2020 was perhaps the most remarkable, however, for a fantastic book that do not get out, maybe because he couldn’t: the third and final chapter of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles, at one time the most promising trilogy in a generation. Technically, it hasn’t come out every year for the last nine – the second book, Fear of the wise, was released in 2011, four years after the legendary debut, Wind name– but this year, whatever remaining hopes Rothfuss had at least some progress, whether slight or secret, has been torn to pieces. “I never saw a word from book three”, its editor complained on Facebook, in July. “I don’t think he wrote anything for six years.
The fans were, not surprisingly, outraged. They cursed and yelled at Rothfuss on Twitter, the fantastic forums, Goodreads, as if by force of invective they could feel a sense of closure. Good luck with that. Moreover, there is nothing shocking about Rothfuss’ incapacity. Just look at the working title of his third unpublished book: Stone doors.
Doors! Again! And these doors operate, of course, on literal, metaphorical, and supermetaphorical levels. Literally, for they exist for the hero, a young wizard in a distant land. Metaphorical, because in order to overcome them, he will probably need to discover something about himself. And supermetaphorical, because Rothfuss has a clear case of writer’s block. For nearly a decade he has stood before his own stone doors, as puzzled as Gandalf at the Doors of Durin.
Gandalf was not left puzzled, of course. He tried every language he knew, which was a good number and took all day, until he finally realized he was saying the wrong word. That may comfort Rothfuss, and if not, there’s always the example of Dumbledore, who at the rocky mouth of Voldemort’s cave simply sliced his hand off to reveal the path to the lake. underground. Basic principle of witchcraft, namely: the bigger the helper, the more passages he can find.
So is Rothfuss a great wizard? Almost everyone says it – fans, fellow writers, Lin-Manuel Miranda – based on his books, his looks, his magnificent beard. In 2020 and beyond, that may not be enough. Wizards draw their strength from the world, and the world changes. It moves away from ancient sources of power, traditional ways of doing magic, European metaphors, and Rothfuss-branded medievalisms of otherworldly, boy-genius fantasies of saving the girl.
Everything Rothfuss knows. He once said of Jemisin, as a compliment, that she “trampled the genre everywhere.” Meanwhile, he seems to be retreating to its edges, or against the stone doors of his mind. If he looks very closely, he might even see some writing on the rock. It’s hard to fathom, a lost elven script, but it seems to say this: the wizarding age will end. Dumbledore is dead. Gandalf sailed away. On them, these white old men in hats, the doors of power slam.
The best fantasy books of 2020:
A luminous republic, by Andrés Barba
Tender is the flesh, by Agustina Bazterrica
Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke
Abandonment, by Ray Loriga
Network effect, by Martha Wells
Baby riot, by Tochi Onyebuchi
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