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—but which his mother calls the Ghost Country. 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. 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. Even as the country simmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost and learn her story before he has any chance of freeing himself by setting her free: an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile, and the limits of that most seductive of necromancies, reading.
A Stranger in Olondria was written while the author taught in South Sudan. It is a rich and heady brew which pulls the reader in deeper and still deeper with twists and turns that hearken back to the Gormenghast novels while being as immersive as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.
“The best stories throw a wrench in our characters’ best-laid plans, and nobody throws a wrench quite like a ghost. Jevick is the stranger of the title, sold on tales of a wonderland called Olondria in much the way I was sold on the idea of that wonderland called New York. What Samatar does is pull us into a world so thoroughly strange yet so familiar that you think it’s one kind of story until it shoves you off course and becomes another. It’s about a man who has too much to learn and not much time to learn it, but it’s also about how a little knowledge really is a dangerous thing.”
— Marlon James
6" x 9", 320 pages. Published by Small Beer Press