Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn by Robert Holdstock

Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn book cover
Rating 9.0/10
Holdstock takes us right back to the beginning.

Ryhope Wood holds ancient secrets and memories – from legend, history, real and believed – that manifest themselves in physical form. Known as mythagos, they are unpredictable, dangerous and transient… because they are versions of famous heroes and heroines changeable according to how we see and think about them.

As a boy, Christian Huxley saw his father driven insane by his obsession with the mythagos. Worse, he witnessed his mother’s suicide after a terrifying raid from questing warriors who broke out of Ryhope Wood and into the present to retrieve a long-lost artefact. Years later, now a young man exploring the wood in his father’s wake, Christian makes an astonishing discovery that will lead him through a series of dangerous quests, a heart-wrenching love affair and the most difficult decision of his life. The ultimate prize is the Gate of Ivory, the gate of truth… the gate through which he can bring his mother back to life.

If you have not read Mythago Wood, it would probably be a good idea to read that book first, to get an idea of the immense world Robert Holdstock has created as well as a proper introduction to the Huxley family.

This book takes us back to the start of Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Cycle, which with Mythago Wood followed Steven, the younger Huxley brother, into Ryhope wood. This book instead shows us Christian Huxley’s odyssey into the wood before Steven comes back from the war. The Huxley’s have always been drawn to the wood by their father George Huxley’s obsession with it and the Mythago Guiwenneth.

The book starts with Christian remembering a truly horrific moment in his life, the death of his mother, and as an adult he has to deal with his father’s descent into madness and the return of a new Guiwenneth who will lead him on a quest into the centre of Ryhope wood. The whole novel resounds with quests: Christian’s quest to find out the truth of his mother’s death, which eventually leads him to Legion which is on a quest to the Gates of Ivory and of Horn. One gate leads to lies and the other to the truth. Legion itself is led by Kylhuk, who is surrounded by magic which can move them through seasons and time, hiding them from their many enemies. As part of Legion in a section called the Forlorn Hope, Christian is introduced and accepted by his Guiwenneth, someone who is on a quest to find his name and his purpose in life, Issabeau a pupil of Merlin’s and the Jarag.

The story also focuses on death and rebirth with each new generation; stories were added to the myths and legends of previous ages to allow them to make sense in that present age, which is why we are left with so many fragments of the same mythology and that is Robert Holdstock’s gift to us that he is twisting this mythology to suit his own needs and also introducing us to myths and legends we may not have been familiar with before this. All of this whilst keeping to the narrative history of his own created world. Each story giving us a larger view on an immense world which could just be a creation from a protagonists mind.

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