‘The Kingkiller Chronicle’ Author Patrick Rothfuss Says Book 3 Is a ‘Prologue’

Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Kingkiller Chronicle, has been on something of a public appearance blitz lately. On the JoCo Cruise, Rothfuss fan-cast the adaptation of the first book in his trilogy, The Name of the Wind, proposing its producer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, as a perfect pick to play the main character’s father. At PAX South, Rothfuss described the struggle he’s faced trying to wrap up the trilogy with the hotly anticipated Book 3, tentatively titled The Doors of Stone. Mostly recently, during a Q&A at Emerald City Comic Con, the fantasy author offered up an intriguing new way to look at The Kingkiller Chronicle, indicating the state of Temerant after the as-yet unreleased conclusion to the trilogy.

Rothfuss was asked by an Alaskan fan, “Are you like a DM [Dungeon Master] taking us on a journey where the bard is the hero of the story?” The bard is an often underappreciated class in Dungeons & Dragons, and the questioner wondered (in light of Rothfuss’ well-known affection for the game) whether his trilogy is a conscious attempt to ennoble the D&D bard archetype with Kvothe, hero of The Kingkiller Chronicle and virtuoso lute player.

“It’s way worse than that,” Rothfuss answered. “I am an author who has tricked you into reading a trilogy that is a million-word prologue.”

480px-Patrick_Rothfuss An author who has tricked you into reading a million-word prologue. Alvintrusty / Creative Commons

Rothfuss previously said The Kingkiller Chronicle Book 3 would be shorter than The Wise Man’s Fear, which clocked in at nearly 400,000 words. With a word count of around 250,000 for the trilogy’s first book, that would suggest a 350,000 word conclusion in Book 3.

But it’s not dubious napkin math based on an off-the-cuff approximation by Rothfuss that’s the most intriguing part of his answer. Instead, it’s the word ‘prologue.’

Rothfuss previously told fans “Book 3 closes this arc of the story. Book 3 will not be the final book in the world.” At Pax South, he described The Kingkiller Chronicle is “one person’s story,” the tale of Kvothe, but that he planned to continue writing in the world of Temerant long after he was done with Kvothe’s tale.

But positioning The Kingkiller Chronicle as prologue puts this in a new light. Rather than hop around, writing stories in far-flung corners and various time periods in his fictional world, Rothfuss seems to see Book 3 as queuing up an even grander narrative, suggesting that Kvothe, rather than providing an end to continent-altering events, will instead set a new, larger conflict in motion.

This fits well with what we’ve learned so far in The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. Both are framed by Kvothe, now in hiding under the pseudonym Kote, telling the story to a Chronicler over a three-day period. Kote runs a tavern called The Waystone Inn, a far more humble position than the trajectory suggested by his backstory, which most recently saw him mastering the martial arts of the Adem, hooking up with an immortal Fae and enlisting the powerful nobleman Maer Alveron to his cause: finding and defeating the powerful Chandrian, a near-legendary group of seven magic wielders who killed Kvothe’s family. Things are going well for Kvothe, but readers have known all along there’s a downfall heading his way.

And that downfall will most likely be orchestrated by The Cthaeh, an omniscient and terrible being who can see the future’s pathways and tells Kvothe just what he needs to hear to bring about maximal destruction. There are already hints in The Kingkiller Chronicle that the outcome of Kvothe’s adventure has implications far beyond his own fate. The world has gone bad, with wars, famines and giant spiders attacking villages. “All of this is my fault,” he confesses. “The scrael, the war. All my fault.”

Rothfuss’ description of The Kingkiller Chronicle as prologue suggests that maybe Kvothe won’t fix the world. Instead, the forces he has unleashed will be a problem for future adventurers, as if The Kingkiller Chronicle was all just an origin story for some Sauron-level threat, as yet unseen.

While Rothfuss hasn’t announced any specific plans for after the release of The Kingkiller Chronicle Book 3, whenever that may be, he did pitch a book of sorts to Emerald City Comic Con attendees. In The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe trains with the sword masters of the Adem, known in the larger world as deadly mercenaries. They are guided by a philosophy known as The Lethani.  

“The Ademre have their, I don’t want to call it their sacred text, but they do have their nine and 90 tales, the stories that all Ademre know and illustrate certain things about their lives. I’ve thought of writing that book, that series of very small, almost parables or zen koans, but I have a lot of irons in the fire and I don’t know how interested people would be in a series of esoteric stories based in a tertiary part of my fantasy world,” Rothfuss said, to cheers of support from the audience. “It probably will happen eventually."