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The Winged Histories


4.07  ·  Rating details ·  456 ratings  ·  112 reviews
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 history.

Sofia Samatar is the author of the Crawford,
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Small Beer Press
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Canaan Merchant Yes you can read this first. There's some brief mentions of events from Stranger in Olondria (and one major character here shows up in that book in a…moreYes you can read this first. There's some brief mentions of events from Stranger in Olondria (and one major character here shows up in that book in a small way) but the plot in this book is totally self contained. (less)

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4.07  · 
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 ·  456 ratings  ·  112 reviews

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Althea Ann
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of my Hugo Award nominees, novel, 2016.
"A Stranger in Olondria" lured me in to the worlds evoked by Samatar's lush, poetic writing style. I had heard this was a companion piece to that book, so naturally sought it out. However, this is a very different book and only very tangentially (if at all) related - it stands wholly on its own. And - I liked it even better. The elements that I loved about Samatar's writing are all still here. While the form of the story is still not that of a trad
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016

... 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
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it
This one is extremely difficult to review, mainly because I'm tempted more to 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
Nov 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
3 - 3.5 stars

My 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
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
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 made more enemies than friends; Seren is a singer from a marginalized group of nomads, who b
May 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
"Four women — a soldier, a scholar, a poet, and a socialite — are caught up on opposing sides of a violent rebellion. As war erupts and their loyalties and agendas and ideologies come into conflict, the four fear their lives may pass unrecorded. Using the sword and the pen, the body and the voice, they struggle not just to survive, but to make history."

Sofia Samatar's debut novel was the lovely A Stranger in Olondria, released in 2013, about a young island b
Sara Saab
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
One of the most beautiful books I've read in my life.

10% in and my heart was already breaking. I have never felt place so keenly; that kind of unbearably true and unmoved and silent world adorned by the ornamentation of living, of trying to keep on living. This is particularly powerful in the lo-tech world of this book. Here, more than in our world, we feel people work around the world (just as Siski works round the presence of her father), while it regards them solemnly, sort of enthralled by
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 even more powerful spell.
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
The Winged Histories is a book I absolutely adored. It tells of four women who are caught up in a civil war brewing in the country Olondria. The four are a soldier plotting rebellion, a priestess of an oppressive religion, a singer from a nomad culture, and a noblewoman escaping her family's intrigue. They all experience the war very differently and the relationships between them also varies: family, enemies, lovers, or strangers. The Winged Histories is told from each of their perspectives in t ...more
We are such frail creatures, we—I still can't write the word. How did we conquer anyone? How did we terrorize the world? We, with our burdens. Our pain. Our fear. Our woe. Our wings.

Reading this book was like a religious experience.

Stylistically, it is very much not for everyone, but it was a perfect fit for me.
* It's not so much non-linear as it straight-out laughs in the face of chronology. It's like a puzzle, whose pieces are slowly revealed (e.g. there's a crucial flashback we only g
Not to be dramatic or anything but Sofia Samatar's writing makes my soul ache in the best of ways and I could live in her books forever. RTC!!!!!
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, sf
The four parts of this novel are each told by a different woman. Their narratives interconnect, and sometimes directly interact with one another, but they each give a different perspective on one subject: civil war in the imaginary country of Olondria. The novel deliberately shows us the perspective of different women in a mainly patriarchal society so that it can ask the reader to consider women's role in war and in written history in our own world.

I reread this book's companion, "A Stranger i
Book Riot Community
I wouldn’t normally taunt you with a book you can’t have for two months, but this time is different, ok? Because the book in question is a sequel, which means you have time to go and read A Stranger in Olondria, and then be ready for Winged Histories in all its glorious glory. In Olondria, Samatar built us a beautiful fantasy world, full of diverse peoples and customs, gorgeous landscapes, and a dark undercurrent. Our guide to Olondria, Jevick, found himself caught up in the midst of a troubled ...more
Brianne Reeves
Dec 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
So, I liked this, but I think it works best to think of it as intertwined short stories that are companions to A Stranger in Olondria. It expands the world well and adds character, but I think it may struggle on its own without the context of ASO. Full review to follow.
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it

The Winged Histories is an epic fantasy divided in four sections, each narrated by a different woman: a soldier, a poet, a scholar, a socialite; sometimes they take part of the epic events, the battles and revolutions and displacements, and sometimes they are in the corners or the cracks, making up stories about family histories or fantasies about great heroes because the stories they’re told (if they’re told stories at all) aren’t enough.

Usually epic fantasy is epic like The Iliad; arguably A
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: literary fantasy lovers
Shelves: sf
Sofia Samatar's work is a revelation. Her prose has only become richer and more assured between her debut novel and this follow-up. The Winged Histories gives the stories of four women whose stories are linked by the events that shape them (and that they help to shape). The contexts of the complicated class and national histories the inform these women is described in such clear detail that I feel that I know them all, their histories and their inner realities. Amazing, incredible, lush, emotion ...more
May 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didnt-finish
I really liked "Stranger in Olondria", but I was a bit intimidated by this book and it sat on my shelf for a bit, until I felt ready for it. Because while I enjoyed "Olondria" I wouldn't say it was an easy read. It required concentration, and probably reading it on vacation when I could devote a lot of time to it helped me to digest it better.

I believe another review states that "Olondria" is downright linear compared to "Histories" and I would very much agree. I bounced off this book hard. The
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a challenging, lovely piece of work this book is! I'm flagging it for my queer women protags because two of the female protagonists are a couple, FYI, for those looking for more fantasy w/ queer women as leads and POV. Samatar's prose is gorgeous and her world-building is layers and layers deep (in fact, I'm slightly jealous). The story is about 4 women experiencing different aspects of a civil war; they sing, they remember, they fight, they flee. The way that each describes her experience ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was a slow burn for me. At times the names, jumps between past and present, and style was a little confusing, especially in the beginning, but the writing was really beautiful and lyrical. This book follows the eruption of war and rebellion from four different female perspectives. I really enjoyed how the story progressed within the changes of perspectives. The reader doesn't experience the pages and pages of bitter battle, but does see the wreckage of the afterwards. Overall a subtle ...more
Bryn Hammond
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imagined-fiction
I dream of fantasy like this: intelligent, exploratory, effortlessly inclusive-stroke-diverse -- because not to be is part of the staleness we are tired of in fantasy. Ideas fantasy that is alive with immediacy of story, with exquisite skills in characterisation and in writing. Let her continue to take nine years to write a book (as she says of her two fantasies) and distill her work to this.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtqia, fantasy
I've been thinking a lot on this book in the few days since I finished it, so here's a quick sort-of review!

Basically, I loved this. It was probably a safe bet for me, since the premise is one I'm more or less guaranteed to love - four women on different sides of a violent rebellion, writing their stories and pondering on/trying to make/agonizing about history - but I've been burned before by books I thought were a sure bet so it was an absolute delight to see this wasn't one of those cases. Sof
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: a-fantasy-world, cbr8
This book is a slow start but the momentum builds quickly to a startling and wrenching finish. Sofia Samatar is an AMAZING writer. Like, her prose is gorgeous and will wreck you and create an image that you will be haunted by long after you've put the book down. I think her choice of four female narrators throughout civil unrest was a smart choice, as it demonstrates the effects of war on women civilians. The narrative polyphony is broken up into four books, so you don't have to try and identify ...more
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Winged Histories is densely layered, overwhelming, and quite beautiful. A series of 4 documents written by characters with differing perspectives on a central conflict, each portion has a unique feel, with the lyric poem portion being a head and shoulders above the rest. The experience of reading the Winged Histories is memorable, but not easy. The book is long, and the prose is thick. There are also complicated family trees to grapple with and the history of the land itself. I don't recomme ...more
Gin Jenny (Reading the End)
I think I must accept that Sofia Samatar is not for me! Her writing is lovely, but I need things to be a bit faster-paced than this. ALAS.
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spec-fic, fiction
Definitely a book to read with the expectation of beautiful poetic writing, intense scenes and short pieces, and an incredible sense of place and culture - but no expectation of following an overarching plot. It does something A Stranger In Olondria did exceptionally well: tell the story of an epic imperial war via characters who aren't the heroes, who are at the edges of the action. Less marginal than Jevick in Stranger, for sure, but involved in much more subtle ways than your typical fantasy ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is maybe my favorite novel I've read in years. The way the narrative unfolds (and doesn't unfold) is so beautiful.

I think there are some commonalities with Faulkner in how the past and present are consistently intruding upon one another, and how time is more like an ebb and flow that occasionally washes over the story than a linear sequence of events. It also shares with The Sound and the Fury the structure of four personas telling the same story, each of them revising, clarifying, and com
Sara Norja
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book. This book! What reaffirming magic. It's so wonderful to read fantasy that runs against the conventions of the genre and does it in such an assured, poetic way. I thought A Stranger in Olondria was beautifully written but it didn't grab me - but The Winged Histories was totally gripping as well as being a feast of gorgeous writing.

I liked the four perspectives - a bold structural choice, with the events unfolding in a liminal way, the "biggest" things sometimes left inferred instead o
Disclosure: I received an e-galley copy of this book from Edelweiss and Small Beer Press.

I went into "The Winged Histories" without reading its companion novel, "A Stranger in Olondria." Sofia Samatar's first book came out three-ish years ago, and I'd heard of it in passing but never picked it up. I love Small Beer Press, though, so between that and the positive buzz I jumped at the chance to review this.

Now, "The Winged Histories" is explicitly not a sequel, but for a large chunk of this book
Yasser Ahmed
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow, incredible. Everything about this book is wonderful.

Full review in a few days once I can actually process it all
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Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories, the short story collection, Tender, and Monster Portraits, a collaboration with her brother, the artist Del Samatar.

Other books in the series

Olondria (2 books)
  • A Stranger in Olondria
“To lose a sibling is to lose the one different from you. There’s no one now against whom to say: But I am like this. I am this.” 5 likes
“All bleed who fight with the sword. All confront, with greater or lesser difficulty, the worship of their own flesh. The swordmaiden faces particular obstacles in this matter: she will have seen, in the temples and elsewhere, many images of unscarred women.” 4 likes
More quotes…