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When you read anything by Sofia Samatar, you re in the wise hands of a beautiful poet The Winged Histories goes beyond what she accomplished in A Stranger in Olandria, which is a book of formidable magic and strangeness This one casts an evenpowerful spell. I didn t always understand this book, but it is beautiful.This is a fantasy novel set in an empire during a time of civil war It isn t a story of battles or magic, but of the lives of four women involved in events Tav is a noblewoman who runs off at a young age to join the army, and later helps foment rebellion Tialon is the daughter of an ascetic priest whose zealotry and influence over the king have madeenemies than friends Seren is a singer from a marginalized group of nomads, who b I didn t always understand this book, but it is beautiful.This is a fantasy novel set in an empire during a time of civil war It isn t a story of battles or magic, but of the lives of four women involved in events Tav is a noblewoman who runs off at a young age to join the army, and later helps foment rebellion Tialon is the daughter of an ascetic priest whose zealotry and influence over the king have madeenemies than friends Seren is a singer from a marginalized group of nomads, who becomes romantically involved with Tav and Siski, Tav s sister, is a socialite who s running away from love but will finally have to face her fears I tend to avoid books with multiple narrators, as they often run together, but here each section has a distinct format and structure, and some are in third person while others are in first so the technique works well.The writing and imagery are particularly lovely, and the story comes together well You do have to give it some time the beginning can be confusing perhaps less so if you ve read A Stranger in Olondria , and I often found myself flipping back to re read sections after learning new information The book provides a wonderful mix of otherworldliness it feels like only a small window on a strange and beautiful place and real world themes, concerning war, privilege, and the ways people use power over one another I would have liked a bigger climax anddefinite conclusion, but I enjoyed this book and would read another by this author This one is extremely difficult to review, mainly because I m temptedto appreciate it from afar rather than enjoy it up close But there are passages where the reverse is entirely as true.Whereas the first novel was a straightforward love of literature and myth made up out of whole cloth and full of love of the act of writing, itself, among so many who refuse to read, the sequel is nothing less than a shattered land following the events that led to war in the first, and not only shattered This one is extremely difficult to review, mainly because I m temptedto appreciate it from afar rather than enjoy it up close But there are passages where the reverse is entirely as true.Whereas the first novel was a straightforward love of literature and myth made up out of whole cloth and full of love of the act of writing, itself, among so many who refuse to read, the sequel is nothing less than a shattered land following the events that led to war in the first, and not only shattered by war, but also as shattered in prose.You see I can appreciate the book s structure, it s sheer reliance on poetry and despair and song, oh, especially song, to convey a feeling, or a string of many layered and complex feelings and subjects, in the face of kings and monsters, family and one s love life, of which there is quite a bit of LGBT, and quite beautifully done.So much is either dense world building in terms of myth, historical rumination, straight stream of consciousness Only occasionally do we have a bit of traditional storytelling, andoften than not, there s stories within stories.That s what I love.What I didn t love so much was the lack of attention grabbing plot among the wonderful prose, or, as the case may be, the sad fact that I lost interest Multiple times That s not to say that certain characters keep showing up to provide threads I can hold on to, or to see how each of them change and develop over time, or how their perceptions of love or singing give them perspective on their identities, but these gems were buried fairly deep in the labyrinth of the prose and often it was a real chore to pay attention.I sometimes like to work for my read, it s true But I want to feel like I m going to get something really wonderful out of the challenge, too, and while this was all pretty wonderful poetry, I m not sure it spoke to me as a whole.There were certain parts, such as the love story and the songs that really got me, but the rest of the book was kind of a let down At least in comparison to the previous one 3 3.5 starsMy gut feeling is that this book probably deserves a higher rating than what I m giving it right now, but I have to admit that my mind started wandering at about the 3 4 mark which somewhat tempered my overall enjoyment of the story, and I also think that I might have benefited from reading A Stranger in Olondria again before coming to this sequel I use the word in single quotes because I wouldn t quite call this a direct sequel to Samatar s previous novel, but it certainly has m 3 3.5 starsMy gut feeling is that this book probably deserves a higher rating than what I m giving it right now, but I have to admit that my mind started wandering at about the 3 4 mark which somewhat tempered my overall enjoyment of the story, and I also think that I might have benefited from reading A Stranger in Olondria again before coming to this sequel I use the word in single quotes because I wouldn t quite call this a direct sequel to Samatar s previous novel, but it certainly has much to do with it in both content and theme, though Jevick, the hero of the first book, is only mentioned obliquely once in the text and the story in this book could perhaps be considered bigger in that it deals not only with the machinations for power of one of the leading families of the Olondrian empire, but also with both a war and rebellion that shake the status quo Despite these big events , however, don t think that this is anything like a standard epic fantasy centring on war and intrigue, its focus is fundamentally a personal one which zeroes in on the leading family, andspecifically its disaffected younger members who are tired of being used as pawns in the political manoeuvering of their elders In many ways it is both a family saga and a bildungsroman as much as or perhaps eventhan it is a tale of war and intrigue Hmmm, I am starting to wonder if this sprawling nature and somewhat chimerical make up is perhaps one of the elements that sometimes pushed me away from the story The book itself is divided into four main segments, each centring on the life and trials of a different individual The History of the Sword is narrated by Tav, a daughter of the leading noble house of Olondria who has run away to become a swordmaiden soldier in the ongoing war against another nation the Brogyars in an attempt to seize control over her own destiny and wield the kind of power her society generally does not afford to women In the course of her military career Tav comes to see the futility of this war which seems to serve no purpose other than to cement the positions of those in power In addition her eyes are opened to many of the injustices visited upon the people of Olondria, and especially her home province of Kestenya, by her own family and their political cronies Ultimately Tav decides to take matters into her own hands and foment rebellion against these powers that be The History of the Stone switches gears and is where we come closest in content anyway to Stranger It is the story of Tialon, the lonely daughter of the ascendant Priest of the Stone both minor characters from Stranger who struggles to find love in the midst of loneliness and purpose in a life that is arid and powerless The History of Music is the story of Seren, a poetess of the nomadic feredhai people and Tav s lover She provides something of an outsider s view to the obsessions and tribulations that both haunt and drive Tav The History of Flight takes us back to the beginning in some ways as we get to see some of the same scenes and events recounted earlier from a different point of view In this case we hear the story of her family from Siski, Tav s sister, upon whose beauty and fecklessness the family has pinned all of their hopes of final ascendancy and ultimate political power While she is unable to rebel in the straightforward manner of her sister, Siski proves to bethan a biddable puppet and travels her own path of rebellion that leads her to heartbreak and suffering Aside from the protagonists of each of the main sections of the book two other characters loom large in all of the tales one is the powerful matriarch Mardith, whose Machiavellian attempts to gain her family pre eminence in Olondria begin to crumble in the face of the opposition presented by her unhappy nieces and nephew the other is one whom we see only from the outside the figure of Tav and Siski s cousin, the doomed heir apparent Dasya While his importance to the lives of each of his cousins is central he is certainly seen by them in very different ways To one sister he is a figure of hope, but also a tool that can be used to foment rebellion and right the perceived wrongs of the previous generation to the other he is a tragic love whose dark secret will both break and bind their undying connection to each other.As is apparent this is primarily a book about the lives of women and the trials and tribulations they face in a world that is controlled on the surface at least by men In each story we see the main female protagonist either breaking free from, or living within the constraints placed upon them by their male dominated society Tav is perhaps the most obvious example of open rebellion to her lot as a soft, gentle female in her espousal of the traditionally male role of soldier and its inherent reliance on violence to get its way It is interesting to contrast her with the matriarch of the family, her Aunt Mardith, a woman who fully embraces the traditional roles of a female in her society, but whose strong will and wily intellect allow her to be the true power of the dynasty whom even the male members of her family fear Seren is also something of a rebel amongst her people through her fierce desire to remain free and make her own choices, though she never fully rejects the ways her people Instead she seems to use her acts of rebellion as opportunities to transmute the hidebound opinions and traditions of her people While she never fully embraces any of the preconceptions her people have for their women, she also never seems to fully reject their ways either It is an interesting balancing act.Tialon and Siski, on the other hand, are women who seem to liveas victims of the expectations of their family and society than as object examples of rebellion Tialon spends the majority of her life locked away in Velvalinhu, the dwelling of the Olondrian kings, and thus the place where her power hungry father, Ivrom the Priest of the Stone, has set up residence in his attempts to control the king and his family through his new religion Her life is littlethan a tiring repetition of emptiness, helplessness, and endless ritual as her father continually ignores her every attempt at connecting with him and she can do littlethan serve as an unwanted handmaiden, watching as her world begins to dissolve around her in the face of the rebellion against her father and his religion that gathers strength with each passing day Siski is perhaps the most tragic figure in the novel Initially a lover of the ease and enjoyment which her family s position affords her, she soon becomes disaffected when she learns of the plans that her overbearing Aunt Mardith has for her and her beloved cousin Dasya, and nearly breaks when in addition to this Dasya reveals to her a horrifying secret that she must bear alone Her act of rebellion comes as a literal escape when she runs away from her family and fully embraces the life of a libertine, leading on a string of lovers in an endless round of pleasure seeking and parties until she ultimately finds herself bereft of all friends and resources and decides to ultimately face the terrifying destiny from which she had so ineffectually tried to flee.There were times when I was reminded of Gene Wolfe while reading this book, especially in the first tale which at times felt disconnected and almost arbitrary as I was presented with many events the significance of which I couldn t yet see or for which I had little or no context until after the tale was fully told or the same events were seen later from a different perspective Only then did the picture start to come together as a whole, though even so I would probably benefit from reading it over again with this new light now available to me I was also somewhat reminded of John Crowley s The Deep, perhaps due to the focus on the internecine struggles for power of various interconnected noble families that was at the core of the story, but which never overshadowed the fact that it was the personal stories and lives they lived as unique and interesting individuals that was of central importance Ultimately I think I can only re state what I said at the beginning I think this book probably deserves a higher rating and I fully expect it to fare better on a re read now that I havecontext for the details and events that Samatar doles out in each tale Unsurprisingly with Samatar the language and images are often beautiful and striking and while I was occasionally stalled in some parts of the book it is certainly well worth the time and effort it demands of its readers Note I have not read A Stranger in Olondria before The Winged Histories It works perfectly fine as a standalone.This is one of my favourite novels of all time along with The Gray House andrecently The Ten Thousand Doors of January I first read it in the summer of 2017 and have been thinking it was a shame I never wrote up anything on it ever since A book that means so much to me that deserves words Praise Anything So allow me to write something a littleextra I have Note I have not read A Stranger in Olondria before The Winged Histories It works perfectly fine as a standalone.This is one of my favourite novels of all time along with The Gray House andrecently The Ten Thousand Doors of January I first read it in the summer of 2017 and have been thinking it was a shame I never wrote up anything on it ever since A book that means so much to me that deserves words Praise Anything So allow me to write something a littleextra I have breathed on shadows, as one breathes into a soap bubble, to give it breadth and life I did it because I had to, because human beings cannot live without history, and I have no history or tradition that is not located in a pale, aggressive body lying in the dirt, or hanging from a tree What is the difference between a genius and a monster It s so hard to set expectations correctly Anything, anything you knew about fantasy and the paths stories take, their structure it goes right out the window Forget it As much of literary fantasy, it avoids the beaten path.The simplest way to begin would be to say it is the stories of four women tangled up in a civil war Tavis, a soldier and a noblewoman and a rebel Tialon, a scholar, the daughter of a famous priest Seren, a feredha singer and storyteller Siski, a socialite, Tav s sisterI could attempt to write a plot summary as I do for any other story I could tell about the civil war Religious conflict A desire for independence Whispers of monsters Exceptexcept that s not what the book is about at all, not directly It would miss the point by a mile.From my notes from the first time read, I initially thought the pacing was odd, but I was still expecting it to go the way most books go A woman runs away from home to join the army and proves her worth to her male colleagues, the most familiar of stories And again the except Except the training is glossed over, except the war is pointless, except she is forced to return home with a broken leg And her PoV section is only the first of the four The rebellion and events leading to the civil war are, again, mentioned only in passing In interludes Scattered across all four sections I thought I would not like each part of the book being from the PoV of a different character, it s a structure that usually bothers me, but I ended up liking them all That mark on your face Not a physical scar but a shade of expression, a cast The look that said I have killed and will kill again A fierce look, I thought then Now I think broken I think lost I already mentioned Tavis, the soldier, the one who got to make history, but her story is only the start Next is Tialon whose history is so tied up in that of her famous father that there is barely anything of herself in it But we are not concerned with the child s memories We are concerned with him, with his genius She tells of the other side of history, the great men who are cruel in private and what happens to those who end up on the losing side Religious disputes Her own loneliness and isolation.Seren s chapter is my favourite It s the shortest and the least linear of the four, without any chapter breaks The closest to poetry And I get so lost in the writing I have a hard time describing what is it about Stories, I suppose Love and loss and the importance of songs.Siski I can t say much about spoilers , except that she s remembering the past and hiding a terrible secret.The word that comes to mind when I try to descibe the narrative style is impressionistic Fragmentary Because that s what the book is sequences of impressions of these four women Each narrator changes the style and the structure slightly, but there s nothing linear about it Suddenly she will start telling about her past, then switch back to present The various threads interweave, transitions are blurred, blink and you ll lose track and get confused It loops back on itself, almost stream of consciousness.Really, the plot, the civil war, what would usually be in front, is the least of it Obscured under so many layers that it becomes nearly invisible, told largely between the lines and in brief interludes between the four sections It s a reverse story, a book turned inside out History told through feelings and memories of women instead of achievments of great men It was there in the desert that my blood returned, there that Seren taught me to seize black ants and snap them between my teeth, there that my heart came open in two halves and words poured out of it my heart had not been empty after all I talked night after night until I was hoarse There was a curl of whiteness in the dark sky, what the feredhai call the track of the goddess Roun, the wake of her boat in the sea of the heavens and this is what was coming out of my heart, memories pouring out in waves The prose is gorgeous and somehow close to my heart, quite possibly the best I ve ever read It s pure stained glass It feels indulgent I want to read it out loud It gets stuck in my thoughts and I can t help channeling it a little even now What I like the best is that it achieves the effect it does without ever being archaic or abusing the thesaurus It s all rhetorical figure magic and it s near impossible to pick out quotes that d do it justice, because half the beauty of it is in how a certain turn of phrase may be twisted and re used a few pages later I said the narrative is often all tangled up it s the same with the prose It reminds me of music They murmur They stroke her hands They say I know She wants to say no She wants to say, you don t know, you don t know us She wants to say my sister and cousin made this war You don t know how we have harnessed you and murdered you and made you refugees She thinks For this the gods cursed you with monsters As the title says, it s a book about history, who tells it, who makes it, who is remembered, the biases, the bystanders, the ones caught in its flow, legends of monsters that may or may not be true Most of all, Samatar reminds us that history is not only a chronological list of dates and achievements of great men that it s farthan what it s usually reduced to I love it for that, too.Of course, The Winged Histories would never be for everyone I think it s even less accessible than The Gray House The distance from plot alone is something many people will find grating, no matter how intentional But if you love everything non linear and poetic and experimental as much as I do, please give it a try You will not regret it If you want a beautifully written nonfiction version of history told through personal stories of women, check out The Unwomanly Face of War Warning no book ever made me cry as much.Enjoyment 5 5Execution 5 5Recommended to prose enthusiasts, fans of complex literary fantasy, those looking for woman centric stories and representation both LGBTQ and PoC , those who like experimental structureNot recommended to those who require plot, those who like linear stories and hate confusion, fans of stories with a lot of magic More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here Read for my 2018 women of speculative fiction challenge.Your body remembers war This body I love War has shaped the beloved body Today we return to the world that we were introduced to in A Stranger in Olondria, one of the best books I ve encountered so far while engaged in my feminist reading project Sofia Samatar s The Winged Histories, published in 2016, is her second book in the setting of Olondria and it earned her a Hugo Award nomination Spoilers follow.So What s It About Civil war h Read for my 2018 women of speculative fiction challenge.Your body remembers war This body I love War has shaped the beloved body Today we return to the world that we were introduced to in A Stranger in Olondria, one of the best books I ve encountered so far while engaged in my feminist reading project Sofia Samatar s The Winged Histories, published in 2016, is her second book in the setting of Olondria and it earned her a Hugo Award nomination Spoilers follow.So What s It About Civil war has come to Olondria In The Winged Histories we see what this war means to four women, drastically different yet alike in that their lives are shaken to the core by the chaos in their land Tav dreams of being a swordmaiden, and she is one of the first to whisper of rebellion Tialon reflects on a life wasted by the oppressive restrictions of her father s religion Seren sings of her love for Tav and the cycles of life that she sees unfold all around her, and Siski learns to face what she left behind after a life of empty frivolity.What I Thought The F WordIf I hadn t been entirely convinced by the end of A Stranger in Olondria, I would now be entirely positive Sofia Samatar has won my heart for life In short, this is a beautiful, stunningly written little marvel of a book, strange and sorrowful and full of heart aching loveliness I m sure I can t say anything about Samatar s prose that hasn t been saideloquently by someone else, but I ve never read anyone who writes quite as deliberately yet fearlessly, in a way that is at once finely tuned and effortlessly graceful.This is a book about war and its nation spanning consequences and ugliness It speaks to the cycles of oppression and rebellion that are doomed to repeat again and again, belief and tradition and fear At its heart I think it isthan anything a story of women s resistance, and the many diverse, complex forms that this female resistance may take.Tav s resistance is expressed when she runs away to become a swordmaiden, and again when she helps incite the Kestenyan rebellion against Olondria It is perhaps the most literal form of resistance, but Samatar would not be satisfied with her readers calling Tav a hero and moving along to the next story We see the ugly, horrible repercussions of her actions both for herself in the form of PTSD and slow healing from her suffering as a soldier and for the nation as a whole in the damage that is wrought by the conflict It s a wonderfully nuanced undoing of the fighter girl trope, where strength is equated with a woman s ability to engage in traditionally masculine forms of violenceIt was the beginning of the dance of the mountains Tialon s resistance comes in the tiniest and strangest forms as she lives a tiny and overwhelmingly restrictive life under the dark, repressive influence of her father s obsessive religion The atmosphere of stillness, boredom and repression is absolutely stifling in this portion of the book, and we see the way that zealous devotion to religion stripped Tialon s father of all his joy in life, kindness and affection for others Tialon was a character in A Stranger in Olondria, and her aid to Jevick is revealed as one of the only things she considers being meaningful in the entirety of her lifeThe priest s daughter read about the life that was going on in the palace She drew pictures under the beam of her single candle, pictures of ladies and gentlemen walking and dancing and sitting down to meals at elegant tables She knew all the styles of dress, how bodices changed from year to year, the fashions of hairpins, and whether the gentlemen were wearing their hair short or long, and sometimes she drew herself in the midst of the dancers, in a light carmine frock with a necklace of tourmalines and Evmeni pearls She read the geographers, Elathuid the Voyager, Firdred of Bain, and she drew herself aboard ships, in hotels, in tents, on the pinnacles of mountains, and then sometimes in cities, in little parlors, among cousins, in the garden of an aunt who passed her an ice decorated with pink dust She had to imagine the colors, as she possessed only charcoal She drew in a frenzy of self loathing and a sick, irresistible craving Sometimes she made herself eat the charcoal as a sort of penance and vomited ecstatically over the balcony At dawn the sky was so clear and almost green And she felt bright and light She always burned the drawings before she left her room Seren s resistance comes in the form of her insistence upon the necessity of new songs Living with her nomadic people and learning to spread ideas through song, she sees the way that her people are limited by their notions of gender and sexuality One of the most interesting parts of the book was the treatment of lesbianism by Seren s people they see it as something that is acceptable in little children, but any women who continues to love women into adulthood simply needs to grow up Ultimately, this belittlement and judgment leads Seren and Tav to strike off on their own into the wilderness, and leads to Seren s conclusion that there need to be new songsThe men are going to war and the women are spinning The women are spinning and the men are going to war The men are going to war for the women The women are singing the men to war The men s hearts grow hot and sharp as blades from the singing of the women The women are memory They are the memory of men, of those who have died The men sing of the fallen and the women keep their songs and memories alive The women spin threads that never break The women are spinning shrouds All the men and women are singing themselves to death Siski s resistance comes in the form of her survival through the war and its aftermath, having lost all the trappings of her frivolous life as a socialite There are so many fascinating components of Siski s story from the misery of her and Tav s childhood home due to her father s rapidly changing moods to the strange, horrible supernatural truth that she turns her back on when she is a teenager Ultimately, her story is one of running and running from that horror and trying to lose herself in the pleasures of life, but ultimately being unable to keep running from her heart and what she owes to the man she lovesBy all the gods, had you turned into a dragon in front of me, I would have perished in fire before I ran away About the AuthorSofia Samatar was born in a small town in Indiana and grew up in a number of places around the world She received her master s degree in African literature and languages, and got her Ph.D in Arabic literature She began her career as an English teacher in Sudan and Egypt, where she worked with her husband and fellow author Keith Miller She began publishing fiction in 2012 and A Stranger in Olondria was her first full novel in 2013 It won her the British Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Award, and has been followed by The Winged Histories also set in Olondria in 2016 Can I smear tears on a piece of paper and call that a review This was GORGEOUS and emotionally bruising and so so wonderful and engaging and many other perfect words There is so much world building, a fascinating mythology, and beautiful language I m trying not to yell about Seren s little language lessons There are amazing epigraphs, which I m always a huge fan of Samatar winds the stories of four very different women through a monumental period of Olondrian history, and it s one of the b Can I smear tears on a piece of paper and call that a review This was GORGEOUS and emotionally bruising and so so wonderful and engaging and many other perfect words There is so much world building, a fascinating mythology, and beautiful language I m trying not to yell about Seren s little language lessons There are amazing epigraphs, which I m always a huge fan of Samatar winds the stories of four very different women through a monumental period of Olondrian history, and it s one of the best reading experiences I ve had in the last year Poetic and bloody, lovely and dark, this is a book to be SAVORED, and I will be re reading it again soon, at a much slower pace And then maybe I ll write a much better review for this amazing book Reading The Winged Histories felt like trying to hold onto smoke It s the kind of novel that requires your full attention, one that never compromises for a moment in its journey to being the most lyrical headache the reader will ever have the luck to witness The Winged Histories is a book about time, and who gets to make history To say this feels reductive, because it s so much , and there s no way I ll ever do it justice It s about which viewpoints are lost, about what people remember, a Reading The Winged Histories felt like trying to hold onto smoke It s the kind of novel that requires your full attention, one that never compromises for a moment in its journey to being the most lyrical headache the reader will ever have the luck to witness The Winged Histories is a book about time, and who gets to make history To say this feels reductive, because it s so much , and there s no way I ll ever do it justice It s about which viewpoints are lost, about what people remember, about which stories we decide to pass down to the next generations, and the all encompassing nature of time, the way it erodes everything.The writing reflects this It mimics the momentary nature of memory it doesn t so much have time jumps as it has details and scenes sliding in and out of focus in an ever changing kaleidoscope Like those, it has a tendency to make me dizzy If you want to talk about this in terms of time jumps, there s about one for paragraph, and it s dreamlike also in the sense that a lot of it isn t actually reliable And it only makes sense for a book about the influence of time to get rid of it entirely in the narration I felt like the last chapter was as much of a conclusion as it was an explanation for this very peculiar choice I don t think it could have been written in any other way.This book is divided into four parts I admit I struggled a lot with The History of the Stone it needed to be there for the story to work, but also, I didn t care about the character this revolved around and fell in love with The History of Music There s a lot of music, a lot of poetry in these pages it has always been one of the most important forms of storytelling for humans, after all The History of Music is about songs and feels like one in itself, and in the way it talks about them, it focuses on a specific question about history which stories are considered great Which ones do we choose to tell I feel like it s relevant to the fantasy genre as it is now, because it doesn t escape me how stories are still givenrelevance if they re about death and gloss over the happiness, deeming it unimportant, frivolous, boring just to get to the action, the fighting, the suffering Something I ve always thought is that suffering is easy Fighting is easy Talking about it might not be, but getting there is.I really don t think it s a case that this book doesn t even glance as something as easy as fight scenes during a revolution, and that its deepest, most beautiful, most emotional part is the one set after.There s political intrigue there s war None of it is really the point The History of Music is also one of the two parts focusing on the two main queer women, Seren the narrator in this part and Tav Tav gets her own part at the beginning, in The History of the Sword, which talks about the erasure of the achievements of women As I am predictable, these parts ended up being my favorite ones We see Seren and Tav s relationship in flashes it feelsreal than many we follow step for step.I loved this, and yet I didn t It s dreamlike in a way that keeps evading me, and I feel like I need stories to betethered to enjoy them fully This is not an actual criticism of the book I don t think I d change anything about it maybe acomprehensive glossary I also probably shouldn t have reached for it while preparing for one of the most difficult exams in my course.Content warnings abusive family, references to addiction, incest between first cousins for you are following a thread For you are cloaked in dawn For in a field you have found a hidden treasure Cryptic words found on a stone considered holy by the people of Olondria Words that are also a pretty accurate description of the second journey I have taken to this land of wonders, under the expert guidance of Sofia Samatar The plot line that I follow is not a straight one, being closer in nature to Aryadne s thread through the labyrinth of the Minotaur Likewise, there is an im for you are following a thread For you are cloaked in dawn For in a field you have found a hidden treasure Cryptic words found on a stone considered holy by the people of Olondria Words that are also a pretty accurate description of the second journey I have taken to this land of wonders, under the expert guidance of Sofia Samatar The plot line that I follow is not a straight one, being closer in nature to Aryadne s thread through the labyrinth of the Minotaur Likewise, there is an impression that monsters may be waiting at the end of the journey mythical creatures from the distant past that can fly and like to drink the blood of their victims These Dreveds have been hunted to extinction after they helped to establish the empire of Olondria in some long ago battle The landscape, the people, the timeline and the action in Olondria are all broken up, fragmented, shrouded in the mist of war and legend The task of the reader is not an easy one, and a lot of patience was required on my part to keep up with the new vocabulary and with the incomplete storylines By comparison, the first Olondrian novel was a walk in the park, a whimsical paean to the power of the written word and to the role of imagination as a catalyst for change History colours Olondria in this second novel with the bloodthirsty, cruel and terrible colours of war and famine and strife To finish with my opening stanza, my patience was rewarded in the end by the small personal, intimate treasures that people can salvage after the steamroller of history has passed by The Winged Histories had a relatively difficult start for me, putting me to sleep repeatedly after only a few pages of dense, obscure prose Later I have been drawn me in and became involved both intellectually and emotionally with the slow build up of cultural identiy and with the individual personalities caught in a violent war between the ruling Olondrians and their occupied neighbors from Bain and Kestenya The narrative thread is woven together from four individual strands, four women who represent four ideologies, four social classes, four nations cultures, four histories.It all starts with the History of the Sword, as told by Tavis of Ashenlo a rich heiress related to the Telkan the absolute ruler of the Olondrian Empire Tavis runs away from home at fifteen to join the army fighting against savages in the frozen mountains of the north OlondriaIt is said that the sword is nobler than the arrow, because the sword extends the body, and to fight with it is to dance It is said that the sword becomes its bearer s soul Thul the Heretic only believed in his body because he saw it reflected in his sword In the temple of Tol, it is common to say O Scarred God forever gone a hunting, Thous has left me the pin from Thy hair This pin, claim the priests, is the sword.Such ideas are poetry and not history The sword maims and kills Evil is its essence Tavis would change the way of the world by violence, urging her Kesteny troops and her distant relations, the nomadic Feredhai tribes to rise in insurrection against the occupying Olondrians.In the capital of Olondria a different kind of revolution is taking place, as a new religion is sweeping all the old faiths and customs away and is not shy about burning and crucifying its opponents as heretics Instead of a holy book, the new religion draws its inspiration from a stone, inscribed with obscure messages in ancient languages The narrator is Tialon of Velvalinhu, daughter of the fiery prophet of the new religionAt a moment when two powers were struggling for Olondria s soul the cult of Avalei with its mysticism,magic than religion, and the wealthy barons of Nain, who cared for no religion at all my father raised a two edged sword against them both Tialon is the opposite of Tavis, a recluse who knows nothing of the outside world, an ideologue whose whole life and identity is stifled by an authorian father Yet there is wisdom to be found in the ancient texts, a wisdom that ambitious prophets and political leaders tend to disregard or to twist to their own purposes The question Tialon asks of us is one that can be a defining one for our own history in the third millenium What is the difference between a king and a monster How can we tell the terrorists and the war criminals from the freedom fighters and the champions of liberty and democracy Olondria doesn t offer a clear answer, and the messages written on the holy stone of the new cult can be read in a thousand different ways Tialon sees virtue in diversity and mutual acceptanceBut perhaps its true message was one of disintegration Or perhaps it spoke a message of unity we could not understand, one that did not unfold in language as my father thought, but rather in the way the lines crossed over one another, cutting across each other, one word into the next If the message is not in the words but in the cutting How flint etches stone, how diamond enters How flesh intersects with flesh Newer languages digging themselves into old ones, accounts of vampires into the meditations of some nameless saint How we are written into one another How this is history After sword and stone it is the turn of song to be the carrier of the torch of history What does an artist, a poet understand of rebellion, of old rivalries and of economic imperatives Seren, the daughter of Larya of the seventh ausk of the Blue Feredhai of Tosk sings the old songs of her tribe, passed down faithfully from mother to daughter, songs of brave men gone to war, of bitter vendettas spanning generations, of empty hearths and orphaned children These songs have remained unchanged from millenia, and Seren feels the need to invent a new song, a song to celebrate life instead of death, a song to capture and to hold close to her heart the wandering spirit of her secret lover view spoiler the same Tavis of Ashenlo that has send all the men of Seren s tribe to their death in a futile insurrection hide spoiler The last part of the book is called the History of Flight , a coda of sorts to the three previous stories, told by a girl who witnessed everything yet didn t participate directly or subscribed to either the military, the religious or the artistic Siski looks backward to a happy childhood at the rich mansion of Ashenlo, she remembers growing up with Tavis and with the heir apparent of the Olondrian Teklan She is a refugee now, a runaway from home after a teenage drama involving her closest friends, a dissolute socialite who used men for fun and profit Her inner landscape is bleaker than the Feredhai desertIn the desert there are empty places Places of utter stillness, utter silence The sky meets the rim of the world with no window, no escape There is only sunlight, desolation, wind The heart grows brittle These are the regions known as the fires , or the seas of glass Yet Siski may hold the key to a treasure chest When she opens it, she might find that her chest is in fact Pandora s Box I m being deliberately cryptic here, because I don t want to spoil the last revelations in the book For me, the story of Siski is the denial of the big history and the affirmation of the worth of individual lives, of self discovery and of love as selflessness and sacrifice It is also a promise of redemption to a nation tired after one too many wars.I am both exhausted by this strange novel and grateful for the opportunity to discover so muchdepth, versatility and nuance in the writing of Sofia Samatar The promise of the debut novel A Stranger in Olondria have been exceeded here I could force some comparison between her style and Guy Gavriel Kay or Patricia McKillip, but I believe she is unique and innovative in her presentation Such comparisons might sound complimentary to a new writer who is put in the same league as such established luminaries of speculative fiction, but I believe fail to capture the true flavor and the thrill of discovery of what is for me a rising star in the genre I can t wait to be surprised by what she will write nextI have breathed on shadows, as one breathes into a soap bubble, to give it breath and life I did it because I had to, because human beings cannot live without history Tialon of Velvalinhu `DOWNLOAD E-PUB ⇹ The Winged Histories ☠ Four women, soldier, scholar, poet, and socialite, are caught up on different sides of a violent rebellion As war erupts and their families are torn apart, they fear they may disappear into the unwritten pages of history Using the sword and the pen, the body and the voice, they struggle not just to survive, but to make historySofia Samatar is the author of the Crawford, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy award winning novel A Stranger in Olondria She also received the John W Campbell Award She has written for the Guardian, Strange Horizons,Lightspeed, and many other publications She lives in California Her website is sofiasamatarPraise for A Stranger in Olondria A book about the love of books Her sentences are intoxicating and one can easily be lost in their intricacy Samatar s beautifully written book is one that will be treasured by book lovers everywhere Raul M Chapa, BookPeople, Austin, Texas