Mythago Wood (Mythago Wood, #1)

By Robert Holdstock

Rating: 3 stars

It’s odd when something clicks and you go, “ah-ha”, followed by a cunning analogy for what you’re trying to figure out. For me, with this book, it was when we start to learn what are living in the depths of Ryhope Wood, I thought of the line “monsters from the id!” from the rock’n’roll musical adaptation of the rather marvellous Forbidden Planet. Although mythagos aren’t all monsters, it still felt appropriate.

The book, concerning the Huxley family, primarily younger son Steven, tells the story of what they awaken and what they have to deal with in Ryhope wood, a smallish patch of woodland on a large estate. But the wood is a remnant of the ancient woodlands that covered Britain in the ice age and beyond and within it time and space are warped, as avatars of mankind’s deep unconscious myths are created and recreated, one of which captivates George Huxley, and both his sons, and forms the tragedy of the family.

Mythago Wood has an epic, mythic quality to it. It feels less a fantasy story and more a retelling of stories and myths as old as our species. The book is told in the first person, by Steven Huxley, with a few interjections from a secondary narrator (in the form of his diary). Steven is a likeable chap, one of those fellows who went to war, came back and just wants to get on with his life (before the wood intervenes).

I’d say this was 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Oh, and considering how the myths that spawn the mythagos tend to go, I was pleasantly surprised that the ending was much more hopeful than I had anticipated.

Book details

Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 1984

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