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Read Lavondyss (2004)

Lavondyss (2004)

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4 of 5 Votes: 3
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0765307316 (ISBN13: 9780765307316)
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Lavondyss (2004) - Plot & Excerpts

4.5 stars, really, but I'm rounding up on account of Robert Holdstock's very heady signature cocktail of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Only it's not a cocktail at all, but a visionary paste made of viscous golden sap mashed up with wildwood and heartwood, berries and blossoms, vivid algae and foul fungal decay, marsh stems and leaves sharpened like arrows, a hallucinatory mixture to be daubed on the temples and third eye. Set aside your mortar and pestle and find a comfortable position as you join Holdstock in seeking Lavondyss.It's been a couple years since I visited Mythago Wood, and that gap made my experience of the sequel (of sorts) more intense and pleasurable, less familiar, even as I welcomed a return to the push-me-pull-you atmosphere of Ryhope Wood, England's last primeval forest. Holdstock created a landscape that is at once ephemeral and timeless, real and imagined, terrible and enchanting, easily encircled by footpaths and impossible to cross.Ryhope is impossibly vast with possibilities, and these are delineated only by the minds of those who interact with the place and its inhabitants, the strange, familiar creatures who once existed not in fact but in truth, because they are the heroes and villains of the stories we have told ourselves since the beginning to make sense of the life that has been thrust upon us. These mythagos live out their legends time and again; we glimpse them through the eyes of the seemingly ordinary English folk lucky or unlucky enough to live near the forest. "Do you think woods can be aware of people, and keep them at a distance?"In Lavondyss, those eyes belong to Tallis Keeton, who knows that a promise made is a debt to be paid. ("And a promise broke is a life choked.") She gives her word carefully, deliberately, just as she interacts with the forest with which she has had a special connection — through family, through proximity, through love and loss — since she was very young.The rules that bind the cautious, obsessive youngster feel logical, dangerous: she must know a place's name before it will guarantee her safe return. She carves masks into different types of wood and names them, too, with shamanistic certainty. She glimpses a long-gone world bedeviled by winter and a young man at its mercy. She falls in love. She prophesies the results of her own actions. She renders her parents entirely useless, which would be a narrative flaw if this series of books weren't so reliant on atmosphere. This is a book in which a boy's skin is described as "a confusion of leaves," in which birds take on sinister significance with their "endless fluttering of wings, intense and urgent pecking of beaks," in which a castle made of stones that aren't stone is "as fine to look at as the fine lines on a mother's face." Who needs parents when you've got a forest?What is a mother's kiss?The kiss of acceptance. The kiss of knowing. The kiss of grief. The kiss of love. There was no such thing as a mother's kiss. It was a kiss for all things. A son's kiss, too. It signalled the rightness of a deed. It signalled acceptance. It signalled love that goes beyond the love of a kiss. Yes. She knew it now.Several reviewers have complained about the slow pace, the relative absence of plot, the ensuing boredom. I felt none of this, only a deep-rooted desire to visit Ryhope Wood, somehow, and an equally unshakeable fear of what I'd find in my own head. Look: if the atmosphere doesn't do it for you within the first fifty pages, move on. Life is short. Better to find the book that makes your brain fizz and your heart race. Further to that advice, I don't know if this is the sort of book one re-reads. Other reviews with downgraded ratings suggest not. But to read it for the first time was harrowing and delightful.(view spoiler)[I generally try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but... well. A few points.- Tallis's very visceral transformation late in the book — evocative of Merlin's imprisonment in a tree, and yet so different — is one of the most beautiful and unsettling sequences I've ever read. In the best possible way, I feel as though I aged centuries in the reading.- the same time, I was struck by her behavior during her time in Lavondyss. Was Holdstock suggesting that Tallis in some way became a mythago herself, compelled to fulfill her own legend? "What mind had created this mythago, she wondered in astonishment."- I had so looked forward to another appearance from Mr. Williams, the Cecil Sharp-esque collector of songs, and was disappointed when he failed to return. Fingers crossed he shows up in one of the later additions to the series. (hide spoiler)]

I have a bad habit of overusing the word “haunting.” Ergo, I worry that when I use it here, it won’t pack the punch it really should. Let me just say, then, that when I say Lavondyss is haunting, I mean it. This book settled into my bones like a hard winter. It will stay in my mind forever. I feel like I’ve lived a whole second life by reading it, and I’ll probably read it again at my earliest convenience just to see if I catch anything I missed the first time. I had trouble getting into the previous book, Mythago Wood, but I was glad I read it and am now even gladder, as it provides lots of background that helps make sense of Lavondyss. Lavondyss feels more like a “straight” fantasy novel, though; while there is still the idea that people create mythagos with their minds and that many of the book’s mythagos are personally tied to its central character, to me it feels that this time the story and the world stand more on their own and have more of a life outside of the character’s psychology. I feel less like I’m reading a slightly veiled book on Jung and Freud, and more like I’ve been sucked into a seductive, visceral fairy tale. I’m yet again reminded of a work of nonfiction — this time Robert Graves’ The White Goddess — but this time the analytical part of my mind was content to curl up by the fire and let Robert Holdstock spin his tale.In Mythago Wood, Steven Huxley’s traveling companion was Harry Keeton. Lavondyss centers on Harry’s younger sister, Tallis. Born when Harry was already a grown man, Tallis only knew her brother briefly, but she and her family are haunted by his disappearance. Tallis is an uncanny, precocious girl with an instinctive gift for magic, and it’s simply enchanting to follow along as she learns the ways of the wood and its spirits. Eventually, she journeys into the wood on a quest to find her missing brother. What happens after that, I won’t spoil, since I want you to be able to discover it for yourself. It’s an enthralling story, though, sometimes sad, sometimes beautiful, sometimes scary as hell. There are layers within layers, timelines looping around themselves in ways that don’t become evident until later, and an ambiguous ending.I love ambiguous endings, and I hate them. I love them and hate them because they stick with me, nagging at my brain, never letting me forget them. I lay awake for hours after finishing Lavondyss, prodding at the ending in my mind, wondering whether the “happier” interpretation of the ending might actually be a sadder one. I simultaneously wished Holdstock had clarified it and was very glad he hadn’t. It’s more memorable this way, and fitting for the MYTHAGO WOOD universe.Lavondyss has everything I love in a book: compelling characters, vivid prose, mythic elements, art-as-magic, complex character relationships, and just the right amount of ambiguity. It’s a fairy tale, the old kind with blood and revenge and jaw dropping wonder. It’s the kind of book that, when you finish, you feel the urge to flip right back to the first page and start over. (The only reason I didn’t was that it was the middle of the night. Blasted day job...) Review originally published at Fantasy Literature's Robert Holdstock page.

What do You think about Lavondyss (2004)?

Rating: 2.5* of five (p79)BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGAs good as Mythago Wood was, that is how good this book wasn't.”I can't replace it,” Tallis called. “If it hasn't grown back then it wasn't meant to grow back. What can I do? I can't stick it back on. It's mine, now. The tine belongs to me, You can't be angry. Please don't be angry.”Broken Boy roared. The sound carried across the land. It drowned the somber tone of the Shadoxhurst bell. It marked the end of the encounter.The stag walked out of sight across the hill.Tallis did not follow. Rather, she stood for a while, and only when darkness made the woods fade to black did she turn for home again.”I turned for home again after that. Here, we are defining “home” as a gin bottle, a vermouth atomizer, and an icy cold shaker.For anyone still even slightly awake, Harry's sister Tallis goes into the wood to rescue him. (See last book.) Total snore. Don't care, don't want to read one more word about Ryhope Wood, and that is a crime. It's one of the most fascinating ideas I've read in a long time.And it just got goobered on. Damn! Blast! Hate that hate it hate it hate it!
—Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways

ANNOUNCEMENT TO FELLOW BOOK PROSPECTORS: Literary GOLD has been discovered....I am NOT hyperbolizing when I say that Robert Holdstock was a very special writer and his Mythago Wood Cycle is something unique and extraordinary in the world of adult fantasy, specifically mythical fiction. Like the “mythagos” of his stories, I consider Holdstock to be an archetypal figure representing the truly literate fantasy writers who steal our breath away and unleash our imagination with their eloquent, masterly prose. Those writers that we love but at the same time make us feel like children because we know we can never even approach their level of skill. Lavondyss is Holdstock at the peak of the summit of the top of his considerable game. Before I continue, I do want to caution potential readers of the following: as beautiful as the prose is, this is not an easy read and will take a commitment on the part of the reader….but it is SO WORTH IT!. As soon as I finished this book, I knew that I was going to have to read it again because the central concepts, the story arc and details are so complex, nuanced and subtle that a lot can be (and in my case probably was) missed the first time around. Even if I absorbed only a tenth of what was there…what a singular reading experience!!. I am probably going to do a poor job describing the framework of the story but here goes. The concept behind the Mythago Wood Cycle is that there is an ancient forest in England that has existed since man first settled there. Mythago Wood (and several other places like it around the world) acts as a sort of “nexus” through which contact with different… call them "places" can occur (i.e. planes of existence, realms of the multiverse or what have you). These places are the physical manifestation of the collective unconscious of mankind (dust off your Carl Jung and you will have the idea). These places are accessible only by certain gifted and sensitive individuals and time and distance are very fluid so you never know what might be just up ahead. In these "places" dwell or are created "archetypal" figures (called Mythagos) that have been represented throughout history by characters of legend from mankind's collective myths. For example, heroes like King Arthur, Hercules, Odin, etc., are all shadows or aspects of the Mythago representing “the outsider who through his talents grew to become a hunter, then a warrior, then a king and brought new magic or radical change to a people.” Thus, the Mythagos reflect the underlying concepts from which our collective myths originate rather than the well known reflections of those myths that populate our most famous stories. I know…it is a bit confusing and I am probably doing a crap nasty job of it. As original and thought-provoking as the central concept is, what really makes the story shine is the superbaliciously, beautiful prose of Holdstock. He is maestro like and reminds me a lot of Guy Gavriel Kay at his best (another author who I really like). If you have never read Holdstock, I strongly recommend that you read Mythago Wood and this book. As I mentioned above, these are not easy reads. This is especially true for this novel as it raises the bar considerably on the complexity and nuance that is only hinted at in Mythago Wood. I intend to re-read both this and Mythago Wood at some point as I think the enjoyment of the story may actually be better the second time around. For now, all I can say is that this was one of those truly special reading experiences that do not come along very often. 6.0 STARS. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!Winner: British Science Fiction Award Nominee: Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel

This book is so good. It's precursor, Mythago, won the British Fantasy Award and this deserved to, also. It calls out to the deep primeval subconscious that lurks within every civilized person; our primitive religious and totemic past, wandering through the steppes, girding ourselves with animal bones, listening to the words of the shaman. The main character is a teenaged girl with an obsessive interest in the nearby woods. The woods are teeming with mythological avatars and can be anytime in the past. Anyone who enters adds their own ancestral memories, so Arthurian legends co-exist with Greek demigods but not in straightforward way. Time bends and shifts. Inside the woods, it is always dangerous. All it takes is a handsome, dying, young warrior and sensitive Tallis is drawn into creating another myth.

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