Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
ORB, 1984
Fantasy; 332 pgs.

Started: 04/29/2007
Completed: 05/04/2007
Rating: * (Good)

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.


  1. I just love reading your reviews!! Of course, now there are more books for me to add to my TBR!!

  2. Sounds interesting - have popped it on The List! I think I've caught sight of this one before and been vaguely interested, but then passed it over...it looks familiar anyway.

  3. I've had this book on my wish list for a very long time. I'm glad you think it is worth my time. Any comparison to "American Gods" piques my interest. Thanks.

  4. Stephanie - Thank you for the kind words. I thought online book groups were bad for me and my reading wish list, but blogs like yours are even more so! So many great recommendations.

    Elaine - If you do decide to try it, I hope you will enjoy it.

    Kookie - I enjoyed it. The writing style is completely different from American Gods and the story is much more personal in Mythago Wood than it is in American Gods. Having just read one than the other though, I couldn't help but see a similarity here and there.

  5. Oh good, I'm glad you read and reviewed Mythago Wood, I keep seeing it and now I know to pick it up (and have a little advance warning on the story telling.)

    You joined another Challenge? Brave soul. But mysteries. Hmm.

  6. I read this a few months ago as well and was surprised. I really enjoyed it and as you said found it quite different from more traditional fantasy, which made it stand out more. The ideas of the Mythagos being like Archetypes was really interesting. It was also interesting to see how the characters grew and changed during the course of the tale.

    I'm glad you liked it too :)

  7. The comparison to American Gods sparked my interest as well. And I like the idea of the story being more personal.

    Great review!

  8. Carrie K - I do hope you enjoy Mythago Wood if you read it. And yes, another challenge. Next year I plan to be less ambitious.

    Rhinoa - I am glad you enjoyed it too! The book had an interesting premise and I liked the way the story unfolded.

    Nymeth - LOL Now I'm worried all the American Gods fans will be disappointed! I hope not though. Mythago Wood is a good book.

  9. I read this book several years ago, and though I enjoyed it I remember being somewhat haunted by it. Good read.

  10. It's not really my preferred genre, but my husband swears by Robert Holdstocks's Merlin Codex books. He has read Mythago Wood and tried to read Lavondyss but said it just wasn't as good. If something doesn't keep his attention, he doesn't even try to finish it. There's a third book in the Merlin Codex coming out this summer though!


  11. Laura - A book that haunts me usually is one I especially enjoyed. :-)

    Nicole - I will have to check out his Merlin Codex books. I probably won't be rushing out to find a copy of Lavondyss, although eventually I will want to try it.


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