A haunting entry in the World Fantasy Award-winning Mythago Cycle
In Mythago Wood, Robert Holdstock gave us an intricate world spun from the stories of Irish and English mythology, a great forest steeped in mystery and legend, whose heart contains secrets that will change all who behold them.
Young Tallis is one such seeker. When she was just an infant, she lost her brother Harry to Ryhope Wood. Her adolescent fancies now cause her to suspect that he is still alive---and in grave danger. Tallis follows Harry into the primal Otherworld armed only with magic, masks, and clues left by her grandfather. Eventually the primitive forest gives way to Lavondyss itself, a fascinating and terrible realm where she is forced to confront the mythagos, physical manifestations of the legends of humanity's collective unconscious.
Join Tallis on her quest into the ultimate unknown, and be invited into one of the finest and most compelling mythologies you will ever encounter.
"A stunningly good book . . . conveys the haunting power of old heroes and lost gods."
"Magical . . . It is rare to find a sequel which measures up to its original; but Lavondyss surpasses it."
--Times Literary Supplement
About the Author
Robert Holdstock's novels include Mythago Wood, which won the World Fantasy Award; Lavondyss; and Gate of Ivory. He lives in London.
Read an Excerpt
By Holdstock, Robert
Orb BooksCopyright © 2004 Holdstock, Robert
All right reserved.
The bright moon, hanging low over Barrow Hill, illuminated the snow-shrouded fields and made the winter land seem to glow with faint light. It was a lifeless, featureless place, and yet the shapes of the fields were clear, marked out by the moonshadow of the dark oak hedges that bordered them. Distantly, from that shadow round the meadow called The Stumps, the ghostly figure began to move again, following a hidden track over the rise of ground, then moving left, into tree cover. It stood there, just visible now to the old man who watched it from Stretley Farm; watching back. The cloak it wore was dark, the hood pulled low over its face. As it moved for the second time, coming closer to the farmhouse, it left the black wood behind. It was stooped, against the Christmas cold, perhaps. Where it walked it left a deep furrow in the fresh snow.
Standing at the gate of the farm, waiting for the moment he knew, now, must surely come, Owen Keeton heard his grandchild begin to cry. He turned to the dark face of the house and listened. The sobbing was a brief disturbance; a dream perhaps. Then the infant girl was quiet again.
Keeton retraced his steps across the garden, stepped into the warm house and kicked the snow from his boots. He walked into the parlour, prodded the log fire with the metal poker until the flames roared again, then went to the window and peered out at themain road to Shadoxhurst, the nearest village to the farm. He could just hear, very distantly, the sound of carols. Glancing at the clock above the fire he realized that Christmas Day had begun ten minutes before.
At the parlour table he stared down at the book of folklore and legend that lay open there. The print was very fine, the pages thick and of good quality paper; the illustrations, in full colour, were exquisite. It was a book he loved, and he was giving it to his granddaughter as a present. The images of knights and heroes inspired him; the Welshness of the names and places made him nostalgic for the lost places and lost voices of his own youth in the mountains of Wales. The epic tales had filled his head with the sound of battle, war-cry, and the rustle of tree and bird in the glades of haunted forest.
Now there was something else in the book, written in the white spaces around the print: a letter. His letter to the child.
He turned back to the beginning of that letter, where the chapter on Arthur of the Britons began. He scanned the words quickly:
* * *
My dear Tallis: I'm an old man writing to you on a cold December night. I wonder if you will love the snow as much as I do? And regret as much the way it can imprison you. There is old memory in snow. You will find that out in due course, for I know where you come from, now...
* * *
The fire guttered and Keeton shivered despite it, and despite the heavy coat he wore. He stared at the wall, beyond which the snow-covered garden led to the fields, and that hooded figure, coming towards him. He felt a sudden urgent need to have done with this letter, to finalize it. It was a sort of panic. It gripped his heart and his stomach, and the hand that reached for the pen was shaking. The sound of the clock grew loud, but he resisted the urge to stare at it, to mark the passage of time, so little time, so few minutes...
He had to finish writing the letter, and soon. He bent to the page and began to squeeze the words into the narrow margin:
* * *
We bring alive ghosts, Tallis, and the ghosts huddle at the edge of vision. They are wise in ways that are a wisdom we all still share but have forgotten. But the wood is us and we are the wood! You will learn this. You will learn names. You will smell that ancient winter, so much more ferocious than this simple Xmas snow. And as you do so, you are treading an old and important pathway. I began to tread it first, until they abandoned me...
* * *
He wrote on, turning the pages, filling the margins, linking his own words to the unconscious child with the words of fable, forming a link that would be of value to her, one day in her future.
When he had finished the letter he used his handkerchief to blot the ink then closed the book. He wrapped it in heavy brown paper and tied it with a length of string.
On the brown paper he wrote this simple message: For Tallis; for your fifth birthday. From Granddad Owen.
He buttoned up his coat again and went back out into the cold, silent winter's night. He stood outside the door for a moment feeling frightened, very disturbed. The hooded figure had come all the way across the fields and was standing by the gate to the garden, watching the house. Keeton hesitated a moment longer, then trudged over to it.
Only the gate separated them. Keeton was shivering inside his heavy overcoat, but his body burned with heat. The hood was low over the woman's head and he could not tell which of the three she was. She must have been aware of his unspoken thought since she looked up slightly, turning to regard him. As she did so, Keeton realized she had been staring past him. A white mask gleamed from below the woollen cape.
"It's you, then..." Keeton whispered.
Distantly, moving down the slope from the earthworks on Barrow Hill, he saw two other hooded figures. As if aware that he had noticed them, they stopped and seemed to shrink into the whiteness of the land.
He said, almost bitterly, "I was beginning to understand. I had begun to understand. And now you're abandoning me..."
In the house, the child cried out. White Mask glanced towards the landing window, but the cry was another transient moment of disturbance. Keeton watched the ghost woman and couldn't help the tears that surfaced to sting his eyes. She looked back at him and he thought he saw some hint of her face through the thin holes that were the eyes.
"Listen to me," he said softly. "I have something to ask you. You see, they've lost their son. He was shot down over Belgium. They've lost him and they'll grieve for years. If you take the daughter, now...if you take her now..." he shuddered, wiped a hand across his eyes and took a deep breath of the frozen air. White Mask watched him without movement, without sound. "Give them a few years. Please? If you don't want me...at least give them a few years with the child..."
White Mask slowly raised a finger to the lips of the chalk-smeared wood which covered her face. Keeton could see how old that finger was, how loose the skin on the hand, how small the hand.
Then she turned and ran from him, her dark cloak billowing, feet kicking up the snow. Halfway across the field she stopped and turned. Keeton heard the shrill sound of her laughter. This time, as she ran, it was away to the west, towards the shadow wood, Ryhope Wood. On Barrow Hill her companions were running too.
Keeton knew the country well. He could see at once that the three figures would meet at the edge of Stretley Stones meadow, where five ogham stones marked ancient graves.
He was both relieved and intrigued, relieved because White Mask had agreed with his request; he was certain of it. They would not come for Tallis, not for many years. He was certain of it.
And he was intrigued by the Stretley Stones, and by the ghost women who were moving to rendezvous there.
The child would be safe...
He glanced round, guiltily. The house was in silence.
The child would be safe for a few minutes...just a few minutes...he would be back at the house long before Tallis's parents returned from the Christmas service.
Stretley Stones beckoned him. He pulled his coat more tightly around him, opened the gate, and waded out into the deep snow of the field. He followed White Mask's tracks, and soon he was running to see what they would do in the meadow where the marked stones lay...
Copyright 1988 by Robert Holdstock
Excerpted from Lavondyss by Holdstock, Robert Copyright © 2004 by Holdstock, Robert. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When she was five her grandfather gave her his greatest possession his book of myths accompanied by a letter containing hints about her missing older sibling Harry. Over the next eight years, Tallis turns into a believer in the shadows of the supernatural and magical realms that surround her home. Tallis also remains steadfast that her missing older brother Harry still lives, but somehow lost his way in the mystical Ryhope Wood. Now thirteen, she feels obsessed to help Harry, who she senses is in danger, but not sure from what................................... Taking the magic that her grandfather left her and using the clues in his letter, Tallis, frightened by the unknown she ventures towards, follows Harry trail into the Otherworld until the ancient forest turns into the horrific realm of Lavondyss. If she survives the early tests, there the Mythagos will confront the teen. Soon she will know that her goal is not just to try to save Harry, but to survive her ordeal............................ LAVONDYSS is a strong coming of age horror tale that teens and adult will enjoy. The story line is action-packed once Tallis takes that first step out of her haven into the realm of deadly mythos. The Mythagos is an intriguing creature created by the ¿physical manifestations of the legends of humanity¿s collective unconscious¿ of which Tallis¿ fears and courage surely adds layers. The story line never slows down as this sequel to the wonderful MYTHAGOS WOOD is a delightful stand alone tale that readers will shiver and appreciate as they join Tallis on her mission into the dangerous unknown............................ Harriet Klausner
WARNING - Contains major spoilers.---------------------------------------------------I'm not even sure where to begin. I don't even know if I like it or not. No, that's not right - I liked it a lot, it has had a huge impact on me. I guess I don't like how it ended - not the way it was written but what happened itself.I loved the first half of the book unconditionally (it's in two parts). It was set in the English contryside and the main character (Tallis) is a young girl growing up, interacting with the strange world of myth and wood. This was (relatively) straightforward and lovely to read, quite addictive in it's weaving of mythology and nature, growing up and the beautiful imagery it painted, the worlds it hinted at.The second half of the book begins very abruptly, with the young girl of the first half aged to her early twenties, a sudden shock that almost hits you in the face. She is in the mythological wood now, has been journeying for many years, and from here the book becomes progressively more confusing (in a way) and surreal. Yet not confusing in that you have no idea what's going on - the confusion lies in the nature of the wood and they way it is interlinked (is) the human subconscious, specifically that of certain characters. The book is much darker in the second half, more adult (she is adult) and the world and mythology and strangeness is seen now, not hinted at. It is still catching to read, but different, more stressful.Her relationship with Scathach in particularly touched me, perhaps because I have someone of my own. So much between them is missed out in the eight year jump in the story, all the good times, and now they are unsure of each other and their relationship. That he dies is sad, but didn't seem to affect Tallis as much I would have expected. At the end, I was happy to see them reunited, but they were old, and again we are told nothing of their time together - the prologue jumps to many years later and he is dead again, she dying. This, the prologue, was what troubled me the most. That her brother should find her as she dies - too late, and her quest all along was to find him and return with him to their parents. This is too heartbreaking, for it all to be for naught. She never even lived a somewhat happy and full life in the woods, as Wynne-Jones did - she lost the majority of her life span in Lavondyss, the heart wood, the First Wood, in her strange visioning and journeying (the most surreal part of the book). I kept expecting a happy ending, for it all to turn out right in the end, but it never did. It was one loss after another, a life ended in a barren and desolate place.Thus the ending troubled me, and troubles me still. I was too caught up in the characters, particularly Tallis and Scathach, to forget so easily, to really belive it was "just" a book. This is why I like happy endings. Perhaps there is another book? I must look. I know there is a prequel, Mythago Wood, which I will get.The mythology the author builds, the idea of it all, it is quite fascinating and eminently plausible. So real, so confusing.This is a book I would recommend you read if you have any interest in mythology, the origin and nature of myth. It is not an easy book, but I think it is worth it.
The best of the Mythago Cycle novels, Holdstock earns the accolades he's been accorded with Lavondyss. Wonderful characterization, tense plot, a Hardian sense of macrocosmic vs. microcosmic time. Absolutely haunting.I cannot help but feel Holdstock captures the timelessness of the Cotswold Hills of England, the sense of ancient, brooding intelligence that breathes in the landscape, and deftly knits that into a story that takes it into the realm of classic fairy tale in the tradition of the Brothers Grimm.Simply a beautiful story that you must read if you are a lover of environmental and historical fantasy.
Modern fantasy. Well written with excellent imagery.
I really liked the first book in this series, and did not enjoy this one as much. I thought it dragged, got way too convoluted, and was just plain too long. The concept of a faerie world right next door in the woods isn't original, but Holdstock did a good job with it in the first book. This one isn't bad, just a bit slow for me. Too bad the journey wasn't a bit more exciting.
A fantastic book, more accessible than Mythago Wood.
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!
Bigger and better than "Mythago Wood", the first book in the sequence.Ryhope Wood is a surviving piece of ancient forest in Southern England, a dangerous landscape where the archtypal figures of European myth can be encountered.I love this book.