A Stranger in OlondriaSofia Samatar
British Fantasy Award 2014, Locus Award nominee 2014.
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 — but which his mother calls the Ghost Country. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, Jevick’s life is as close to perfect as he can imagine. Just as he revels in Olondria’s Rabelaisian Feast of Birds, he is pulled drastically off course and becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl.
In desperation, Jevick seeks the aid of Olondrian priests and quickly becomes a pawn in the struggle between the empire’s two most powerful cults. Even as the country simmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost and learn her story before he has any chance of freeing himself by setting her free: an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile, and the limits of that most seductive of necromancies, reading.
A Stranger in Olondria was written while the author taught in South Sudan. It is a rich and heady brew which pulls the reader in deeper and still deeper with twists and turns that hearken back to the Gormenghast novels while being as immersive as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.
Sofia Samatar is a fantasy writer, poet, and critic, and a PhD student in African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She wrote A Stranger in Olondria in Yambio, South Sudan, where she worked as an English teacher. Her poetry has appeared in several places, including Stone Telling, Goblin Fruit, Bull Spec, and the anthology The Moment of Change. She reviews fiction for Strange Horizons and Islam and Science Fiction, blogs, and is somehow also writing a dissertation.