Book Review – All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie

All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



All the Horses of Iceland is a fictional historical account of Eyvind, a man from Iceland who travels all the way to Mongolia and back in search of horses to trade and sell. During this journey, he encounters ghosts, and a magic horse that not only may ensure his survival on his way back to Iceland, but also the survival of the many horses that travel with him.

I went into this book expecting a lot more mythology than history, and so I was a bit disappointed at the lack of fantastical elements. I thought it was going to be a folk tale about the origins of horses in Iceland, which I guess this was, but still not enough mythos. What there was ā€“ ghosts and the folklore of lands foreign to the protagonist ā€“ I did appreciate. It was a lot of magical realism, which I also appreciate, using the beliefs of different peoples at the time to illustrate a strange happening in this man’s journey. However, instead of feeling like an origin story, it felt more like a short folk tale – unexpected, but welcomed nonetheless.

I did like the historical elements of this novella. I liked the diverse cast of characters that Eyvind meets: Jewish traders, many Khazars (most at war), some Rus (also at war), a Muslim poet, and, of course, a Khan of Mongolia. I thought that was very interesting, and illustrated the possible life of someone who lived during this time (around the Medieval period). I also loved the representation of languages in this novella. Tolmie does not actually write out languages foreign to the protagonist, but the way she has him experience them is a wonderful experience to read. He is appreciative, and not often upset that he doesn’t understand.

Iā€™m glad I read this book, but again the lack of mythology does not make it a favorite. I know many will love it though for its history and characters.




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Book Review – Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Margaret the First is a short novel, a novella even, but it feels like a story that goes on forever in the most wonderful way. In this novella, Margaret Cavendish tells us about the early years of her life to when she wrote her poems and philosophical treatises. In the second half of the book, Dutton gives us her own retelling of Margaret’s life. Margaret is portrayed as an ambitious, yet insecure woman – aren’t we all? I relate to Margaret as someone who wants to do and say everything, and yet realizes the obstacles not only in society, but those that are within the self.

What surprised me about Dutton’s telling was that Lord Cavendish, Margaret’s husband, was actually very supportive of her. I very much hope that this was the case in real life. What also surprised me was how disliked she seemed to be by the British public – all of my limited learning of Margaret made her out to be a smart and likable person, though perhaps that was wishful thinking on my part.

Dutton writes such human emotions and thoughts into Margaret’s character, it makes me want to meet her. Since I cannot do that, I am eager to read Margaret’s own works. Dutton’s imagery tells an amazing story that I never wanted to end, and I will have to check out her other works as well.

My only critical comment is this: half the book is told in the first person perspective of Margaret, the second half in third person. This in itself is not a bad thing, only that the transition from one to the other is a bit jarring, and I would have liked a bit of a segue.

I recommend this book to those who love cool women of history, and who want a very human story.



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