Mary Beth is a sister in writing, a member of my local RWA writing group, and the author of Follow Me, everything you know, and the place where she fell. You can find her scribbling about on her website. Always a treat! And that is enough from me. On to Mary Beth's lovely look at being Other. (~Terri-Lynne DeFino)
If you’ve come to the hallowed, virtual halls of Heroines of Fantasy seeking a festive holiday post all brave in ribbons*, I’m afraid I have to disappoint you. I have no gingerbread, or mulled wine, or candlelight to offer. But spice and light and magic aren’t hard to find elsewhere at this time of year. And hopefully, you’re surrounded by some of those warm, sweet things right now, wherever you’re sitting. Maybe you’re eating cookies, or drinking something hot and potent. Or listening to music that erases time. This starlit apex of midwinter is the season of Cinderella at the ball. We know her. We know who she is, what she desires, what she’ll achieve. I’m here to talk about the perspective of the glass slipper. The character at the outskirts of the story. The person whose perspective is not ours. The Other.
Threading a trail of strange light through Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle (The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear) is Auri, a young woman, full of mysteries, who lives in the Underthing and meets, occasionally but vitally, with the protagonist/hero Kvothe. We and Kvothe know very little about Auri. She appears infrequently and is skittish and wary when she does. She doesn’t drive the story. She doesn’t make a big noise or expand the wider world with life-changing, soul-touching music. Her presence on the page and in Kvothe’s life is almost, but not quite, ephemeral.
The Kingkiller Chronicle is a gorgeous, baroque bestseller with a charismatic, sexy, brilliant, powerful hero and a complex thrilling world. Lovers of the series (I am one) having been waiting patiently for the third and final book. While he is hard at work to finish that book, Patrick Rothfuss has done something else. Something awesome and brave and amazing. He wrote a short novel, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, sensitively illustrated by Nate Taylor, all about Auri. The glass slipper of Kvothe’s Cinderella adventure.
If The Slow Regard of Silent Things did nothing but tell the story of how Auri came to be who she is, it would little more than an extra treat for Rothfuss lovers. A cool thing to hold onto while we wait for the last book. A token. Auri is different and hard to understand, a tiny person with a mysterious past and a more mysterious present and presence. In a fantasy world populated with numerous variations on the idea of the Other, Auri stands out as the Other-est. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is Auri. The book itself is the Other. Like Auri it doesn’t take pity on you, although it is sympathetic. It doesn’t try to explain, or justify itself. It doesn’t try to make things easier for you. It is essentially itself, the way Auri is essentially herself. The way we all are reaching every day to be ourselves in a world that likes easy, predictable things.
We are not all Cinderellas. Some of us are glass slippers. Some of us are step-sisters. Some of us are pumpkins that turn into beautiful coaches. Some of us are lonely princes. All of us are important. And we are all the Other to someone.
*from A Christmas Carol