Book Review: The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

When you first open the pages of Rothfuss’s novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things, there is a warning: “You might not want to buy this book.” Rothfuss goes on to explain that this is not your usual kind of story. It’s not—I think that’s what makes it so great.

Deep below ground in the Underthing lives Auri, a young girl going about her days with purpose. The reader follows along as she explores her world, looking for objects on “the doing days” and crafting items on “the making days”. At the start of the novella, Auri reveals she has seven days before he comes—who, we don’t immediately know, although readers of Rothfuss’s other books will have an idea. This proves to be a tight schedule for Auri as she searches for the perfect gift for him. 

But Auri is not just any girl looking for treasures—she’s determined to fit things where they’re meant to be, and she refuses to bend the world around her will … even if she has the power to do so. Instead, she waits for objects to reveal themselves to her—and this layering of intuition and careful attention creates the world of the Underthing, step by step, object by object, and brick by brick. 

This story was introduced to me by The Sarah Selecky Writing School as part of the book club reading program. Sarah recommended we begin by considering this story as a love letter to the act of writing. It makes sense—watching Auri order the objects of her world resonates for someone who moves worlds around in order to create paragraph, scenes, and stories. I had not read any of Rothfuss’s prior work before beginning this one—which, I think, was great. (I plan to read more when I get the chance.) What may have come across as a strange little story instead showed deep meaning—and it asks the question, what does it mean to build a world? 

Readers discover and delve into new worlds all the time. It’s one of the biggest pleasures in reading—it’s a crash course in recognizing that our lives are not the only way of living. To do this, one must let go of preconceived notions about the world and listen to other voices. One has to let oneself notice new things. If there’s one thing Auri can teach you, it’s how to notice.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things was published in 2014 by DAW Books, a companion tale of The Kingkiller Chronicle series. It can be purchased here.