"It's the rare first novel with no unnecessary parts - and, in terms of its elegant language, its sharp insights into believable characters, and its almost revelatory focus on the value and meaning of language and story, it's the most impressive and intelligent first novel I expect to see this year, or perhaps for a while longer."
"The excerpt from Sofia Samatar's compelling novel A Stranger in Olondria
should be enough to make you run out and buy the book. Just don't overlook her short "Selkie Stories Are for Losers," the best story about loss and love and selkies I've read in years."
– K. Tempest Bradford, NPR
"Sofia Samatar's debut fantasy A Stranger in Olondria
is gloriously vivid and rich."
– Adam Roberts, The Guardian
, Best Science Fiction Books of 2013
"Books can limit our experiences and reinforce the structures of empire. They can also transport us outside existing structures. The same book may do both in different ways or for different people. Samatar has written a novel that captures the ecstasy and pain of encountering the world through books, showing us bits and pieces of our contemporary world while also transporting us into a new one."
"The novel is full of subtle ideas and questions that never quite get answered. It is those dichotomies that lie at the heart of this novel, such as what is superstition and what is magic? How much do class and other prejudices affect how we view someone's religion? Jevick often believes himself above such things, as does the current religious regime of Olondria, but in a way both are haunted until they believe. . . . Samatar gives us no easy answers and there are no villains in the book – simply ordinary people doing what they believe is right.
"As you might expect (or hope) from a novel that is in part about the painting of worlds with words, the prose in Stranger
is glorious. Whether through imaginative individual word choices–my favourite here being the merchants rendered "delirious" by their own spices . . . Samatar is adept at evoking place, mood, and the impact of what is seen on the one describing it for us."
– Strange Horizons
"Vivid, gripping, and shot through with a love of books."
– Graham Sleight, Locus
"A richly rewarding experience for those who love prose poetry and non-traditional narratives. Sofia Samatar's debut novel is a fine exemplar of bibliomancy."
– Craig Laurence Gidney (Sea Swallow Me
"With characteristic wit, poise, and eloquence, Samatar delivers a story about our vulnerability to language and literature, and the simultaneous experience of power and surrender inherent in the acts of writing and reading."
– Amal El-Mohtar, Tor.com
"If you want to lose yourself in the language of a book, this is the one you should read first. Samatar's prose is evocative and immediate, sweeping you into the complex plot and the world of Jevick, a pepper merchant's son."
"A journey that is as familiar and foreign as a land in a dream. It's a study of two traditions, written and oral, and how they intersect. Samatar uses exquisite language and precise details to craft a believable world filled with sight, sound and scent."
– Fantasy Literature
"Samatar's sensual descriptions create a rich, strange landscape, allowing a lavish adventure to unfold that is haunting and unforgettable."
– Library Journal
"Sofia Samatar has an expansive imagination, a poetic and elegant style, and she writes stories so rich, with characters so full of life, they haunt you long after the story ends. A real pleasure."
– Chris Abani, author of GraceLand
and The Virgin of Flames
"A book about the love of books. Her sentences are intoxi