Review – A Stranger in Olondria

Posted March 27, 2016 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia SamatarA Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar

Sofia Samatar’s first novel has been on my radar for a long time, though I can’t remember quite how I first came across it. Possibly just on Weightless Books! It is very beautifully written, sometimes verging on too much, rather like Catherynne Valente’s work at times. There’s the same sense of poetry-within-prose, and dense layers of imagery and meaning. The writing almost carries its own scent: spices, incense, the acrid desert wind…

The plot is rather a lot slower, and feels a little disjointed to me — the first part is fairly rational and focused on the love of books, without supernatural elements. Then suddenly there are ghosts and angels and religious politics. The transition actually works reasonably well, now I think about it, but thinking about the two different parts of the book, I don’t feel like I was quite prepared for the world Jevick found himself in. From a rational world to a world where he’s, well, hag-ridden.

It sort of lacks resolution, to me: it seems to trail off into something bittersweet, thoughtful, but unsatisfying. That’s probably my own preference as a reader, though; others might find that ending works perfectly.

Rating: 4/5

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