“Knowing they were watching, Bast took his time climbing the tiny hill. At the top stood what the children called the lightning tree, though these days it was little more than a branchless trunk barely taller than a man.”
Patrick Rothfuss recently announced that he is expanding his 58-page novella, The Lightning Tree, and releasing the updated version as The Narrow Road Between Desires. The original version of this Kingkiller Chronicle novella can be found as part of the Rogues anthology compiled by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozios.
The Lightning Tree focuses on Bast, a mischievous scamp and friend of Kvothe, the main protagonist of the Kingkiller Chronicle. Bast is a fae who uses his magic both to help others and to entertain himself at other people’s expense.
There are a lot of questions about Bast and his motivations and intentions after reading both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. Unfortunately, you will not find any answers in this novella, which apparently takes place during Kvothe’s innkeeper days before the framing story of The Name of the Wind.
In The Lightning Tree, 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.
Bast is highly manipulative, but he also has a heart. The brighter side of Bast’s personality becomes apparent in the latter part of the novella, when he helps a family deal with an abusive father. This part of the story is touching and somber, bringing tears to my eyes.
The rest of the novella is told in a more whimsical voice. The most problematic part is when Bast extracts the secret of where a local beauty likes to bathe and then decides to spy on her:
“Eyes intent on the young woman, Bast stepped on a loose stone and stumbled awkwardly down the hill. He blew one hard, squawking note, then dropped a few more from his song as he threw out one arm wildly to catch his balance.”
Bast’s shifty behavior is, perhaps, somewhat softened when we learn that she has also been spying on him. Still, it’s just plain creepy. Bad, Bast. Bad.
Bast is a complex fellow. We see both good and bad aspects of his personality in this novella, just as we’ve seen his good and bad attributes in the main two books of the Kingkiller Chronicle.
However, we will need to wait for the third novel of the Kingkiller Chronicle, The Doors of Stone, to get any real answers. It’s your move, Patrick Rothfuss.