Sofia Amatar, A Stranger in Olondria

I read this book because it won the World Fantasy Award. Hate it when I haven’t even read a book that people like so much!

So I had to catch up and see what this one’s about.

Verdict: that World Fantasy Award is well-deserved. Let’s check off how it’s original, and what it does really well:

  • Original world: check. The Olondrian empire’s that wonderful thing, a realm seen inside-out, from inside its own literature. Many of the features — the Priests of the Stone, for instance — are at an interesting angle compared to the usual set of tropes.
  • Original plot: check. I don’t think I’ve read a story that enters a world like this, from the inside-outside-in, where we’re part of it in our imaginations, yet not part of it, yet affecting it intimately, as the story unfolds.
  • Rich, rich world-building and character-building: Wow. That’s all I can say.

Simplest way to put it: I’ve read very few books that evoke multiple worlds, multiple lives, multiples ways of life so richly, with so much lyricism and texture.

The major weakness, for me, is that there were so many stories within a story, sometimes my patience as a reader was stretched thin. I began to doubt if there would be a payoff — but then there was. Several times. In the end, it all came together. And that was an excellent thing.

So, the congratulations are in order for the World Fantasy Award. This is a book you should not miss.

Leave a Reply