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 – Walk The Wild With Me by Rachel Atwood

Walk the Wild With Me by Rachel Atwood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Walk the Wild With Me by Rachel Atwood



Walk The Wild With me is about a boy named Nick, who finds the vessel of an ancient goddess in a secret room of the abbey in which he lives and learns. With the help of this goddess, Nick learns about the magic of the Woodwose, the forest folk, and of his true heritage. He joins up with the members of Robin Hood’s men of Sherwood, turned into fae folk by Atwood’s imagination. Little John is the Green Man; Tuck is an abbot turned wild; Will Scarlett is a magical songbird; and Robin Goodfellow himself is a man turned Woodwose. Atwood weaves together a story of magic, folklore, and the yearning of our hero, Nick, to find out the truth of the world.

This is a novel for people who loved The Fellowship of the Ring, with all of its folklore and earthly magic. This is what first drew me to this novel. That, and how could I resist the premise of a fae version of Robin Hood? However, the wonderful aspects of this book are indeed balanced by some choices I would not have made.

Things I liked:

Atwood’s writing style is absolutely gorgeous. The writing flows easily, and her descriptions are so vivid, I could imagine myself in the forest together with the Woodwose. I so wish I could go there myself! Thankfully, I have a vivid imagination to go along with her vivid writing.

Again, I love the premise of Robin Hood and his men as the fair folk. I’ve never seen this take on the story before, and Atwood succeeded pretty well in making this take convincing. I’m not surprised at her choice of having Little John as the Green Man, though I was a little surprised at the fact that the Robin Hood character doesn’t have a very prominent role in this story. I don’t mind this choice at all, it’s just one that I didn’t expect.

Things I didn’t like:

Unfortunately, I think the story tried so hard to do many things with its plot and characters, that it ended up not doing much at all.

Every new plot device is readily accepted by the characters, making these devices unbelievable to me as a reader. When Nick finds and bonds with the goddess, he doesn’t question anything about it, he just accepts it as normal. We don’t get any explanation for this. We don’t actually get a lot of explanation for a lot of things. There’s very little background into the history of the Woodwose in this version of England; there are mentions of a conflict between the pope and the magical folk, but no background is actually given to explain why the Woodwose have to hide.

I think if the story had fewer plotlines, or perhaps if the book was a little longer, there would be more space for explanation and exposition to be given, but it didn’t work out that way.

The ending of the story was rushed, which makes more my case that the book should have been longer, or more managed than it was.

I realize I am making a lot of criticisms, but really this was a very enjoyable read, and the favorable points for this book are very strong. I would like to read more of Atwood’s work, and get more of that beautiful writing style.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes fae stories, folklore, and a new take on a classic story.



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