Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
Fantasy; 332 pgs.
First Sentence: Edward - You must come back to the Lodge.
Reason for Reading: This author came recommended to me by a Finnish friend. I decided the Once Upon a Time Challenge would be the perfect time to pull it off my shelf and give it a read. This is also one of my picks for the Reading Through the Decades Challenge.
From the Publisher: The mystery of Ryhope Wood, Britain's last fragment of primeval forest, consumed George Huxley's entire long life. Now, after his death, his sons have taken up his work. But what they discover is numinous and perilous beyond all expectation.
For the Wood, larger inside than out, is a labyrinth full of myths come to life, "mythagos" that can change you forever. A labyrinth where love and beauty haunt your dreams and may drive you insane.
Comments: This novel was not quite what I expected. I thought it would be more along the lines of traditional fantasy. Set in the early 1940’s in Britain, the novel has a very realistic feel to it. Steven is a war veteran who had settled in France after his release; the novel begins with his returning home after the death of his father, only to find his brother, Christian, is not quite who he once was. The woods near their life long home are not what they appear and their father’s life long obsession at what lay inside quickly lays claim to the two brothers.
I was reminded of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods to some extent. In the one novel, the belief in the gods—or lack their of—playing a large part in how they materialized and came to America, whereas in Mythago Wood, the mythagos were very much a creation of man’s belief, shaping and creating the very real life forms. Both very different and yet, somehow, very similar in their evolution.
Admittingly, I felt a bit lost in the beginning of the book as Steven begins to unravel the mysteries that fascinated his father and later his brother so much. I soon became comfortable with it, recognizing that I was on the same learning curve as the narrator and main character, Steven.
Mythago Wood held a certain intensity within each page, an underlying suspense that never let up. Robert Holdstock is an author whose work I hope to read more of in the future.
Favorite Part: Although I enjoyed the entire book, I most enjoyed my time spent in the woods in search of Christian, Steven’s brother and Guiwenneth. So much of the story was revealed during that time in the novel and the people Steven and his friend met along the way were fascinating.
Sorthalan intrigued me. There was mystery and magic about him like no other character, and I would have loved to explore more of his character. Guiwenneth’s origin story was also one that enchanted me. She was an interesting character—innocent and tough rolled into one.
Note about the Author: Visit the author's website.