A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a very particular kind of fantasy novel, as much a literary (filled with albeit imaginary books) novel as it is a deep travelogue between two richly imagined fantasy lands.
At first, I was put off by the oh so lengthy passages of works and legends and overlong paragraphs, but like a lot of great fiction, it takes a learning curve and it often takes a bit of patience. Once I fell into the actual story rather than the many allusions made of whole cloth from a new mythology both familiar to us and strange, it became much easier to read.
The fact is: there's an awful lot to love in this novel as long as you're a lover of myths, stories within stories within stories, and don't mind being thrown into the mind of a heavy reader and eventually the mind of a heavy writer that is literally spurned on to write by the demonic exhortations of a ghost he eventually learns to love.
And don't think this is an entirely dry novel, either, because it eventually has some startling surprises and import for the land he's visiting. It's hard being a holy man, especially if you're a tourist, but it shouldn't be any kind of surprise that tourists will eventually return home and bring along tales and change.
It's a very satisfying novel if you can get through it, but be forewarned, it's dense with words and myth. It's a true work of the imagination, drilling deep and deeper and deeper into the two worlds that had been written.
Take your time, too. You'll be glad you did. :)
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