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. 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. But 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. Yet even as the country shimmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost and learn her story before he has any chance of becoming free by setting her free: an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile, and the limits of that seductive necromancy, reading.
A Stranger in Olondria is a skillful and immersive debut fantasy novel that pulls the reader in deeper and deeper with twists and turns reminiscent of George R. R. Martin and Joe Hill.
Sofia Samatar is an American of Somali and Swiss German Mennonite background. She wrote A Stranger in Olondria 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, Wisconsin.