© the estate of Robert Holdstock, cover illustration by Tom Canty.
The third book in the Mythago Wood series consists of a 90-page story featuring Huxley, the father of the protagonist in the first book, taking place when his sons were boys, and a half dozen shorter stories, none of which take place clearly in the Mythago Wood arena, though some might.
The title story is the long one, and while it does shed some light on Huxley’s explorations of the mysterious Wood full of myths come to life, I didn’t find it as inventive as the earlier books. It’s interesting to see the family interacting, especially after Huxley becomes somehow split into two people who visit the house at different times, one of the more creative aspects. Once in the Wood, things become ever more murky and unexplained, and this time that part of the story didn’t seem as fresh to me. Still, worth reading.
The other stories all have their moments, and all have some of the powerful mix of myth, magic, history and sexuality that the author seems to reach for in his work, but none really stood out for me as much as the first one. Perhaps the shorter length doesn’t work as well for Holdstock’s approach to storytelling, which relies on a slow build-up of strange frightening events, wondrous visions, and sudden conflicts, as well as settings and characters with deep roots in history and pre-history.
In all, I enjoyed this book, but hope further ones in the series are novel-length. Recommended.