cover image A Stranger in Olondria

A Stranger in Olondria

Sofia Samatar. Small Beer, $16 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-9315-2076-8

Samatar weaves superstition, religion, politics, and a strong love of reading into a biography of Jissavet, a simple illiterate girl who has died young. The frame story depicts Jevick of Tyom’s first trip to the country of Olondria after his father’s death. A modern young man, Jevick can read and write, something most of his people in Tyom cannot do, and loves the time spent in Bain, the Incomparable City. When Jissavet’s ghost begins haunting him, Jevick thinks he’s going mad, the Olondrian priesthood thinks he’s a fraud masquerading as a saint, and a group of religious fanatics become convinced he has magical powers. Somehow he has to navigate the warring factions in Olondria and work up the courage to listen to Jissavet, because it’s the only way to help her soul and stop the haunting. Some of the religious and cultural terms are never clearly defined, and context is not always sufficient, but the country and the people are vividly painted. (Sept.)