Review: Doctor Who, Series 10, Episode 3, “Thin Ice”

This review contains SPOILERS for the third episode of Series 10 of Doctor Who, entitled “Thin Ice”, and for all episodes preceding it.

“Thin Ice” is a solid, weighty Doctor Who episode which takes a tried and tested formula and executes it very well. The episode has a very strong, very tight script written by Sarah Dollard, but its true strength lies in the extremely high quality of the sets and the fantastic costuming, as well as in Peter Capaldi’s performance, his most prolific and strongest of the series so far.

“Thin Ice” is not Doctor Who’s first attempt to tackle issues of the Doctor’s morality, and I think Sarah Dollard was pushed for time when it came to delivering a fully satisfying conclusion to the episode’s main theme – that of the worth of human life. While Capaldi’s speech was delivered very well, it wasn’t a standout monologue on the level of the one in “The Zygon Inversion”, and it felt somewhat misplaced within the three-act structure of the episode, as well as lacking a hard resolution.

That being said, the speech was still Capaldi’s highlight in this episode, the first time this season where Bill (Pearl Mackie) has taken the backseat beside his Doctor. While his performance here didn’t really teach us much about the Doctor that we didn’t already know, it was definitely a reminder of why Peter Capaldi’s passion for the role. This episode didn’t give him a big, defining moment in the same way that “Heaven Sent” or “Hell Bent” did in Series 9, but it was consistently strong all the way through, ranging from aloofness that verged on frightening to dark and dry wit.

While “Thin Ice” doesn’t exactly have a revolutionary plot – there are definite shades of “The Beast Below” and “Kill the Moon” in there – it executes that plot much better than the aforementioned episodes. Truthfully, Dollard’s script is one of the strongest that has been written for Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, and definitely on a par with her ambitious Series 9 episode “Face the Raven”. It’s fun, smart, concise, and unafraid to challenge big questions of prejudice and morality. Unlike last week’s episode, it incorporated a wide range of secondary characters whom I cared about or came to revile, even if some had very little screentime. Of course, credit is due here to the guest actors on this episode, but some of Dollard’s script choices – such as not bringing the doomed kid from the start of the episode back to life as so many writers would have – made the emotional and thematic beats resonate much stronger.

Dollard also made an unorthodox decision by placing Bill’s confrontation with the Doctor – “have you ever killed anyone?” – in the episode’s first act instead of near the end, and this benefitted both the beginning and the ending greatly, though it didn’t permeate Bill’s interactions with the Doctor as much as it might have realistically. It’ll be interesting to see how Bill’s newfound knowledge of the Doctor permeates the later episodes in the series.

“Thin Ice” also dealt with racism, though only incidentally, as Doctor Who covered that territory very well in Series 3 with Martha Jones, particularly in “Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood”. I think this was a wise choice as a focus on racial tensions would have bogged down the episode with a few too many subplots and themes, but it was appropriately acknowledged and dealt with effectively.

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Pearl Mackie remains entertaining as Bill – though she had less to do this week, she still had a few memorable lines: “[Regency England] is a bit more black than they show in the movies” and her commentary on the un-screwdriver-ness of the sonic screwdriver, to start.

Bill Anderson’s directing was solid, if a little unremarkable compared to that of “The Pilot” and “Smile”, but we’ll see how his direction of next week’s episode goes before jumping to conclusions. Murray Gold’s incidental music was nothing special, though it was nice to see the leitmotif of ‘A Good Man?’ being used more appropriately than it was in “The Pilot”.

But the real highlight of “Thin Ice” was the production, which was marvellous. Doctor Who has visited Regency London (and Victorian London) many times before, but this is perhaps its strongest portrayal of the setting, with sets and costumes to suit stately townhouses and dredge pits and the Frost Fair, which was the real highlight of the episode. The BBC definitely puts its strengths in period drama to good use with their worldbuilding in this episode. I’d quite like to stay for another round, to be honest.

And someone please let Sarah Dollard write a two-parter.

So. Doctor Who Series 10 is off to a very strong start. And the mystery in the vault (was that four knocks or just three?) is creeping closer and closer to its resolution every week…

Next week: David Suchet guest stars in Mike Bartlett’s spooky episode “Knock Knock”, which looks like it will combine elements of the base-under-siege type episode with the horror which Who does so well. And hopefully we’ll see some more of Nardole (Matt Lucas), too.

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Review: Doctor Who, Series 10, Episode 2, “Smile”

Doctor Who, Series 10, Episode 2, “Smile”

written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, directed by Lawrence Gough

This review contains SPOILERS for the second episode of Series 10 of Doctor Who, entitled “Smile”, and for all episodes preceding it.


 

It’s worth beginning a review of “Smile” with the assertion that it is considerably better than Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s previous episode for Doctor Who, Series 8’s “In the Forest of the Night”. Indeed, there are some indicators of potential greatness here; unfortunately, the latter half of “Smile” gets snarled up in a plot that is overly convoluted and quite jarring in comparison with the episode’s first half.

That being said, the writing, acting and direction in the first half of the episode is very nice. The visual effects and production design teams have done a great job in “Smile”, making one of Doctor Who’s most technically accomplished and beautiful worlds to date, and the accomplished cinematography in this episode (just as good as it was in “The Pilot”) makes the most of this space.

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Nardole got a brief cameo in this episode, but I think that it was good that this adventure focused almost entirely on the Doctor and Bill; indeed, the first half of the episode is almost entirely a two-hander between Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie, and it is very well-handled. In comparison to last week’s episode, where the Doctor was darker and more mysterious, we got to see Capaldi taking on a brighter, more carefree spirit that we haven’t really seen since Series 8’s lighthearted episodes, such as “Robot of Sherwood” and “Mummy on the Orient Express”.

Like the two episodes mentioned above, “Smile” is ultimately a classic episode of Doctor Who. It has its humorous moments, usually brought about by Bill’s frank questioning – “have you thought about moving the seats closer” – or the Doctor’s asides – “[the Scottish] keep demanding independence from every planet they land on” – and its dramatic ones, too, which take the usual form of hallway chases. You might say that “Smile” is fairly bland in its use of Doctor Who tropes, but I thought it was nice to see an episode that returns to the classic stand-alone format as opposed to Series 9’s generally sweeping arcs.

“Smile” wasn’t big on character development as such, but it has succeeded in solidifying my liking for Bill, who remains quirky and fun and… well, there wasn’t much more to say, other than that she did show signs of Clara’s kindness when talking with the child at the end of the episode. And her meta-commentary is as enjoyable as it was last week. Nonetheless, I wasn’t expecting huge developments in characterization this week, and that’s fine.

Onto the Emojibots: before this episode, the prospect of them was somewhat cringeworthy, but Cottrell-Boyce pulled them off brilliantly. Their design is certainly loveable, even when they are showing angry faces, and there is an element of satire in their presentation – the Doctor gives a look akin to despair for the future of humanity when realising which ‘language’ they speak. They are a very fitting ‘monster’ for an episode like this, a memorable one-off character like the Boneless (“Flatline”) or the Teller (“Time Heist”) from Series 8, even if they aren’t going to go down in series canon as particularly iconic. They form part of Cottrell-Boyce’s theme in this episode, a (largely) prescient commentary on social media. I’m glad he didn’t over-indulge here as he has done previously, as it would have taken away from the story, but it was appropriate and added some more dimension to the episode.

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The weakest part of “Smile” is the ending. The sudden appearance of the colonists brought a new aspect to the story, but it felt tacked on to raise the stakes and I think Cottrell-Boyce could have written an alternate ending with just the Doctor and Bill, which could have been fascinating if done correctly (and awful if done incorrectly). Arguably it could have done with a few more minutes of runtime before the conclusion, though I don’t think that would have fixed the fact that I didn’t connect at all with the tertiary characters in the episode, or that the resolution felt a bit deus ex machina. But I didn’t really mind that.

“Smile” was all very standard, not stand-out. But after “In the Forest of the Night”, can you blame Cottrell-Boyce for playing it safe? It’s a very good ‘first adventure’ for the companion, and a far smoother ride than “The Beast Below” or “The Rings of Akhaten.” It’s an episode I wouldn’t mind coming back to, it redeemed Frank Cottrell-Boyce for his earlier mishap, it gave us some fun monsters, and it brought back that sense of classic Doctor Who for the first time in a while. It wasn’t anything amazing, but in the end, it made me smile. What more can you ask for?


Next week: Thin Ice, by Sarah Dollard, as teased at the end of this episode. Regency London, the Frost Fair, and a monster under the River Thames. A very interesting setting, and from the trailer it looks fun.

 

Review: Doctor Who, Series 10, Episode 1, “The Pilot”

Doctor Who, Series 10, Episode 1, “The Pilot”

written by Steven Moffat, directed by Lawrence Gough

This review contains SPOILERS for the first episode of Series 10 of Doctor Who, entitled “The Pilot”, and for all episodes preceding it.


 

The Pilot was faced with a momentous task: rejuvenating a classic BBC series that has had its fair share of ups and downs in recent years, providing an intelligent story for regular series fans, as well as a story that was accessible to new viewers.

Much of The Pilot’s success is owed to its skilful introduction of new companion Bill Potts, played ably here by Pearl Mackie. While Bill meets all the expectations of a companion – inquisitiveness, forthrightness, and perhaps most importantly, amiability — it is her unique quirks that differentiate her from Clara or Amy or Rose, and it is these traits that have already made her one of my favoured companions. Personally, I found her somewhat similar to Donna Noble in her demeanor, and her habit of asking unexpected and sometimes downright obvious questions perhaps her strongest trait, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this is explored in the remaining 11 episodes of the series.

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Peter Capaldi, as always, is excellent. Twelve is not my favourite doctor, but I cannot deny that Capaldi plays him with a strange, old-world enthusiasm that only confirms how suited he is to the role. The Pilot didn’t give him any huge character moments, though we did get to explore the breadth of Capaldi’s acting range in the contrast between his exuberant lectures in the early part of the episode and his soberness at the ending, as he reflected alone in his office presided over by pictures of River Song and Susan. Overall, it was good to see his spirits lifting again; thankfully, the “dark Doctor” phase is over, at least for now.

On a semi-related note, I thought the production design was excellent in this episode. The Doctor’s office is one of my favourite sets, full of age-old mystery that applies not only to Capaldi’s Doctor, but to all the Doctors before him.

It would be amiss not to mention how much Nardole (Matt Lucas) has grown on me. I have to admit that I found him greatly irritating in The Husbands of River Song, but both The Return of Doctor Mysterio and The Pilot have shown a somewhat more subdued Nardole who seems more like a rounded character than just Matt Lucas playing himself on a Doctor Who set. And while some of his jokes felt unnecessarily crammed in so that Lucas could have some lines, I definitely tolerated his part in the episode, and I think he will grow on me.

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On to the plot itself: The Pilot is a love story with a ‘monster’ whose reasoning I mostly/vaguely/sort of understood (there’s Moffat for you in a nutshell). Admittedly, I thought the conclusion was a little rushed, and the final third of the episode didn’t quite live up to the opening half. Running down corridors is the bread-and-butter of Doctor Who, but it did feel somewhat odd to bring the climax to such a character-focused hour in this way. However, one good thing that came out of this was that the Daleks have had their mandated once-per-series appearance, which hopefully means that we don’t have to see them again.

Lawrence Gough’s direction suited Moffat’s script very nicely. It was intelligently shot, and the cinematography was varied and ultimately superior to the work we’ve seen on earlier episodes of Doctor Who. I did get a Russell T Davies-era vibe out of this episode, and that’s probably down to the very strong character work Moffat wrote for this story. Unlike Clara, who seemingly materialised out of nowhere, existed purely for the sake of the story and had her background mostly shoehorned in during Series 8 (see Danny Pink), Bill actually feels like a real person. Furthermore, Moffat and Mackie are due praise for their deft handling of Bill’s sexuality; as always, Doctor Who is certainly progressive in this aspect, and the love story at the heart of The Pilot was very well executed by all involved, not least Stephanie Hyam’s portrayal of Heather as a ‘monster’ that was equal parts frightening and deeply moving.

There were certainly some elements of Moffat-ness in this episode; that is, long arcs that are being set up for a finale to come. First of all, there is the matter of whatever the Doctor is keeping the vault under the university, and then there is the unresolved story thread of the Doctor and Bill’s mum. I suppose we’ll just have to see where Moffat takes us with that.

All in all, it was a good opening episode, with the highlights being Mackie’s introductory performance as Bill, the progress that we’ve seen in the Doctor (and to a lesser extent, Nardole), and the newly rejuvenated style of the show in terms of set design and slightly more experimental direction.

Next week: Smile, the Emojibot episode, wherein Frank Cottrell-Boyce will hopefully redeem himself for the errors of In The Forest of the Night.

PS: Kudos to Murray Gold and whoever decided to play Clara’s theme during the scene where Bill challenges the Doctor. One of the many subtle yet well-executed homages to the past during this episode.

Review: “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

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“What do we call visible light? We call it color. But the electromagnetic spectrum runs to zero in one direction and infinity in the other, so really, children, mathematically, all of light is invisible.”

Sometimes there is a novel where the prose is so intricately beautiful that it borders on transcendent, where every word has beauty in its simplicity and yet every sentence has beauty in its complexity. The words fit together like pieces of a puzzle box, which is an apt metaphor for Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, a novel which interweaves vignettes of World War II with a story that is heartwarming in spite of its tragedies.

This review contains SPOILERS for All The Light We Cannot See.


“All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, 2014, 532 pages

It is worth stating the obvious to begin: Doerr’s prose is a masterclass in the poetry of personification; in Doerr’s World War II, every inanimate object has a story of its own, and he touches on these just long enough to leave us wondering how these individual stories will end, but for the most part he is not overly indulgent when it comes to the use of abstract language – that is to say, the prose in All The Light We Cannot See rarely falls into the trap of being poetic to such an extent that the story is impeded. In fact, Doerr is unexpectedly concise, often touching upon an entire overarching theme of the book in a single paragraph where it would take lesser writers entire clumsy chapters to explore the same topic. He respects the intelligence of the reader to make their own conclusions from the narrative.

Doerr is perhaps at his best using synesthesia when describing the experiences of the blind point-of-view character, Marie-Laure. There is an argument that such a trope is cliched, but when it is done as well as it is in All The Light We Cannot See, this argument is largely irrelevant. A particularly standout passage is during the early chapters in Paris, where young Marie-Laure’s sensual understanding is related to the reader: “Her father radiates a thousand colors… a smell like oil and metal, the feel of a lock tumbler sliding home… he glows sapphire when he sits over his workbench in the evenings.” (p.45) Also of note is the way in which he describes such honest, solid things as molluscs and gemstones in purely poetic terms; the prose in All The Light We Cannot See is a close-to-perfect marriage of science and art.

All The Light We Cannot See is structured as two storylines, one taking place in the French fortress town of Saint-Malo in August 1944, shortly after the British-American D-Day landings, and the other during the years from 1934 leading up to the assault on Saint-Malo. Chapters are brief, allowing the novel to keep a brisk pace, as well as frequently giving the reader time to reflect on the themes Doerr is trying to present.

One such theme is the beauty of nature and human creation and the extent to which war turns established structures on their head; war in Doerr’s world is something that is not actively seen – very few chapters deal with the actual fighting from a soldier’s perspective – but something that is experienced through the utter perversion of beautiful things; flowers, music, precious artwork and craftsmanship, human lives “sucked up into the engine of the war”. (p.275) Yet through all this there are the shining sparks of innocence; a boy who refuses to engage in the systematic torture of a traitor to the regime, a man who tries to minimise the impact the war has on his then vulnerable daughter, an old woman who decides to live again before she dies. But Doerr’s war is one of such brutality that these heroes are not needed; indeed, they are punished, and to some extent we are readers are complicit, thinking if only they took the easy way out.

Another theme is the power of modern communications in bringing people together; in Doerr’s own words, one interpretation of the title is in reference to radiowaves; in All The Light We Cannot See, Doerr effectively explores the power of a single message, transmitted by Henri and Etienne LeBlanc in a bygone age, and the way it cements the unity of the human spirit, even during the very worst of times.

Marie-Laure and Werner’s brief relationship can be likened to Frederick’s drawings of entwined spirals, the two parts turning around each other like strands of human DNA, meeting only at these occasional intervals: first in the LeBlanc recordings, and then in the siege of Saint-Malo. It is important to note that All The Light We Cannot See exists as a microcosm of a much wider story of reconciliation and impossible friendships and the realisation that the other side is not entirely made up of devils, after all. It is probable that stories like Marie-Laure and Werner’s did exist during World War II, even if they had very different endings, and a reminder of human goodness. These are forgotten stories, stories that “rise again in the grass. In flowers. In songs.” (p.529) These are stories of light we do not see – or possibly, heartbreakingly, cannot see, in all our modern cynicism. These are stories that need to be remembered.

Review: “The Name of the Wind” / “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”

Image result for the name of the windHaving grown tired of fruitlessly re-reading of that fantasy series that hasn’t seen a new book in nearly 6 years, I decided it was long overdue to start on something else. Unfortunately, the series I chose was Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicles, the final piece of which, The Doors of Stone, appears to be hidden away in a thrice-locked chest of its own. Fortunately, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are pretty damn solid books (quite literally; either of them would make an effective doorstop) and both deserve to be re-read at some point in the future.

SPOILERS follow for The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. I have not read The Slow Regard of Silent Things yet, and as such will not be commenting on it.


 

“The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss, 2007, 662 pages

“The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss, 2011, 994 pages

On the most basic level, The Kingkiller Chronicle is the story of Kvothe, pronounced like “quothe”, a semi-mythical figure in the lore of the world of Temerant, the civilized, vaguely Western Europe-esque land where this story is set. However, we open with the narrator’s overview of Kote, who at first seems to be some random man who owns an inn in some random village, but… unsurprisingly… is in fact Kvothe, presumably seeking quiet retirement and/or refuge from those who mean to kill him. When Chronicler, a travelling… um, chronicler… turns up at the Waystone Inn after a bad encounter with a scrael (some sort of mechanical spider-demon thing) and one thing leads to another, and pretty soon Chronicler manages to convince Kvothe to tell him his life story. Kote’s assistant, Bast, has an interest in this too, as he wants to see his master return to the old ways of life rather than continuing his existence as some lonely, sad innkeeper.

The story is told mostly from Kvothe’s point-of-view, as his memoir, though it jumps back to Kote, Bast and Chronicler in the present for brief interludes. It seemed to me that these interludes were less frequent during the course of The Wise Man’s Fear than they were during The Name of the Wind, something which I was thankful for as they were almost exclusively my least favourite parts of the books. That being said, I do appreciate the way in which Rothfuss teases us with the answers to certain mysteries, and entices us with answers to mysteries we haven’t even encountered yet. One of these mysteries is Kote himself; we never see inside his head, as these sections adopt a third-person narrator instead.

Arguably the persona of Kote is a more interesting character than Kvothe for precisely that reason. While Kvothe is definitely more than sufficient as a fantasy protagonist, full of fascinating quirks, there is a bluntness to his character and a lack of Kote’s mystery – we know exactly what we are getting with Kvothe, and there is no doubt that he will survive to tell his tale, whereas Kote’s story is murkier – not only his past, but his future too. It will be interesting to see how The Doors of Stone bridges the gap between Kvothe and Kote, and how it explains things such as the fact that “there [is] no music” in the Waystone Inn.

Kvothe is a strange blend of epic hero and tragic hero. He has experienced great losses and the evil of the world at an early age, and his past is filled with sorrow and a childlike longing for the world to right itself again, yet he is also a brilliant academic, a magician and a musician, blessed with gifts of memory and deftness and a rash bravery that often manifests itself as arrogance. And for the most part, Kvothe is a likeable protagonist… up until around midway through The Wise Man’s Fear, where he completes several feats of legendary greatness in a very short period of time and becomes something of an epic figure in himself. And this is where I started to dislike Kvothe, as he had become less of a flawed hero, and more of an overpowered character who could do no wrong and whose actions bordered on overt wish-fulfilment. The second half of The Wise Man’s Fear is especially notable for this, and we did lose the sense of Kvothe as a plucky underdog, as he was throughout most of The Name of the Wind. But perhaps that is part of Kvothe’s complexity: he is a character we should like for his (mostly) valiant actions and heroic qualities, yet we as humans are inclined to dislike someone who is so fantastically… well, perfect. Is The Kingkiller Chronicles this a scathing commentary on human jealousy, then? I don’t think so. I think Patrick Rothfuss set out to write a story about a fantastical character in a fantastical world and possibly made his hero slightly too overpowered.

The Kingkiller Chronicle has no shortage of good secondary characters… unfortunately, they are just that: good. None of them are ‘on-screen’ for quite long enough for us to delve as deep into their personalities as we did into Kvothe’s. While Denna, Lorren, Devi, Simmon and the others definitely have some depth to them, there’s not quite enough to make us want to fully explore them. With the exception of Denna, Kvothe never quite develops a relationship with them that is meaningful enough to warrant proper contemplation of their characters. It’s odd, really. They’re all very good, but none of them are quite great.

The plot on a whole is… weirdly disappointing and anticlimactic, in places. The battle with the draccus at the end of The Name of the Wind is pretty good, but that’s all I can say for it, and it is barely satisfying as the novel’s conclusive battle. Rothfuss’s main failing in The Wise Man’s Fear was that the many interconnected plot arcs felt insufficient. We were just going on a journey with Kvothe, but the journey had no destination, and no culmination of events, only a weird, discordant anticlimax. That being said, Rothfuss is strong enough as a writer to entice us to keep reading where a lesser author might have failed.

Rothfuss’s prose is clean and functional, which is more than can be said for many fantasy writers, not overly ostentatious or intimidating, but still rife with imagery that is mysterious or unsettling or dreamlike when it needs to be. While he does not waste words, he does linger with certain plotlines considerably longer than is necessary. There is only so much time we can spend at the University and learning the ways of the Ademre without growing bored. Doubtless some of Rothfuss’s seemingly more random anecdotes will take on considerable importance in the sequel, but he needs to find a way to ground the narrative without taking us on unnecessary journeys through the Archives that almost exclusively conclude with fraying loose ends. This problem is most apparent in The Wise Man’s Fear, where many elements of Kvothe’s journey go on far too long to hold the reader’s interest. I am sure that this book would have been more enjoyable if it had been about 50 pages shorter, and the worldbuilding would not have suffered hugely from it.

The worldbuilding itself varies from very strong to decidedly average, depending on the aspect. It is easiest to start by saying that Rothfuss’s weakness is with the geography; sometimes it seems that the world is built to accommodate Kvothe’s story, and solely for that. It is rare that we get the sense of things happening in distant and faraway kingdoms unless they relate directly to the main story. Though with so much story to write, one could argue that Rothfuss did not have the time to include this.

Now on to the strengths of the worldbuilding:

Rothfuss’s presentation of various cultures – the Ademre, the Cealdish, the Edema Ruh – is very strong, and he finds ample time to explore their traditions and beliefs without being too expositional. The system of sympathy is one of the cleverest and most fascinating explorations of magic that I’ve ever seen in a fantasy, blending traditional “magic school” tropes and cold hard science and intellectualism. But the most exceptional part of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s worldbuilding is in its use of music. Rothfuss presents music and lyrics and its effect on characters in a way that is pretty much unrivalled in the fantasy genre. Music is the real magic in The Kingkiller Chronicle. This is when Rothfuss’s writing is at its strongest – prose that borders on poetry and flows like music, coupled with the first-person narrator’s critical evaluation of that music. Kvothe may see one thing in a set of lyrics; we as readers may see something very different, which only alerts us to how different Kvothe’s soul is to our own. After all, our protagonist is, at heart, a trouper and a performer (as he reminds us with almost irritating frequency throughout the novels). And despite the fact that he spends many terms at the University trying to decipher the mysteries of physics and medicine and sympathy, we know that Kvothe’s ultimate dream is to understand human emotion, and empathy, on all levels.

That, then, is possibly the purpose of Kvothe’s visit to the stony-faced Ademre; he wants to see how empathy is expressed in a culture where emotion takes on a depth and subtlety that the muscles of the face alone cannot express. It is also the reason for his pursuit of Denna; she is an enigma to him, not only because of the possibly unsolvable mystery of who she is and what she wants, but also because of the contrasting and strange emotions that Kvothe himself feels for her.

The Kingkiller Chronicle is a fantasy story driven by character rather than plot. It is a bold move, and one that mostly pays off, but it leaves us lacking when it comes to an overarching story. It seems likely that many of the secrets ahead – such as what lies within the Loeclos Box, who the king is that Kvothe must kill, and what lies behind the four-plate door – are less important than Kvothe’s own personal revelations on the road ahead. I am afraid to say that such an unconventional resolution may cause readers to view The Doors of Stone as a disappointment in terms of resolving the series’ loose plot threads, at least on the first reading. But I will reserve judgement until that time.

Rothfuss has set himself a task to rival Kvothe’s, that of understanding the complete spectrum of human emotion through the medium of a fantasy story. But such a task is impossible, and thus it seems that parts of The Kingkiller Chronicle are doomed to fail – like its sad, lonely protagonist, hiding away from music and people, alone with only the “patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.”