on 23 April 2003
This is a wonderful book - the story is captivating, haunting, moving, terrifying, beautiful and, above all, it will make you think.
It's maybe not as immediately accessible as its' predecessor 'Mythago Wood', but the complexities of Lavondyss make it far, far more readable and as a result will sustain further re-readings.
If you like to THINK when you read a book and like to have your imagination fired with a wonderfully written fantasy, then give this a try. I doubt if you'll regret it.
on 29 April 2015
What a book. Robert Holdstock's imagination was absolutely phenomenal.
Of course he's taken traditional myths and folklore, but the way they have been woven into his story is truly wonderful.
The story is full of hope, enchantment, love and belonging interspersed with grief, cruelty and longing.
I never include a synopsis in my reviews - that's what the book is for, but the breadth of this particular tale is remarkable and each page brings fresh wonders.
A tremendous work to read as part of the Mythago Wood series or as a stand alone novel.
In the 1950s, young Tallis Keeton forms an unusual bond with the woodland that lies beyond her house, Ryhope Wood. But she cannot enter the wood until she learns the true name of the meadow that separates it from her home. As she struggles to achieve this, she realises her brother Harry is lost in the woodland, and to find him she must seek out the realm of ice and fire in the heart of the wood, the realm known as Lavondyss...
Lavondyss is a stand-alone companion novel to Robert Holdstock's earlier Mythago Wood. Although set after the earlier novel and exploring (tangentially) the fate of one of its characters, the book does not require foreknowledge of the first novel. Instead, it focuses on 13-year-old Tallis and her quest to find a way into the forest using rituals, masks and the power of myth and story.
Lavondyss is a brain-melting, complex novel that juggles a huge number of ideas and themes. Mythago Wood is an exemplary exploration of the ideas of mythology and where those images that resonate so strongly with us come from, but it's very much a high school diploma compared to Lavondyss' Ph.D in metamorphic imagery. Despite only being about 450 pages long, it took me weeks to read this book as I had to analyse and re-read almost every single paragraph to make sure I was grasping what the author was saying. Getting to the end and consulting the book's entry in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, I'm still not entirely sure I did 'get' it in the end, but looking at other online reviews it appears that this reaction is not uncommon. Lavondyss is an astonishingly dense and layered novel that I suspect will require multiple re-reads before a true comprehension emerges. In this regard, it is reminiscent of the Book of the New Sun, complete with its own not entirely reliable narrator (a 13-year-old girl's understanding of the world and what is going on not being entirely reliable).
The book is rich in images and ideas, but it also works as an exploration of character, through Tallis, her father and Wynn-Jones (a character mentioned briefly in the first novel, but here fleshed out), and the nature of obsession also plays a role. Holdstock's powers of description remain impressive, and although there's less exploration of the actual woodland (we're nearly halfway through the book before a visit to the wood's interior takes place), Holdstock's formidable abilities to create a woodland environment and make it so real you can almost smell it remains intact.
Lavondyss is darker than its forebear, digging even deeper into the real roots of mythology, Celtic and otherwise, into the blood and earth and sacrifice that our ancient ancestors indulged in. It is not an easy or always a pleasant read, but it is always a fascinating and thought-provoking one.
Lavondyss (****½) is a rich, mind-bogglingly complex and dense novel that sucks you into its tangled branches. It is a hell of a difficult read, but is ultimately highly rewarding. It is available now in the UK (either by itself or as part of an omnibus with Mythago Wood) and in the USA.
on 16 May 2003
Robert Holdstock is a story teller par excellance! He eshews the shining gothic traditions of much science fantasy writing, and tells his tales in 'warts an' all', brutal, dialectic detail. Few books resonate for so long after reading, so that one is compelled to re-read this tale set amid the 20th century, and set against the last 10,000 years of northen hemispheric legend. Read Mythago Wood, the first book, to ease your way into the masterpiece that is "Lavondyss"! A tale of obsession, courage, horned gods and dark longings, desparate quests and Vaughn Williams! A beauty.
on 1 May 2003
Lavondyss is the mythical place of renewal sought by Harry Keeton, the scarred pilot who accompanied Steve Huxley in Holdstock’s earlier book, Mythago Wood. This story follows Harry’s much younger sister, Tallis, who is connected from an early age with the magic of Ryhope Wood. She spends a childhood similar to that described in Arthur Machen’s “The White People”, wandering in and out of the magical realm, her games and play inseperable from ritual and magic. Finally she goes on a quest for her brother, who she realises is trapped in the depths of the wood. It’s a journey that takes her longer than she expects, and to a far stranger place than she imagined.
A bit of a shift in intensity from the first book, Lavondyss is much weirder. There is (at moments, quite literally) much less of a solid ground to the tale, as it sacrifices unity of story to the fantastic images and mini-dramas thrown up by its dream-like, shamanic logic. In this sense, it is a very different book to Mythago Wood — less a story, more a mystic vision quest. I think, though, that Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood series is less about following one story, and more about the accretion of mythical images, much like the magical wood itself.
on 9 May 2013
Mythago Wood series are really worth reading. Strongly recommended to anyone who's still interested in written fiction and definitely to those, who are interested in anthropology and European mythology.
on 24 May 2003
Its pretty clear from the size and complexity of this book that Robert Holdstock became emboldened by the success of the first novel in the series 'Mythago Wood'. Why else would he write a sequel twice the length and positively bursting with ideas. The daughter of our hero vanishes into the wood and he sets out out on an epic journey to find her. What follows is an dark magical tale not unlike the wood he travels through which will delight anybody who loves the power or myths and an imagination at the peak of its power.
on 23 March 2003
One of the most wonderfully imaginative, evocative, absorbing and compelling fantasy books that I have ever been fortunate enough to read. Truly awe-inspiring and also complex - this is most certainly a book that needs to be read time and time again as further reading will reveal more hidden complexities. However, you'll appreciate it even more if you read Mythago Wood first (by the same author - also a marvellous book). Simply wonderful.
on 23 July 2006
Lavondyss tells the story of Tallis, Harry Keeton's much younger sister. Tallis is a strange little girl who likes to listen to Gaunt the old gardner's folk tales, and to bards' songs. Finding the true name of a place and making strange masks out of dead wood and sun bleached animal bones are her favourite games.
One day, while playing in an old oak tree, she catches a glimpse of another world, where she witnesses the death in battle of a handsome young man named Scathach, whom she falls in love with.
Soon she'll understand that she's actually connected to the magic of Mythago Wood, and that she might be able to save her brother, who's been lost in the Wood for years, causing their father much grief. Several years later, deeming herself finally ready, she decides to enter the forest and look for Scathach, as well as for a way into Lavondyss, where she believes Harry is trapped.
To say the truth, even though I found Robert Holdstock's world building and myth creation rather impressive and enchanting, I really missed the presence of a strong story line to keep me in suspense, and as a result I found the book a tad boring at times, as well as confusing.
on 28 January 2007
Mythago Wood was not only a powerful creation, it made a great novel with a potent story line. Lavondyss suffers here. The creation is as powerful as ever, but the plot is weak, even confused. Holdstock spends pages in intense description of his mythical world which is vividly brought to life, but one is left with the feeling that his interest is anthropological. Lavondyss is more a depiction of the wood and its inhabitants, than a real tale to be told.
The character of Wynn-Jones seems to be Holdstock's alter ego, feverishly noting the comings and goings of the personages that appear randomly throughout the wood. But it is almost a train-spotter's interest. Ultimately, the reader can be impressed with the imaginative power, but the purpose of all this creation seems to be unclear. The narrative does not demand it and it appears to be for the sole pleasure of the author himself, or fervent admirers of the sword and sorcery genre.
Holdstock's worlds also lack a coherence. Are they of the mind, are they "real" within the logic of his own creation? Worlds contain others like Russian dolls. It becomes confusing and in many respects irrelevant. One is left with the impression that the author is "making it up as he goes along". The writing is always vivid and impressive but the reader may well find himself eager to turn pages just to get something to happen. After the tenth eerie depiction of a snow-storm, the reader's attention falters.
The atmosphere of the forest is unremitting and it is a heavy one. There is little to delight. Everything smells, sweats, turns to mould and dirt. The characters are violent, dangerous and uncivilised; the Wood always inhospitable. This is not Tolkien's Lothlorien. Thus one feels little inclination to immerse oneself in Holdstock's vision and the principal interest of the book is to read on to find out if the characters are going to be able to extricate themselves from it. For the reader, that deliverance will come when the final page is turned.
Not a bad book, but unless you are a true devotee of the genre and share the author's quasi-scientific, anthropological interest in mythological characters, not one you have to read.