Jared Logan's Reviews > Mythago Wood

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
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's review
May 04, 2011

it was ok

What starts as an intriguing concept begins to unravel due to poor pacing and plotting.

The premise of this one is really, really high-concept and it is thus:

A family lives near an ancient 'old-growth' wood. This is a small forest that has existed since medieval times and even back before that. The father, a scholar, is obsessed with the wood and often disappears for weeks at a time to plumb its depths. Why he is gone for that long is a mystery to his family because, you see, the wood is not very big. After his death, his sons discover his journals and learn of the paranormal nature of the wood. The forest generates "mythagos", which are basically legends come-to-life: dangerous Robin Hood-type archers, celtic folk heroes, slavering beastmen. The world inside the wood is much larger than it appears from outside. When both brothers fall in love with a nature goddess mythago that strays from the wood, things get even weirder (and more nasty!)

The writer Holdstock produces good solid prose but the very nature of the fantastical premise leads to sloppy plotting. The wood changes according to the perceptions of those traveling through it. The Mythagos, if destroyed, return later, alive and well. Basically, the entire tale is a journey into the collective unconscious. Very Jungian. Very Joseph Campbell. But I tend to dislike stories where the line between real and imaginary is too thin because there are no rules, so there is no meaning and there are no stakes. That's the problem here.

Also, the characters aren't extremely believable. The principle protagonist learns of the unbelievable powers of the wood and believes it immediately. His love for the nature goddess seems coerced by her magical animal magnetism and not a real relationship, so it was hard to care about them being together.

Many pages are spent delving into the past of the father but we learn early on what has happened to him. His backstory seems kind of moot after we learn his final fate. I kept thinking there was some revelation waiting in this back story but there wasn't.

The author is good at atmosphere and building a mood. The book definitely has a sense of the creepy and mysterious. That's the best thing I can say about it.

It may have won a World Fantasy Award in the 1980s, but I say give this one a pass.
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Anton It feels so good when somebody else can express your thoughts better than yourself. Thanks.

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