At the end of Mythago Wood, we left Steven Huxley waiting for Guiwenneth to return from Lavondyss. Avilion is a direct sequel — the story of what happened when Guiwenneth came back. She and Steven have lived happily together for years and have two children, Yssobel and Jack.
Unfortunately, though, she’s not exactly the same woman she was before. Her ordeal with Christian has changed her and she and Christian (now leader of the time-travelling army called Legion) still haunt each other. Yssobel dreams of Christian and is intrigued by him, causing strain in the mother-daughter relationship, and perhaps danger to herself and the family. So Guiwenneth sets out to find and destroy Christian, Yssobel leaves home to find her mother, and Jack goes to Oak Lodge (where the Huxleys used to live) to try to find out how to track down Yssobel.
That sounds simple enough, but nothing is simple when it involves the strangely changing Ryhope Wood, recognizable characters who are mythical or legendary archetypes and not necessarily real historical figures (e.g., the Morrigan, Peredur, Odysseus, King Arthur), and Robert Holdstock’s out-of-sequence storytelling and dreamy style.
The result is, as usual, an enchanting story with lots to think about, but lots of confusion, too. Avilion brings in some of the seemingly disparate elements found in other Mythago Wood books, but inexplicably neglects to mention people or events that have previously been important. The entire Mythago Wood series, but Avilion especially, is patchy and vague, like a dream sequence. In this novel there’s not much plot and it’s written in several shifting points of view, so though I enjoyed the ideas, the inventive use of familiar mythology, and the overall effect of the style, I was not as engaged with Avilion as I had been with Mythago Wood and Lavondyss.
Jack is an agreeable new character and I enjoyed the chapters written from his POV, but Guiwenneth is now completely unlikable, Yssobel is hard to relate to, and Steven, who was an admirably bold and energetic man in Mythago Wood, is now weak and fretful. The story, unlike its predecessors, is filled with more depression than wonder.
It’s hard to fault Mr. Holdstock for doing again what he does so well, but most of the charm of Mythago Wood was its inventiveness. Avilion will be incomprehensible to someone who hasn’t read Mythago Wood, but those of us who have read it have “been there before.” Without engaging characters or much plot to hold it up, Avilion just doesn’t work as well. Those who want to know how the story ends (does the story ever end in Ryhope wood?) will want to read Avilion, and will enjoy being immersed in Holdstock’s dreamy world, but they shouldn’t expect to have their minds blown again.
The Mythago Wood Cycle (Ryhope Wood) — (1984-2009) The Bone Forest is a collection of short stories; Some are related to The Mythago Wood Cycle. Publisher: The mystery of Ryhope Wood, Britain’s last fragment of primeval forest, consumed George Huxley’s entire long life. Now, after his death, his sons have taken up his work. But what they discover is numinous and perilous beyond all expectation. For the Wood, larger inside than out, is a labyrinth full of myths come to life, “mythagos” that can change you forever. A labyrinth where love and beauty haunt your dreams… and may drive you insane.
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