Will The Narrow Road Between Desires lead to The Doors of Stone?

Image: The Name of The Wind/DAW Books
Image: The Name of The Wind/DAW Books /
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With a new Kingkiller Chronicle novella on the way, we look back on the complicated history of the series.

The Doors of Stone is the third and final volume in Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle, a trilogy of books about a magical prodigy and bard named Kvothe, who is telling the story of how he became the most famous person in the world only to lose it all.

How he does that is something we might learn in The Doors of Stone, which fans have been waiting to read for a long time. The second book in the series, The Wise Man’s Fear, was released back in 2011; since then the updates have been few and far between. The Doors of Stone is often mentioned in the same breath as George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter when it comes to long-awaited fantasy novels.

We’re not here to rag on Rothfuss for taking his time with the book. I firmly believe that an author should take the time they need for the book they want to write. And while I definitely think Rothfuss owes fans some kind of update after he used the release of a new Doors of Stone chapter as a donor incentive for his Worldbuilders Charity (a chapter that has yet to materialize), we’re not here to talk about that either. Because just this week, fans got a glimmer of hope.

A new Kingkiller Chronicle novella, The Narrow Road Between Desires, is coming out on November 14, 2023.

While this is extremely exciting news, some readers have greeted it with exhaustion, since there’s still no word on the book they’ve been waiting over a decade to read. Where exactly did The Narrow Road Between Desires come from? And what exactly is going on with The Doors of Stone?

Today, we’re here to discuss some changes that have happened behind the scenes at Kingkiller Chronicle publisher DAW Books, and what they might mean for the release of The Doors of Stone. Art isn’t created in a vacuum, and industry-level changes can have an effect on the production of a book.

A brief timeline of The Doors of Stone publication history

Before we dive in, let’s briefly recap the history of this book series. The Kingkiller Chronicle is published by DAW Books, a science fiction and fantasy publisher founded by Donald A. Wollheim and Elsie B. Wollheim which is responsible for publishing more than 2,000 books from numerous authors, including Tad Williams, Mercedes Lackey, Nnedi Okorafor, C.J. Cherryh and Seanen McGuire. DAW has been around since the 1970s and has developed a great reputation among readers and authors alike.

The first book in Rothfuss’ series, The Name of the Wind, was published by DAW in 2007. The series was announced as a trilogy, and since Rothfuss had already written an initial draft of the whole story, all the books were expected to release in relatively quick succession. Obviously that didn’t happen.

The second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, followed in 2011. Shortly after that, DAW bought another fantasy trilogy from Rothfuss, which the author has hinted would continue the tale of Kvothe. According to Rothfuss, The Kingkiller Chronicle is a “million word prologue” to Kvothe’s real story. Following that sale, the long wait for book three began, and we’re still here to this day.

When The Doors of Stone publisher was acquired by another company

For decades, DAW Books was an independently owned publisher that nonetheless had the resources and distribution of a major publishing house, thanks mainly to its close relationship with major publisher Penguin Random House. DAW itself was primarily owned by the Wollheim family, but Penguin Random House helped with book production. The two publishers were separate but linked.

In 2021, reports started surfacing about how changes within Penguin Random House were affecting DAW authors, some of whom were let go. While DAW runs its editorial operations in-house, they are beholden to a distribution agreement that was renegotiated in 2021. Under the new agreement, books were dropped from print for a variety of reasons, including being too long or not selling enough copies. That wouldn’t have affected authors like Rothfuss, whose books have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, but it’s important to keep in mind.

In July 2022, DAW Books was acquired by Astra Publishing House, a subsidiary of a Beijing-based publishing conglomerate called Thinkingdom Media Group. Founded in 2020, Astra had only been around for a couple of years at that point, and DAW was the first and only adult sci-fi and fantasy publishing imprint in their portfolio.

Coming under new corporate ownership can be scary, but according to DAW, they were still going to be able to run their own operation, much as they had done when they were working with Penguin Random House. Here’s what DAW co-owners Elizabeth R. Wollheim and Sheila E. Gilbert said at the time:

"We are extremely pleased by Astra’s enthusiasm, and thrilled that we will be the sole SFF imprint of their company (a first for DAW). We think this is the perfect fit for us, and it’s exciting and refreshing to be an integral part of a new and growing company. It speaks volumes about Astra’s respect for our company that they have included our entire staff. We’re very happy."

Still, there were signs that not all was well. Preorders for a number of DAW titles were dropped due to a technical issue resulting from the acquisition; preorders are a critically important metric for book releases, so this hurt. It was also unusual for something like this to happen so publicly.

Some authors have discussed issues they’ve had with shifts in policy and communication, with several leaving the publisher. Things seem to have quieted down on that front recently, but the point is that the transition wasn’t entirely smooth.

So what does that mean for The Doors of Stone? Read on: