The central premise of this book is utterly weird and original. I am hesitant of telling you about it because if I do, you will not be able to discover it for yourself. Let me just tell you this: it is set in 1944, in England. A small piece of forest in Herefordshire, unknown to the people at large, is still primal forest, unchanged since the end of the Ice Age. You can run around it in an hour, but enter it, and there seems to be no end to it after walking a day, a week. The Wood seems to generate mythical figures from our past. But how? And what is there to be found in the deep of the wood? The main character Stephen Huxley has already lost his father and brother to that mystery.
There is much more to it. Holdstock delves into the deep of human history, from the stories of Robin Hood and King Arthur down to the shamans of the Neolithic and the end of the last Ice Age. The deeper you enter the wood, the farther back in time we go. Heroes become more primordial. Mythago Wood is an exploration of myth and the primal forces of our subconscious, but set in an adventure of fantasy and horror.
Holdstock presents his story as real and rational, as a mystery that should be investigated, and when elements of fantasy suddenly strike it is scary, and should be scary. His story is a lot of things: it starts as a supernatural mystery with a 19th century feel, completely with semi-scientific diary entries, evoking Bram Stoker’s Dracula or the stories of Sherlock Holmes. Then it morphs into a horror story, and a highly emotional love story, and finally a quest of discovery, revenge and redemption.
Holdstock delivers it in elegant, neat and clear British prose. I can see this turn into a movie someday. Not often have I read such a rich and gripping novel. I recommend it to everyone.