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A Stranger in Olondria: A Novel Paperback – 28 Jun 2012

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Big Mouth House (28 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931520763
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931520768
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 448,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"This debut novel is mesmerizing--a sustained and dreamy enchantment. "A Stranger in Olondria" reminds both Samatar's characters and her readers of the way stories make us long for far-away, even imaginary, places and how they also bring us home again."--Karen Joy Fowler

"Gorgeous writing, beautiful and sensual and so precise--a Proustian ghost story."--Paul Witcover

"Imagine an inlaid cabinet, its drawers within drawers filled with spices, roses, amulets, bright cities, bones, and shadows. Sofia Samatar is a merchant of wonders, and her "A Stranger in Olondria" is a bookshop of dreams."--Greer Gilman


"Samatar's sensual descriptions create a rich, strange landscape, allowing a lavish adventure to unfold that is haunting and unforgettable."
--"Library Journal" (*starred review*)
"A book about the love of books. Her sentences are intoxicating and one can easily be lost in their intricacy.... Samatar's beautifully written book is one that will be treasured by book lovers everywhere."
--Raul M. Chapa, BookPeople, Austin, TX
"Thoroughly engaging and thoroughly original. A story of ghosts and books, treachery and mystery, ingeniously conceived and beautifully written. One of the best fantasy novels I've read in recent years."--Jeffrey Ford, author of "The Girl in the Glass"
"Mesmerizing--a sustained and dreamy enchantment. "A Stranger in Olondria" reminds both Samatar's characters and her readers of the way stories make us long for far-away, even imaginary, places and how they also bring us home again."--Karen Joy Fowler, "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Jane Austen Book Club"
"Gorgeous writing, beautiful and sensual and so precise--a Proustian ghost story."--Paul Witcover, author of "Tumbling After"
"Let the world take note of this dazzling and accomplished fantasy. Sofia Samatar's debut novel is both exhilarating epic adventure and loving invocation of what it means to live through story, poetry, language. She writes like the heir of Ursula K. Le Guin and Gene Wolfe."--Kelly Link, author of "Magic for Beginners"
"Imagine an inlaid cabinet, its drawers within drawers filled with spices, roses, amulets, bright cities, bones, and shadows. Sofia Samatar is a merchant of won-ders, and her "A Stranger in Olondria" is a bookshop of dreams."--Greer Gilman, author of "Cloud and Ashes"


"It's the rare first novel with no unnecessary parts - and, in terms of its elegant language, its sharp insights into believable characters, and its almost revelatory focus on the value and meaning of language and story, it's the most impressive and intelligent first novel I expect to see this year, or perhaps for a while longer."
-- "Locus"
"The excerpt from Sofia Samatar's compelling novel "A Stranger in Olondria" should be enough to make you run out and buy the book. Just don't overlook her short "Selkie Stories Are for Losers," the best story about loss and love and selkies I've read in years."
-- K. Tempest Bradford, NPR
"Sofia Samatar's debut fantasy "A Stranger in Olondria" is gloriously vivid and rich."
-- Adam Roberts, "The Guardian," Best Science Fiction Books of 2013
"Books can limit our experiences and reinforce the structures of empire. They can also transport us outside existing structures. The same book may do both in different ways or for different people. Samatar has written a novel that captures the ecstasy and pain of encountering the world through books, showing us bits and pieces of our contemporary world while also transporting us into a new one."
-- "Bookslut"
"The novel is full of subtle ideas and questions that never quite get answered. It is those dichotomies that lie at the heart of this novel, such as what is superstition and what is magic? How much do class and other prejudices affect how we view someone's religion? Jevick often believes himself above such things, as does the current religious regime of Olondria, but in a way both are haunted until they believe. . . . Samatar gives us no easy answers and there are no villains in the book -- simply ordinary people doing what they believe is right.
-- io9.com
"As you might expect (or hope) from a novel that is in part about the painting of worlds with words, the prose in "Stranger" is glorious. Whether through imaginative individual word choices--my favourite here being the merchants rendered "delirious" by their own spices . . . Samatar is adept at evoking place, mood, and the impact of what is seen on the one describing it for us."
-- "Strange Horizons"
"Vivid, gripping, and shot through with a love of books."
-- Graham Sleight, "Locus"
"A richly rewarding experience for those who love prose poetry and non-traditional narratives. Sofia Samatar's debut novel is a fine exemplar of bibliomancy."
-- Craig Laurence Gidney ("Sea Swallow Me")
"With characteristic wit, poise, and eloquence, Samatar delivers a story about our vulnerability to language and literature, and the simultaneous experience of power and surrender inherent in the acts of writing and reading."
-- Amal El-Mohtar, Tor.com
"If you want to lose yourself in the language of a book, this is the one you should read first. Samatar's prose is evocative and immediate, sweeping you into the complex plot and the world of Jevick, a pepper merchant's son."
-- xojane
"A journey that is as familiar and foreign as a land in a dream. It's a study of two traditions, written and oral, and how they intersect. Samatar uses exquisite language and precise details to craft a believable world filled with sight, sound and scent."
-- "Fantasy Literature"
"Samatar's sensual descriptions create a rich, strange landscape, allowing a lavish adventure to unfold that is haunting and unforgettable."
-- "Library Journal" (*starred review*)
"Sofia Samatar has an expansive imagination, a poetic and elegant style, and she writes stories so rich, with characters so full of life, they haunt you long after the story ends. A real pleasure."
-- Chris Abani, author of "GraceLand" and "The Virgin of Flames"
"A book about the love of books. Her sentences are intoxicating and one can easily be lost in their intricacy.... Samatar's beautifully written book is one that will be treasured by book lovers everywhere."
-- Raul M. Chapa, BookPeople, Austin, TX
"Thoroughly engaging and thoroughly original. A story of ghosts and books, treachery and mystery, ingeniously conceived and beautifully written. One of the best fantasy novels I've read in recent years."
-- Jeffrey Ford, author of "The Girl in the Glass"
"Mesmerizing--a sustained and dreamy enchantment. "A Stranger in Olondria" reminds both Samatar's characters and her readers of the way stories make us long for far-away, even imaginary, places and how they also bring us home again."
-- Karen Joy Fowler, "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Jane Austen Book Club"
"Gorgeous writing, beautiful and sensual and so precise--a Proustian ghost story."
-- Paul Witcover, author of "Tumbling After"
"Let the world take note of this dazzling and accomplished fantasy. Sofia Samatar's debut novel is both exhilarating epic adventure and loving invocation of what it means to live through story, poetry, language. She writes like the heir of Ursula K. Le Guin and Gene Wolfe."
-- Kelly Link, author of "Get in Trouble"
"Imagine an inlaid cabinet, its drawers within drawers filled with spices, roses, amulets, bright cities, bones, and shadows. Sofia Samatar is a merchant of wonders, and her "A Stranger in Olondria" is a bookshop of dreams."
-- Greer Gilman, author of "Cloud & Ashes"

"It s the rare first novel with no unnecessary parts and, in terms of its elegant language, its sharp insights into believable characters, and its almost revelatory focus on the value and meaning of language and story, it s the most impressive and intelligent first novel I expect to see this year, or perhaps for a while longer."
"Locus"
"The excerpt from Sofia Samatar's compelling novel "A Stranger in Olondria" should be enough to make you run out and buy the book. Just don't overlook her short "Selkie Stories Are for Losers," the best story about loss and love and selkies I've read in years."
K. Tempest Bradford, NPR
"Sofia Samatar's debut fantasy "A Stranger in Olondria" is gloriously vivid and rich."
Adam Roberts, "The Guardian," Best Science Fiction Books of 2013
"Books can limit our experiences and reinforce the structures of empire. They can also transport us outside existing structures. The same book may do both in different ways or for different people. Samatar has written a novel that captures the ecstasy and pain of encountering the world through books, showing us bits and pieces of our contemporary world while also transporting us into a new one."
"Bookslut"
"The novel is full of subtle ideas and questions that never quite get answered. It is those dichotomies that lie at the heart of this novel, such as what is superstition and what is magic? How much do class and other prejudices affect how we view someone s religion? Jevick often believes himself above such things, as does the current religious regime of Olondria, but in a way both are haunted until they believe. . . . Samatar gives us no easy answers and there are no villains in the book simply ordinary people doing what they believe is right.
io9.com
As you might expect (or hope) from a novel that is in part about the painting of worlds with words, the prose in "Stranger" is glorious. Whether through imaginative individual word choicesmy favourite here being the merchants rendered delirious by their own spices . . . Samatar is adept at evoking place, mood, and the impact of what is seen on the one describing it for us.
"Strange Horizons"
"Vivid, gripping, and shot through with a love of books."
Graham Sleight, "Locus"
"A richly rewarding experience for those who love prose poetry and non-traditional narratives. Sofia Samatar s debut novel is a fine exemplar of bibliomancy."
Craig Laurence Gidney ("Sea Swallow Me")
"With characteristic wit, poise, and eloquence, Samatar delivers a story about our vulnerability to language and literature, and the simultaneous experience of power and surrender inherent in the acts of writing and reading."
Amal El-Mohtar, Tor.com
"If you want to lose yourself in the language of a book, this is the one you should read first. Samatar's prose is evocative and immediate, sweeping you into the complex plot and the world of Jevick, a pepper merchant's son."
xojane
"A journey that is as familiar and foreign as a land in a dream. It s a study of two traditions, written and oral, and how they intersect. Samatar uses exquisite language and precise details to craft a believable world filled with sight, sound and scent."
"Fantasy Literature"
"Samatar's sensual descriptions create a rich, strange landscape, allowing a lavish adventure to unfold that is haunting and unforgettable."
"Library Journal" (*starred review*)
Sofia Samatar has an expansive imagination, a poetic and elegant style, and she writes stories so rich, with characters so full of life, they haunt you long after the story ends. A real pleasure.
Chris Abani, author of "GraceLand" and "The Virgin of Flames"
"A book about the love of books. Her sentences are intoxicating and one can easily be lost in their intricacy.... Samatar s beautifully written book is one that will be treasured by book lovers everywhere.
Raul M. Chapa, BookPeople, Austin, TX
"Thoroughly engaging and thoroughly original. A story of ghosts and books, treachery and mystery, ingeniously conceived and beautifully written. One of the best fantasy novels I've read in recent years."
Jeffrey Ford, author of "The Girl in the Glass"
"Mesmerizinga sustained and dreamy enchantment. "A Stranger in Olondria" reminds both Samatar's characters and her readers of the way stories make us long for far-away, even imaginary, places and how they also bring us home again."
Karen Joy Fowler, "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Jane Austen Book Club"
"Gorgeous writing, beautiful and sensual and so precisea Proustian ghost story."
Paul Witcover, author of "Tumbling After"
"Let the world take note of this dazzling and accomplished fantasy. Sofia Samatar's debut novel is both exhilarating epic adventure and loving invocation of what it means to live through story, poetry, language. She writes like the heir of Ursula K. Le Guin and Gene Wolfe."
Kelly Link, author of "Get in Trouble"
"Imagine an inlaid cabinet, its drawers within drawers filled with spices, roses, amulets, bright cities, bones, and shadows. Sofia Samatar is a merchant of wonders, and her "A Stranger in Olondria" is a bookshop of dreams."
Greer Gilman, author of "Cloud & Ashes""

About the Author

Sofia Samatar is an American of Somali and Swiss-German Mennonite background. She wrote A Stranger in Olandria in Yambio, South Sudan, where she worked as an English teacher. She has worked in Egypt and is pursuing a PhD in African Languages and Literature at the University of Madison, WI.


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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is my favourite fantasy novel bar none -- Tolkien and Le Guin have had more impact, but this is my personal favourite. Why? This is the most beautiful prose I have ever read. Also, the story, when its jaws close is utterly gripping. There is a bit of a problem for some readers -- the hero is remembering a happy childhood and a trip as an adult to the metropolis. All rather pleasant. When the trap is sprung about 25% of the way in, it is well and truly sprung. That is a bit late for readers who don't like tales of everyday life. Finally, there is no more African a fantasy novel -- this is about coping with diaspora, about coping with a culture that offers great beauties but which exploits you and disrespects you. The attitude towards literature is both loving and aware that it embodies the power of the metropolis. This ambiguity has deep roots in the African oral tradition. Nothing is unambiguously good or bad -- this is a war of religions apart from anything else, and both religions have a measure of truth and a measure of hypocrisy and exploitation. There is no dark side or light side, no Force. All of which means some SFF fans don't like it. If you are up to it, you may find that like me, your think this is a masterpiece.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this very hard work and had little interest in the conclusion.
The poor were poor, the rich were rich, the religious were argumentative and violent.
The relationship between oral story and written story ........
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A tale of travel through distant lands should be very appealing, yet I found that I wasn't very engaged with the main character or even any of the characters in the tale
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 41 reviews
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of adjectives, moderate story, very pretty 28 Jan. 2014
By H Waterhouse - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
On the surface, this book is a love song to books wrapped in a coming-of-age-travel-story. Jevick is an overeducated misfit when he goes to Paris, er Bain, to carry on the family business, but he is much more interested in the culture than the business. In the process of his cultural education, he comes down with a bad case of ghost. Travails ensue.

It's not that I don't love ornate imagery and fabulous language. It's that by 3/4 of the way through this book, I was longing for something to cut the greasy, heavy, oleaginous feeling of the adjectival piles that litter the story. It feels to me like it could be a much more emotionally engaging story if it weren't paced with two adjectives per noun. I'm sure that's a personal preference issue, because I know a lot of people who enjoyed the ornate filigree of the writing.

I think my favorite part is the end, when he takes all his frustrated passion and turns it around into something that improves the world. But I almost gave up halfway through because the pace was so hard for me.

Read if: You are looking for a Gentleman's Progress And Return Home story, if you love a good unrequitable love story or three, if you want to think about nameless spices that can kill on the wind and be bought in the market.

Skip if: You are an impatient reader, you are going to feel bad about having to use a dictionary to read a book. (For the first time in three or so years, I used my kindle dictionary. "Marmoreal -- made of or relating to marble.")
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stranger In Olondria 7 May 2013
By N. Hughes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
**I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads**
I really enjoyed this book; there were times where I was a little confused about what was happening (mainly when Avalei was involved, like the Feast Of The Birds and when Jevick visited the High Priestess of Avalei), but then there were moments (such as the last two paragraphs in chapter 19) that more than made up for my confusion. There were passages in this book that were so deep and spoke such universal truths; I had to share those two paragraphs at the end of chapter 19 with my friend because it touched me so much, more than any other single passage in a book has ever done. That was my favorite part of the entire book, despite the sadness that surrounded it.
When I realized that there were ghosts involved, I was a little bit worried (I am the world's biggest scaredy cat), but not once was I afraid while reading this book. Yes, Jissavet got angry at times towards Jevick, but even then you could feel her pain and sympathize with her. It broke my heart when she was sent on from the world of the living and Jevick had to say goodbye to her; I was not sure how he would ever get through that pain.
The ending really touched me, that Jevick took the written language he created to write Jissavet's vallon and taught the people of his land to read. He allowed Jissavet to live on even more so than her vallon did. It was his show of love towards her.
I cannot wait to read it a second time to pick up anything that I missed in this first reading of it. For now though, I will savor my memories of Jevick, Jissavet, Lunre, etc.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical and dream-like, for good and ill 25 Sept. 2013
By Cissa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I mostly do not care for lyrical writing in my prose. That being said, I did like it in this novel. It was well-handled- lyrical, yes, but it didn't read like an ad for perfume!

The plot is not a tight one, and that's part of the charm. I was not able to predict where it was going; it took many reasonable, yet surprising, turns along the way.I found it interesting that, while there is an undercurrent of civil unrest that is heading toward a civil war- that isn't the point of the book; the journey here- literal and figurative- is very personal.

In many ways the whole book is an ode to the joys (and perils) of reading (and writing). I'd expect other book addicts to be appreciative of this!

The world is interesting and well-drawn, and very different from any other fictional world I've encountered.

Recommended, for those who like prose and plots that tend to wander around.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and poetic, BUT... 3 Dec. 2013
By Pasiphae - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is pure poetry. The imagery is refreshing, fascinating, the appearances and stories of the side characters are enchanting and riveting, but (and you had to know there was a 'but') the main character is not a compelling presence. He simply is what the plot needs him to be at any given time. This leaves the reader wandering through the book without the force of a compelling narrator. In a novel, this can be deadly. I loved the book despite this but wish the main character had done more than drift on the tides of this glittering wonder of a tale.
4.0 out of 5 stars A dense, distant, beautiful book. Recommended 16 Feb. 2016
By Juushika - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Jevick, a pepper-merchant's son with an unusual education, comes to the grand city of Olondria to find his life irrevocably changed by the ghost of a girl. This is a book about books and a fantasy travelogue, given to nested narration; it's dense, with disparate visual imagery and a strong sense of place. I wanted to love these aspects but often found them elusive--largely, I suspect, because so much is visual and I'm not a visual reader, hamstringing Samatar's otherwise powerful prose. Due to the format, there's not much in the way of plot and characters and interpersonal dynamics are slow to form; but when they do, the relationships, intimate and resonant and profoundly flawed, are strong enough to carry what's come before. It's a long warm-up but a beautiful book--especially in retrospect.
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