Mythago Wood, by Robert Holdstock, is quite simply a beautiful book. It is a fantasy novel about the very nature of fantasy itself, about what it means to imagine.
Set after the Second World War, Stephen Huxley returns to his family home, Oak Lodge, on the outskirts of Ryhope Wood. It may appear like an ordinary enough ancient English forest, but Stephen’s father has spent the majority of his life researching some mysterious nature within. After his father’s death, he finds his brother has taken up the mantle of pursuing the secrets of the forest. And within Ryhope, are the mythagos, creatures from myth and legend that appear to the mind of ordinary humans, morphing into real flesh and blood creations. So the scene is set for one of the most beautiful books in the fantasy genre. Stephen’s encounters with the forest, the mythagos, his attempts to explore his deceased father’s journals and research, are wonderful meditations on the ability to imagine—a cornerstone of the fantasy genre. It is the most British fantasy I’ve read, too. Rob Holdstock writes with that tender, British touch—similar to Christopher Priest—elegant, slightly clipped. The essence of the forest, its sheer pungency, is all too real. He writes about ancient British myths in an ancient English woodland. It’s heady stuff.
I’ve actually met Robert Holdstock, and he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet in the genre. Even more of a reason to buy the book.
This book is a read for spring. To be accompanied with a slice of modern Folk music, as below, continuing my apparently unhealthy obsession with the music of Seth Lakeman.