Though many years have passed since I first laid my eyes on The One Book, I still remember the gray October afternoon as if it were but yesterday. When I cradled The One Book in my trembling hands, a part of me might have sensed that my life was about to change for good. But did I anticipate what I was up for?
No, I really didn’t. Had I chosen differently if I’d known what reading that novel would do to me? Absolutely not.
Back then I was young(er), (not as) wild, and (at times caffeine-)free. I worked at a stone castle at the very center of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. I’d recently ventured into the computer games industry, and my day job involved, amongst other things, ensuring that virtual unicorn poo smelled of rainbows. It was a good life, and I was happy, though at the time I didn’t write.
I’d made my first struggling attempts to piece together a novel when I was nine, but these efforts were thwarted when the writing machine refused to cooperate. At twelve, I completed something resembling a plot in a blue-checkered notebook. Rinse and repeat a few times within the next decade or so. Insert a break induced by university and the job that involved unicorn poo.
You know those days when the wind bears in its wake the faintest whiff of change, a promise of something better? You know those moments when it feels like everything is possible? Perhaps that day my husband sensed it too, for he asked me to meet him after work. I could tell from his voice that he was very excited, almost boyishly so.
I knew it without him telling me. While I’d been inspecting unicorn droppings, he’d visited The Book Store without me and found a novel he couldn’t wait to read.
Ah, The Book Store! It was something akin to a sacred place to us. You see, not that many shops in Finland contain that big of a selection of English literature. But The Book Shop was different. The four-story, turn of the century building boasted a wide variety of science fiction and fantasy, and hence it was a place that we diligently visited every single time we set foot on the city. Our countless pilgrimages through the aisles had resulted in discovering many new favorite authors.
That day as I followed my husband past the shelves excitement tingled my fingertips and toes. His eyes gleamed with delight, and he smiled like a cheshire cat. What had he discovered amidst the countless titles?
I spotted The One Book from miles away. It ticked all the right boxes:
- Intriguing cover with a suitably mysterious looking man cloaked in black
- Ridiculously interesting blurb that promised a tale of wild adventure; encompassing pretty much everything that’s cool in this world: art, science, and tragic love;
- Enough pages to keep a heavy-duty reader like me occupied for a full week.
I believe proper introductions are due here. Dear reader, meet The One Book: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
I wanted to read The Name of the Wind instantly. So did my darling husband. Storm clouds gathered in the sky, and I could sense an incoming argument. I reminded him that he’d pretty much committed treason in visiting The Book Store without me. The honor to read the book first justly belonged to me.
Some books steal your breath away, borrow it for as many hours as it takes to turn the pages. Some exceptionally rare books hold your breath captive for a moment more after finishing. But this novel… the characters came to life as if they were breathing the same air as I did. I think that as a result I blacked out and was transferred into a different place.
What Patrick Rothfuss did with his words, his wonderful sentences and intricately crafted storylines, he took me on tour of a world where beauty and sorrow flowed in my veins, where the adventure was mine to embark upon, where every character encountered on the way felt as real as if I’d known them for years.
I’d never felt anything quite like it before. I lingered in the sound of the words. I wondered down the paths formed by the sentences. I got lost. I was found. And more.
But eventually, as is the habit of all good things, the novel ended. When my husband snatched it for himself, I was left staring blankly ahead of me. I hadn’t known it was possible to write a novel so evocative, one with such great emotional depth and complexity. I simply hadn’t known.
I immediately wanted to know how this wonderful novel came to be. I learned that it had been in the making for almost a decade, that Mister Rothfuss had worked hard to take his writing to the level where it could support the story he wanted to tell, that he’d persevered through countless rejections, that he’d kept on going because he believed in his story.
A realization dawned on me. If I did want to tell stories of my own, if I really wanted to find the gold at the end of the rainbow, I had to do more than just toy with the idea of writing a novel on one fine day and sniff and wonder at the pretty colors!
That day, I started writing again, and I haven’t been able to stop since.
Thank you, Patrick Rothfuss, for writing The Name of the Wind!
Leena Likitalo hails from Finland, the land of endless summer days and long, dark winter nights. She breaks computer games for a living and lives with her husband on an island at the outskirts of Helsinki, the capital. But regardless of her remote location, stories find their way to her and demand to be told. She is the author of The Five Daughters of the Moon, available now from Tor.com Publishing.