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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2009
It's a shame that Merlin's Wood or A Vision of Magic was never printed in the U.S. and has been out of print for 13 years. This book of one novel and two short stories is definitely an experience involving the imagination of a modern writer who has a unique approach to Fantasy.

The main novel is a meaningful work that falls outside of the genre of High Fantasy like Lord of the Rings, yet is engaging without using the mechanisms of popular "Genre Fantasy." The work is replete with magical and mythical vignettes, many of which are powerfully evocative of the primal and arcane. Midway through the narrative you can still expect to encounter some very interesting tales interwoven with the plot. In this work, the relationship between two well-known and powerful enchanters, Merlin and Vivien is central. In particular, the reader learns how their relationship has tragic consequences for a family living on the outskirts of Broceliande, a haunted sister-wood to Ryhope wood, the featured setting of the award winning Merlin's Wood. As usual, Holdstock focuses on familial relationships and loss involving a haunted and magical forest. The fantasy tropes at work here are loosely related to those in Mythago Wood, but unique in many ways. The tragedy of the main story progresses with an exordial horror.

The two short stories are interesting and engaging, yet disturbing on a primal level. This is a signature characteristic of many of Robert Holdstock's works. The first short story is an excellent and natural combination of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. The second short story features a repellent protagonist who would offend most sensibilities and focuses on the power of metamorphosis.

While everyone will not like Merlin's Wood, it is definitely a worthwhile read for those serious about the Fantasy Genre and fans of the Mythago Wood series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2009
One of the other reviews says this book's far fetched. Wouldnt it be dull if it wasnt? Its a fantasy book after all. And though a lot of the ideas have a lot in common with the Mythago series, its not strictly part of them. Its is however very good as are most of Robert Holdstocks books. So buy it and read it. Now!!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 July 2009
Fantasy, when done well, has the power to pull you out of your mundane life and transport you to new places, it's escapism at it's purest. What if those other worlds were right here though, all around us, glimpsed in the shadows of the wild places, well that's how myths and legends have evolved. What we need is an author with the power to invoke those myths and bring them to life, ladies and gentleman meet Robert Holdstock.

There can be very few of us who have not stood in a wild place and felt the power of the place, very few who have run our fingers down the carvings of an ancient rock and not felt a connection with the carver. There is something deep in our psyche, which despite the technological marvels all around us, can still connect to us to our past when, rather than just observers of nature, we were a part of it.

Merlin's Wood is a collection of five stories which take the ideas of mythology, nature, pagan ceremony and mysticism and fuse them in unique, entertaining and brilliantly imaginative ways. Merlin's Wood itself is a short novel which borrows from Arthurian legend and in particular Tennyson's Idyll's Of The Kings to examine the legend of Merlin and the enchantress Vivien. Martin and Rebecca grew up on the edge of Broceliande forest in Brittany and, along with others in the area, know of its legends and myths. Returning to their childhood home, following the death of their mother, their childhood experiences and encounters with the darker side of the forest are revisited. It's not long before they find themselves drawn into the ongoing mysteries with tragic results. It's a marvelous tale, richly written in a lyrical almost poetic prose. The forest is described beautifully and the sense of place is fantastic.

Scarrowell invokes mummers, lych gates, pagan ceremonies and ancient tradition in a Wicker Man like tale set in the eponymous village. It's once again quite brilliant in its mythic splendour and invocation of the sense of place.

Thorn is the tale of a young stonemason compelled to carve the head of a green man in a new cathedral. His compulsion and obsessions are explained when the face starts talking and it's true purpose is revealed.

Earth and Stone is an early Holdstock tale which imagines a time traveller visiting the magnificent ancient stone structures of Newgrange as they are built and determining their true purpose. It's perhaps the weakest of the tales here but it also shows how far Robert Holdstock has developed as a writer.

Finally The Bone Forest is the magnificent prequel to Mythago Wood, set in Ryhope Wood it explains the backstory to that tale and we finally find out how what drove Stephen and Christian's father to explore the forest.

These are tales of wild places on the edge of reality beautifully woven into engaging narratives, myths for the modern age no less. They draw on ancient tradition but only as foundation material on which to build a whole new mythology for the new age. Its great to see Robert Holdstock's groundbreaking work being republished and introduced to a new audience, it might not be the generic heroic fantasy which many fans have grown up with, it requires thought, imagination but it offers escapism and emotion of the purest kind. Whilst Mythago Wood is lauded by critics I feel that Merlin's Wood may be his finest achievement so grab the chance to read it while you can.
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on 16 November 2011
Great book. Thanks
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2014
Arrived in good time and well packaged. Got this as a present so cannot comment on the book itself but my husband really enjoyed it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2014
Enchanting and addictive.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2011
This is the first book of Robery Holdstocks I've read and to be honest I won't be rushing out to buy another. The story itself was "ok" but the authors style is very slow - I found it quite a test to finish the book but I soldiered on. The ending was was interesting albeit a bit of an anti climax and the authors style is quite dull.
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