A Stranger in Olondria

By Sofia Samatar,

Book cover of A Stranger in Olondria

Book description

Jevick, the pepper merchant's son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, Jevick's life is as close to perfect…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked A Stranger in Olondria as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

For a more traditional take on fantasy, Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria is lovely and immersive, a fascinating new world worthy of Ursula Le Guin and Gene Wolfe.

Reportedly, she created Olondria from a combination of regions in Turkey and North Africa, and it feels absolutely fresh and instantly powerful. A teenage merchant becomes haunted by the ghost of a young girl and must find a way to put her to rest.

But the story is really about the power of books and stories and language itself. It’s a love letter to adventure and open seas, harbors, and alleys,…

I think everyone finds themselves helpless to describe this book without using some synonym of “rich”—it’s a story thick with stories, about what it means to tell and be told stories.

Olondria brims with the literary history of a world that doesn’t exist—but of course, it does exist, both in the sense that all stories about other worlds are about our own (having been written in it and therefore inescapably pointing at it) and in the more literal sense that it’s right there on the page in black and white, in words and silences.

And Olondria is about exactly that:…

Olondria and its great city Bain are as meticulously drawn as they are lush, with redolent spice markets, shining architecture, colorful feasts, and busy harbors. The reader travels with Jevick, a merchant’s son, who’s always dreamed of visiting the empire—but once he falls in love with a ghost, he must change course. My Olondrian love fair is with the language. Samatar’s poetic descriptions are some of the most evocative and sensual I’ve ever read, transporting me to a realm of her own creation.

From Stephanie's list on fantastical cities.

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