Robert Holdstock biography and books reviewed

Robert Holdstock was born in Hythe, Kent. He became a full-time writer during 1976 and lived out the rest of his life in North London. He died in hospital at the age of 61, following his collapse with an E. coli infection. His breakthrough novel Mythago Wood was published during 1984. The book marked the beginning of the Ryhope Wood series and is recognized as Holdstock's first major fantasy work. From 2001 to 2007 he produced a trilogy of fantasy novels, the Merlin Codex, consisting of Celtika, The Iron Grail and The Broken Kings.

Robert Holdstock is placed in a quartet of fantasy authors (also including Ursula Le Guin, John Crowley and Marion Zimmer Bradley) renowned for writing fantasy books that come close to J. R. R. Tolkien's work in regards to breadth and depth of imagination.

Robert Holdstock reviews

Merlin's Wood by Robert Holdstock

In the depths of Broceliande - an ancient French woodland - Merlin and the enchantress Vivien play out their deadly feud. Meanwhile, a child is born deaf, dumb and blind. His senses return at the expense of his mother's, who must discover the wood's mystery and set the combatants free.

"I initially picked up this book as it seemed that it was part of the Mythago Wood Cycle but the book turned out to be a standalone story that is a set in a different wood in another country. Maybe it was added as part of the cycle because of the short stories that can be found at the end of the version I read… In Merlin’s Wood there are a few similarities, with the wildwoods and heartwood, but the actual story is fundamentally different in nature as this wood seems to be enchanted by Merlin, hence the title."

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Ancient Echoes by Robert Holdstock

Chatwin has visions of a parallel world where a couple are fleeing some terrible event pursued by an enemy and are seeking a gate to freedom. Chatwin is the gate, and when only one of the pair manages to escape, a struggle ensues between the other world and that of Chatwin.

"Robert Holdstock’s greatest gift was to imbue his characters from other times and other realities with characteristics that express their motives and drive without trying to make them modern. His mythological knowledge allows the worlds he creates to feel as if that they could be proto-mythology that we know. It is similar to studying comparative mythology and twisting it to your own needs." Fantasy Book Review

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Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Deep within the wildwood lies a place of myth and mystery, from which few return, and none remain unchanged. Ryhope Wood may look like a three-mile-square fenced-in wood in rural Herefordshire on the outside, but inside, it is a primeval, intricate labyrinth of trees, impossibly huge, unforgettable... and stronger than time itself. Stephen Huxley has already lost his father to the mysteries of Ryhope Wood. On his return from the Second World War, he finds his brother, Christopher, is also in thrall to the mysterious wood, wherein lies a realm where mythic archetypes grow flesh and blood, where love and beauty haunt your dreams, and in promises of freedom lies the sanctuary of insanity...

Robert Holdstock was a famed fantasist during his lifetime and created a whole cycle of stories around Ryhope Wood, with this being the first book. The book is well written and draws you in so that, although you may not always understand what is happening to Steven as he is drawn further into his quest, by the end of the book, for all its savagery, you are hoping that there is, somewhere in this world, a wood like this in existence.

"Mythago Wood is a fantasy masterpiece." Fantasy Book Review

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Lavondyss by Robert Holdstock

In this, the second part of Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Cycle, we are drawn into the world of Tallis Keeton, the sister of Harry Keeton, who disappeared in Mythago Wood. Tallis is on a quest to find and rescue her brother from the lost realm of Lavondyss and she has much to learn on the way while discovering the essential nature of the forests she enters. We follow Tallis from birth all the way through to death and rebirth.

"Lavondyss is a very interesting and complicated book that goes back to the earliest form of storytelling."

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The Hollowing by Robert Holdstock

Although I have enjoyed all of the books in the series so far this has been the best structured with a true destination to get to after a long struggle encountering many myths that have been twisted for the situation. The character of Richard is very well written and believable as a man grieving for the loss of his son, but also gaining a better understanding of who he is. The series as a whole is gripping and I would say that apart from the short stories in The Bone Forest the books I have read so far should be read in the order that they have been written.

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Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn by Robert Holdstock

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.

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Avilion by Robert Holdstock

This book also shows the evolution of Robert Holdstock’s writing, especially if you were going to read Mythago Wood and Avilion in that order. I felt that the book flowed really well, whether it was because of the familiarity of the characters or knowing that this was closure to a very good series, but I felt satisfied with this conclusion.

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