotions with music, with just anyone, night after night for just a few coins would make you the equivalent of the cheapest, most tawdry kind of whore imaginable.
This thing happened, though it was years and miles away. I have heard it from the mouths of the Edema Ruh, and thus I know it to be true.