Rejoice, The Kingkiller Chronicle fans! Today marks the release of The Narrow Road Between Desires, the first new installment in Patrick Rothfuss’ beloved fantasy series since the 2014 novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things. Similar to how Slow Regard served as a beautiful little side story about Auri, The Narrow Road Between Desires is a novella-length work that’s all about Kvothe’s Fae companion Bast.
While this is technically a new release, it’s also a reimagining of another 2014 novella, The Lightning Tree, which was part of the Rogues anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. It’s fair to wonder exactly what you’re getting in this book, since it’s based on something which has already been out there for some time.
I had the chance to read The Narrow Road Between Desires ahead of an exclusive interview with Patrick Rothfuss about the book. I’ve also read The Lightning Tree more than once, so I have a pretty firm grasp on how these two works stand in relation to one another. Read on for my spoiler-free review.
Book review: The Narrow Road Between Desires by Patrick Rothfuss
The Narrow Road Between Desires is a fascinating book. If you’re not familiar with the old version of the story, it follows Bast around the village of Newarre as he goes about his daily mischievous Fae business, cutting deals for information and secrets with the local children at the story’s titular lightning-scarred tree stump. It’s a light, easy-to-digest story that makes for a fun companion piece to the denser main Kingkiller Chronicle books.
Up until now, the only way to read The Lightning Tree was in the Rogues anthology, which could be a bit hard to find in bookstores. It was a story I always thought deserved the same sort of standalone novella treatment as The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I doubt I’m the only Kingkiller fan who will be happy to place this book on the shelf next to the rest.
But The Narrow Road Between Desires isn’t just a new printing of The Lighting Tree; it’s a whole new version of the story. All of the scenes from the original are still present, but have been vastly expanded. The biggest way this is noticeable is in the lyricism of the writing itself. As Rothfuss told me in our interview, the original Lightning Tree novella was written in roughly a month, which is exceptionally fast for his particular writing style. The Narrow Road Between Desires was fine-tuned over the course of half a year, and it really shows. Beautiful prose is a trademark of Rothfuss’ authorial voice, and there’s no doubt that The Narrow Road Between Desires is a colossal step above its predecessor in that regard.
There are also a few new scenes. At its heart, The Narrow Road Between Desires is the same story that appeared back in Rogues, but the additional material that Rothfuss added gives it much more depth. I’ve often felt that The Lightning Tree was kind of a fun little slice of life story. The Narrow Road Between Desires retains that feel, but also has elements which make it much more resonant. I found myself surprisingly emotional by the end, which is saying something considering that this is a story I was already very familiar with; except that I wasn’t, because while The Narrow Road Between Desires is telling the same story overall, the emotional depth, thematic work, and general tale are so much richer that it really does feel like a brand new take on the story.
The Narrow Road Between Desires is a beautiful book with lots of gorgeous art
When I think about this book, the word I keep coming back to is “beautiful.” The additions to the story make it a much more beautiful tale, but the book itself is also a delight to read. Both the small hardcover and ebook formats are packed to the gills with artwork by Nate Taylor, the same illustrator who worked with Rothfuss on The Slow Regard of Silent Things.
The artwork is wonderful. Some pages have both text and artwork, while others feature full-page spreads of key scenes. (Fans of the Bast Pin-Up Calendar will not be disappointed.) My personal favorite bits of art are the chapter headers, which are individualized pieces of artwork that represent the progression of this fateful day in Bast’s life with some great little easter eggs.
Between the art and the additions to the prose, which roughly double the size of The Narrow Road Between Desires from The Lightning Tree, there’s no doubt that this is the ideal way to experience this story. It even adds in some worldbuilding, such as the Fae fortune telling system of Embrils, which will likely become relevant in future Kingkiller works. And of course, Bast receives much more development as a character thanks to the expanded page count.
Is The Narrow Road Between Desires worth buying if you’re angry about The Doors of Stone?
I’d be remiss not to touch on the elephant in the room here at the end of this review, which is that any time Patrick Rothfuss mentions anything, whether that’s another book or what he ate for lunch that day, legions of fans turn out to remind him of their fury that the long-awaited third book in The Kingkiller Chronicle, The Doors of Stone, isn’t done yet. And I get it. Readers have been waiting for The Doors of Stone for over a decade. I don’t blame anyone for having complicated feelings, either because of the long wait for the book or over the controversial missing Doors of Stone charity chapter.
So if you’re embittered about those things, will The Narrow Road Between Desires change your mind? Probably not. But I’ll be the first to admit that I went into reading this book with a healthy dose of skepticism. Was this just a convenient repackage of an already released story? An easy cash grab?
Reading the book laid those fears to rest. It’s obvious that Rothfuss put a ton of effort and passion into The Narrow Road Between Desires. As I said, I always hoped that The Lightning Tree would one day get a release of this sort, but this finished book far exceeded any expectations I had. I would never recommend someone read the old version instead of The Narrow Road Between Desires. It truly does make The Lightning Tree obsolete, in the best way.
If you’ve been longing for a return to the world of The Kingkiller Chronicle, or missing Patrick Rothfuss’ particular style of storytelling, then this is absolutely a book you’ll want to consider adding to your collection. I read large portions of it with a grin plastered on my face because it just felt so good to be back in this world again. So hopefully that helps make this decision a little easier for you, one way or the other.
The Narrow Road Between Desires is a welcome return to the world of The Kingkiller Chronicle. It breathes new life into an almost decade-old story, making it feel like a fresh, enjoyable new entry into this beloved fantasy series. Bast has always been a fan-favorite, but this book gives him much more depth as a character while adding important pieces to the overall mythology of the Kingkiller series. It’s an easy book to recommend for any fan of Rothfuss’ work.
The Narrow Road Between Desires is out now from DAW Books, wherever books are sold.