REVIEW: The Narrow Road Between Desires by Patrick Rothfuss

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Last Updated on February 12, 2024

Patrick Rothfuss returns with The Narrow Road Between Desires, a poignant novella that takes place during the outer framing story of the Kingkiller Chronicle. The Narrow Road Between Desires is told from the perspective of Bast, the mischievous fae and friend of Kvothe, the main protagonist from the series. With his good heart but regular trickery, Bast is reminiscent of Puck from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Cover for The Narrow Road Between Desires by Patrick RothfussThe main story of The Narrow Road Between Desires was originally published as a 58-page novella, The Lightning Tree, as part of the Rogues anthology compiled by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozios. In his recent interview with Grimdark Magazine, Patrick Rothfuss describes The Narrow Road Between Desires as a renovation project. He knew that there was a great story in The Lightning Tree, but it also had plenty of room for improvement.

The Narrow Road Between Desires represents a complete rewrite of The Lightning Tree, bringing it to a state of polished perfection. Once again, Rothfuss proves that his prose is timeless. The Narrow Road Between Desires is also significantly longer than The Lightning Tree—it includes new and extended scenes, as well as about forty illustrations from the talented Nate Taylor.

In The Narrow Road Between Desires, we spend a day with Bast as he helps and/or manipulates the village children. Bast hangs out at the Lightning Tree, waiting for children to come with their problems or questions. Bast agrees to help them in exchange for secrets, favors, or labors.

There are a lot of questions about Bast and his motivations after reading both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. Bast is highly manipulative, but he also has a heart. The warmer side of Bast’s personality becomes apparent in the latter part of the novella, when he helps a young boy, Rike, deal with his abusive father. This part of the story is touching and somber, bringing tears to my eyes.

Nate Taylor contributes gorgeous artwork throughout The Narrow Road Between Desires, which truly enhances the experience. Taylor and Rothfuss previously collaborated on The Slow Regard of Silent Things, the first Kingkiller Chronicle novella which focuses on Auri. Taylor and Rothfuss also collaborated on The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle, the children’s book series that’s not actually for children.

The Narrow Road Between Desires is an instant classic and a welcome return for Patrick Rothfuss. Rothfuss and Taylor strike the perfect balance between whimsy and earnestness. The novella tackles the issue of domestic violence with nuance and honesty. Seasoned fans of the Kingkiller Chronicle will love spending this time with Bast. The Narrow Road Between Desires also works great as a standalone novella, even if you haven’t read the other entries in the series.

5/5

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John Mauro

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.