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Mini Reviews: Penric’s Travels, His Quiet Agent, Od Magic, All the Horses of Iceland

The December binge combined with the spell of fatigue that lasted most of January and left me unable to do much (I’m better now, I think) mean that I’ve been left with quite the review backlog. This is not all of them yet, not quite, but it’s a start – and best of all, this time they are not DNFs, but books I quite liked. Every single one of them.

Now, onto the reviews themselves!

Penric’s Travels by Lois McMaster Bujold (Penric and Desdemona #5-7)

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I forgot how much I enjoy this novella series. Penric, with his sunny disposition, is always a delight, as is his wise old demon Desdemona. These novellas are a little more interconnected than the first three I read, with the first two having quite open-ended endings, and an obvious hook for more sequels. Which is fine, I will read them all sooner or later, but they’re not as self-contained as I thought going in. What I liked about this collection in particular is that two of the novellas feature a man crossdressing as a woman for disguise, without making it into a joke. A rarity.

Enjoyment: 4.5/5
Execution: 4.5/5

Tags that apply: novella, fantasy, female author, uplifting, healing, just plain fun

His Quiet Agent by Ada Maria Soto


So soft and gentle and perfect, my HEART. Romance between two ace-spec agents, basically charming your fellow weirdo with lots and LOTS of cautiously taking care of and being there for each other – and homemade food. Very comforting, very up my weirdly specific alley and just…perfect. I have no words. Read it.

Enjoyment: 5/5
Execution: 5/5

Recommended to: those looking for softest gentlest hurt/comfort, ace rep, possibly autism rep, or bureaucracy

Tags that apply: romance, contemporary romance, female author, non-SFF, hurt/comfort, novella, favourites, bureaucracy, mental health, LGBTQ+, selfpub, standalone

Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip



McKillip is one of the rare never fail authors for me. I don’t always feel like her particular brand of beautifully written, fairytale-like classic fantasy, but so far, I haven’t been disappointed once. Od Magic is no exception.

The plot…there’s not much of it. It calmly meanders from POV to POV, and if there’s a central theme, it’d be the king’s restrictions on the knowledge of magic and the characters’ struggles against it. It’s at the same time, utterly old school fantasy, and yet slower, smaller scale.

The blurb led me to believe that this will be more about the gardener turned mage, so I was a little disappointed when it turned out to be multi-POV with all the other characters being far more prominent, but that’s hardly the book’s fault. I do wish his alienation from society was explored more, though – what little there was in the first chapter left me wanting more.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: anyone looking for comforting, classic fantasy with lovely prose

Tags that apply: fantasy, female author, slow pacing, uplifting, good prose, standalone

All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie



ARC received from the publisher (Tordotcom) in exchange for an honest review.

Set in the 9th century, All the Horses of Iceland is presented as a story about the origin of the Icelandic horses. I know nothing about the background, so I’m completely unable to judge how much of it is based on actual legends, myth, and history vs made up, but it sure was interesting and refreshing. It’s told in a very distant style, with occasional commentary from the narrator, suited it very well in my opinion, given that it’s presented as a legend from the old days, but it does create a distance between the reader and the story. Especially the characters. I’m not sure I would be able to tolerate it in anything novel-length. However, I appreciated very much that the characters don’t read like modern people inserted into the 9th century.

It’s not going to be a novella for everyone – I can see the distant style in particular as a dealbreaker – but in the end, I liked it well enough.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: anyone intrigued by the concept, fans of folktale-inspired stories
Not recommended to: those who dislike distant narration, those who prefer their characters to be likable

Tags that apply: ARC, fantasy, female author, novella, historical, slow pacing, folktale-inspired, religion

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