After his post-WWII convalescence in France, Steven Huxley is returning to his family's home on the edge of Ryhope Wood, a patch of ancient forest, in Britain. For as long as Steven remembers, his father, who recently died, had been so obsessed with the forest that it destroyed their family.
Upon returning home, Steven finds that his brother Christian is quickly following in their father's footsteps — both figuratively and literally — for he has also discovered that this is no ordinary forest! It resists intrusion from Outsiders, time and distance are skewed there (so it is much larger inside than the 6 miles it covers in modern Britain should allow, and time seems to expand), and strange energy fields interact with human minds to create mythagos — the idealized forms of ancient mythical and legendary creatures, heroes, and villains formed from collective subconscious hopes and fears. So, for example, if you st... Read More
Robert Holdstock wrote under his own name and under several pseudonyms, including Chris Carlsen (Berserker), Robert Faulcon (Night Hunter), Robert Black, and Richard Kirk (Raven). Mythago Wood won the World Fantasy Award For Best Novel in 1985 and the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Award in 1984. Lavondyss, won the BSFA Award for Best Novel in 1988. Mr. Holdstock also wrote short stories and non-fiction. Learn more at Robert Holdstock’s website.
The Mythago Wood Cycle (Ryhope Wood) — (1984-2009) The Bone Forest is a collection of short stories; Some are related to The Mythago Wood Cycle. 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.
Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
Our FanLit Fearless Leader, Kat Hooper, has been urging me for aeons to read Mythago Wood. It took some squeezing to get it into my reading schedule, but I finally did, and I’m glad that I read it. I must admit, though, that I didn’t like it quite as much as Kat did.
As I read, the thought that nagged at my mind was that Mythago Wood reminded me of something. I was sure it was another novel, so I racked my brain to figure out what it was. It was at about the 200-page mark that the light bulb came on. It didn’t remind me of another novel, it reminded me of Jean Markale’s Women of the Celts.
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Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
Mythago Wood is a weird little book. In many ways, I can see why it flies under the radar. Robert Holdstock has good prose and introduces some fascinating ideas, but what he creates is definitely not mass-market fare. It’s still recognizably fantasy, but the darker side of fantasy. This is Tir na nOg by night, when the Technicolor dragons, irreverent pixies, and maniacal dark lords have all retired for the evening, leaving a brooding, uncomfortable stillness in their wake. “Uncomfortable” is actually a word I want to dwell on a bit in relation to this novel. Mythago Wood is a very well-written, very intensely imagined story, but there’s always something about it that feels just a little off. Holdstock gives his novel an ambiance that is very difficult to grow comfortable with, and whatever position I contorted my mind into, I never quite managed it.
The story follow... Read More
Lavondyss by Robert Holdstock
The wood sucks at the mind, it sucks out the dreams.
Many times I don't like sequels because there's nothing new to learn. Authors tend to give us all of their world-building in the first novel, so I'm often bored by a sequel. But Lavondyss blew my mind. It is, I have no doubt, one of the best fantasy novels ever written.
In Mythago Wood, Harry Keeton entered the forest with Steven and he's been there for years. We got the sense back then that Harry had some secret personal purpose for going in — it wasn't just to help Steven. His sister Tallis remembers him leaving when she was four years old. Her parents are distressed and assume he's dead. When Tallis hears what she believes is a communication from Harry and starts interacting with the wood, her parents think she's gone b... Read More
Lavondyss by Robert Holdstock
I have a bad habit of overusing the word “haunting.” Ergo, I worry that when I use it here, it won’t pack the punch it really should. Let me just say, then, that when I say Lavondyss is haunting, I mean it. This book settled into my bones like a hard winter. It will stay in my mind forever. I feel like I’ve lived a whole second life by reading it, and I’ll probably read it again at my earliest convenience just to see if I catch anything I missed the first time.
I had trouble getting into the previous book, Mythago Wood, but I was glad I read it and am now even gladder, as it provides lots of background that helps make sense of Lavondyss. Lavondyss feels more like a “straight” fantasy novel, though; while there is still the idea that people create mythagos with their minds and that many... Read More
Avilion by Robert Holdstock
At the end of Mythago Wood, we left Steven Huxley waiting for Guiwenneth to return from Lavondyss. Avilion is a direct sequel — the story of what happened when Guiwenneth came back. She and Steven have lived happily together for years and have two children, Yssobel and Jack.
Unfortunately, though, she’s not exactly the same woman she was before. Her ordeal with Christian has changed her and she and Christian (now leader of the time-travelling army called Legion) still haunt each other. Yssobel dreams of Christian and is intrigued by him, causing strain in the mother-daughter relationship, and perhaps danger to herself and the family. So Guiwenneth sets out to find and destroy Christian, Yssobel leaves home to find her mother, and Jack goes to Oak Lodge (where the Huxleys used to live) to try to find out how to track down Yssobel.
Tha... Read More
The Secret History of Fantasy edited by Peter S. Beagle
The basic premise of the SECRET HISTORY anthologies (there's also a science fiction one, The Secret History of Science Fiction, which I haven't read) is that there's a type of writing that got missed or buried because other things were more popular, more commercial, or dodged the spec-fic labeling. Certainly that's the thrust of Peter S. Beagle's introduction, and the two other non-fiction pieces by Ursula K. Le Guin and editor David G. Hartwell.
In the case of fantasy, this type ... Read More
The Merlin Codex — (2001-2006) Publisher: Centuries before he meets Arthur, Merlin wanders the Earth, eternally young, a traveler on the path of magic and learning. During his journeys, he encounters Jason, and joins in his search for the Golden Fleece. Hundred of years later, Merlin hears of a screaming ship in a northern lake, and divines that is the Argo… that Jason still screams our for his sons, stolen by the enchantress Medea and thought dead. But death is not the end, and Merlin’s trek to the North leads to the revival of both man and ship, with new companions and a new quest-to find Jason’s sons. Roving from the frozen north to the blighted island that will become Arthur’s realm, from the deep forests of ancient Britain to the sun-washed shores of ancient Greece, Merlin’s journey is an epic tale of mystery and enchantment.
Francoise Jeury — (1978,1991) Unknown Regions was also published as The Fetch. These books are about a psychic investigator.
Raven — (1978-1979) As Richard Kirk. Publisher: From out of the bonds of slavery there arose a warrior. A warrior feared across all lands, a warrior whose blade was stained with the blood of thousands — man and beast — who smiled as she killed, with hair as gold as summer sun, eyes as blue as the heavens, and a body which invited only love, yet dealt bloody, merciless death to her enemies.
Beserker — (1977-1979) As Chris Carlsen.
Ancient Echoes — (1986) Publisher: Jack Chatwin has visions. When the glimpses of this strange realm affect him, his body shimmers and the distant sounds of the lost world can just be heard. But is he witnessing events from the past, from the future, or from a world in parallel to his own?