Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
Tom Doherty, New York,1984
I own this one and it is my first read for Once Upon a Time V. Mythago Wood won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1985, it started out as a novella first published in 1981.
Set in the years just following World War II, Mythago Wood is the story of Steven and Christian Huxley and the house and land they have inherited following their father’s mysterious death. Steven returns from the war to find his older brother enthralled and obsessed by Ryhope Wood, an ancient forest that appears to be no more then about three miles square. But it is much bigger on the inside…
The wood is actually a parallel world, inhabited by mythagos, monsters, animals and humans created by the unconscious memories of the humans that surround it. These mythical beings are archetypes that vary depending the time period, thoughts and imaginings of the humans creating them. Steven and Christian’s father, George, spent years studying the woods and he has populated it with a great mix of creatures, some peaceful, some dangerous. When Christian finally disappears into Ryhope , and Steven meets a mysterious girl named Guiwenneth, he reads his father’s notes, discovers the truth about the place and eventually journeys into the deep darkness to save Guiwenneth and his brother.
The whole idea of the woods, held apart from interference and protected from change by its own defenses and the mythical beings that inhabit it is an interesting bit of world building. In some ways it reminds me of Green Mansions by William Henry Hudson. I found the wood and the mythical beings capturing my attention far more than the human characters, but I always did have a soft spot for monsters. This fantasy is well constructed if somewhat dated.