Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Mythago Wood.I really don’t understand how it has taken me so many years to finally get around to reading this book. I’ve come across references to the book from time to time and been interested enough to look into buying it, but then complications have arisen. Holdstock wrote a short story, then a novella, and then a full length novel, all with the title Mythago Wood. He then wrote six more novels in the series, some being set before the events in Mythago Wood, and some after, and some having the words Mythago Wood in the title.
Publishers increased my confusion by bringing out collections of some of the books, but the original novel seemed to be out of print for a long time. So my rather pathetic excuse for not having read it is that I was never sure that I would be buying what I wanted. I eventually bought a secondhand paperback I found in a charity shop.
I’m glad to say that the position has simplified. A new edition has just been published by Gollancz and is available in print and ebook formats.
If, like me, you are a fan of fantasy then I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is simply brilliant – a worthy winner of The World Fantasy Award For Best Novel.
It is set in Ryhope Wood, which appears on maps as a small wood covering some three square miles, but it is a magical place where dwell the mythological creatures of ages long passed – the mythagos. Go into the wood and you enter a wild labyrinth which leads you through zones representing all the ages of mankind, and in each zone you’ll find (or they’ll find you) the mythological creatures created by mankind in that era.
In the finest Celtic tradition the story takes the form of a quest as two brothers each follow in the footsteps of their father, all of them searching for the enchanting woman they all believe left the wood to visit them in the family home that stands at the border of the wood.
Wonderful stuff!
You’ll find the new edition on sale on Amazon Mythago Wood (FANTASY MASTERWORKS)

The Book of Were-Wolves by Sabine Baring-Gould

The Book of Were-WolvesThis book isn’t an easy read. For one thing, it was written in 1865 which carries with it the usual problems of the writing style and idioms of a different time. For a second, there are lengthy passages in Latin and French that the reader has to translate. And finally, this is one of those free Kindle editions full of scanning errors. I know I shouldn’t complain after someone has given up their time to make a book freely available, so this isn’t a complaint, but an observation.

Having said that, this is fascinating reading for anyone interested in the derivation of the surprisingly-widespread werewolf myth. The author starts with the Ancient Greeks and then moves to the Icelandic Sagas where he finds examples of three different forms of lycanthropy. It appears that the Berserkrs have a lot to answer for. He then traces the spread of the myth through Europe following the spread of the Nordic tribes.

There is no doubting the strength of belief in the existence of werewolves. Baring-Gould quotes at length from various court reports involving cases of people being tried for being a werewolf, including the evidence supplied by witnesses, and even confessions.

We are also taken to Africa and North American for examples of belief in transformation, if not in werewolves.

As a bonus there’s a description of the derivation of dragon mythology.

Unfortunately, the book goes off track in the latter stages when the author covers, in great detail, court cases concerning acts of multiple sadistic murders which, horrifying as they are, seem to be examples of savage blood lust and nothing to do with werewolves.

I downloaded the free Kindle edition from Amazon. The Book of Were-Wolves

The Seven Champions of Christendom by W H G Kingston

Cover image The Seven Champions of ChristendomThis is a most peculiar book – and it probably takes a peculiar person to read it. There are various versions by different authors in a variety of formats for sale on Amazon and not one of them has a single review; I can’t say that I’m surprised, but I couldn’t resist the chance to be the first to risk it.

I’d come across the phrase, ‘The Seven Champions’, from time to time, but this summer when watching Seven Champions Mollies (a Morris dancing side) I decided it was time to check out the background.

This book was written by W H G Kingston in 1901, or thereabouts. It’s a re-write of one written by Richard Johnson towards the end of the 16th century that, according to Giles, needed an update to make it acceptable. Judging by the examples of Johnson’s prose that Giles quotes in his preface, he was probably right. Continue reading

Song of the Jikhoshi by Katie W. Stewart

cover image Song of the JikhoshiThis is the sequel to Treespeaker and to fully appreciate the book you will need to have read the first in what I hope will be a long series.

If Treespeaker proved to be your type of fantasy, as it is mine, then you will enjoy another delightful escape into the world of the Arrakeshi. Favourite characters return and the struggle between good and evil is even more titanic. Lovely stuff, beautifully written, and a very worthy sequel.

I bought my copy for Kindle from Amazon. Song of the Jikhoshi (Treespeaker Book 2)

Treespeaker by Katie W. Stewart

Cover image of TreespeakerI really enjoyed this book, and I’m sure that I would have enjoyed reading it any age from about twelve. This is the sort of fantasy that really appeals to me. There are no great battles, no super-heroes, no super-weapons. The struggle of good against evil is at a spiritual level in a world where the mind is open to the ancient magic.

Jakan’s tribe live in the forest, protected from the outside world by the veil. He is the Treespeaker, blessed with the gift of communication with Arrakesh, the spirit of the forest. He uses the gift to advise his tribe of actions they must take to preserve the balance of life in the forest and so protect their way of life.

A stranger arrives from the outside world who has somehow broken through the veil. Jakan senses the evil within him – a force so strong that Jakan cannot resist it alone. Arrakesh speaks to him and tells him to leave the safety of the forest to seek help. And so we have that other ingredient of many fine stories – a quest.

The book is beautifully written with excellent characterisation. There are no sub-plots to distract the reader; the tale flows from beginning to end with ample twists and turns to keep me turning the pages and to make me resent any interruption.

I bought it for my Kindle from Amazon where print copies are also available. Treespeaker: 1