A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
My sister read Sofia Samatar’s second book, The Winged History, and raved about it. I decided to read it, and then also determined to read the book that came first, A Stranger in Olondria. As it turns out, I didn’t really need to do so, since the novels are fairly separate—even if they occur in the same universe and have a few crossover characters. But I’ll spare all my raving for The Winged Histories in the next review. I’ve got to cover A Stranger in Olondria.
Jevick is the son of the pepper merchant on a remote island, though he grows up with stories of the beautiful and cosmopolitan Olondria from his tutor. When the time comes for Jevick to take his father’s place, he makes the trip to Olondria, where he encounters a countrywoman in an illiterate girl who dies and then haunts Jevick in his dreams. The novel twists around Jevick’s journaling process of his dreams and the civil unrest that unfolds around him.
This was a tough book for me to read. The writing is beautiful, yes, but the plot is sometimes dense and really confusing to follow. Much of it occurs within Jevick’s interior frame or as a written document, so I sometimes could not tell what was happening or when. As I said on Goodreads, this book ultimately reminded me of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart books, because it evokes the power of reading to the person and the nation. It’s most certainly worth the read, though it takes a bit of patience and willingness to be a little confused at times. This is a solid 3.5 stars.