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Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn (Mythago Wood)…
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Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn (Mythago Wood) (original 1998; edition 1997)

by Robert Holdstock

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293457,000 (3.74)12
Member:weatherglass
Title:Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn (Mythago Wood)
Authors:Robert Holdstock
Info:Roc Hardcover (1997), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:sff, fantasy

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Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn by Robert Holdstock (1998)

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At the heart of this fantasy is the medieval Welsh Arthurian tale of Culhwch and Olwen, but there are also echoes of other Celtic texts including The Spoils of Annwn, motifs from classical mythology and references to more recent fiction such as Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian Huxley, like his father before him, ventures into an ancient woodland — Ryhope Wood — peopled by figures from myth and legend and emanations from dreams and imaginations, following a personal quest born in tragic circumstances.

Woods and forests are places of mystery and adventure where anyone can imagine meeting Robin Hood or Tarzan or a coven of witches or a brood of dragons — Holdstock knows this and it’s this which gives his story its daydream-like quality, despite it frequently descending into nightmare. The story draws you in and along, despite apparent inconsistencies, with a rare sense of urgency. I read Holdstock’s Mythago Wood some time ago but though I missed the intervening volumes I was just as enchanted with this title, set in the same magical Celtic milieu.

An original but sympathetic approach to the Matter of Britain then, but don’t mistake it for Rachel Levy’s classic 1948 study The Gate of Horn (coincidentally published in the year of Holdstock’s birth), with which it shares similar material and which it was presumably inspired by. And don’t be put off, as I was, by his idiosyncratic transliteration of Celtic names and occasional mistakes. For example he has ‘Trwch’ for Twrch Trwyth, where twrch is Welsh for ‘hog’, the mythical beast chased by Arthur and his men over South Wales, including the hills where I live: from our garden I can see, a mile away to the north, the vast bowl-like coombe where Arthur’s sons died in combat with the giant wild boar and his offspring.

http://wp.me/s2oNj1-ivory ( )
1 vote ed.pendragon | Nov 20, 2012 |
In "Mythago Wood", Steven Huxley came home after WWII to find that his Father and older brother Christian had disappeared into Ryhope Wood. This prequel covers Christian's encounters with the figures from the wood as a child, and his decision on returning from the war to follow his crazed father into the wood. Once in the wood he becomes caught up in the playing out of a quest from Welsh mythology (the tale of Kylhuk's quest to win the hand of the giant's daughter Olwen), and realises that he is on a quest of his own.

It is George Huxley's decades long obsession with the mythagos and his frequent incursions into Ryhope Wood that have increased the number and power of the mythagos within its bounds. And I think it must be his desire for the Guiwenneth figure which has caused Guiwenneth mythagos to be generated for both his sons, personifications of the same heroine from different versions of her myth.

I liked this more than "Mythago Wood", and nearly as much as the fabulous "Lavondyss". It explained a lot of things that were left as mysteries in the first book, since that was told from Steven's point of view and he had very little idea of what his father and brother had been up to while he was in France. ( )
1 vote isabelx | Apr 24, 2011 |
[CONTAINS SPOILERS]

This is part of the series of Mythago Wood books (also including Maythago Wood, Lavondyss and The Hollowing, plus a few short stories), although they are rather loosely connected. The first book, Mythago Wood, is the story of Steven Huxley and his experiences in the wood and with the girl Guiwenneth, and his bitter and twisted brother Christian who is trying to steal Guiwenneth back for himself and kill Steven in the process. This book, Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn, tells Christian's story, before Steven gets involved - his first experiences in the wood and with Guiwenneth. In this book, he is a very different person, and you see little of who he is by the time of Mythago Wood, only a matter of years later.

Thus having read Mythago Wood first, it is a little difficult to know what to make of Chris in this book, having such pre-concieved feelings against him. As it was, he was mostly likeable, but there was still something odd, although this book doesn't really explain how he became so bitter and angry, and indeed evil. That is more left to the reader to decide in the early parts of Mythago Wood.

The story telling in this perhaps didn't lend itself as well to character development - it was very much in the traditional storytelling vein of celtic oral tradition, like the stories on which the book draws heavily. For example, the tale of Culhwch and Olwen from The Mabinogion forms the core, and the book does read somewhat in the fantastical and darkly humoured style of these old tales, which we are not used to any more. It also made reading it a little more complex than usual, and sometimes more difficult to follow the meaning of. It's the sort of book where at parts I feel I'd missed something deep and significant in a turn of phrase or seemingly insignificant event, but that continue to elude me.

In all, I liked it, although I have still to read a book as powerful as Lavondyss - it does not match up to that for me. He is another author that doesn't avoid bodily functions and parts, which I'm not too keen on, but it's bearable, for the most part.

I've just started another novel in the series, The Hollowing, which it set very shortly after Lavondyss, although any crossovers appear to be incidental in nature for the most part. ( )
1 vote nimoloth | Sep 11, 2008 |
it's alright. a little too over the top in the fantasy world for me. ( )
  flutterbyjitters | Jul 5, 2007 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Holdstockprimary authorall editionscalculated
Howe, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rostant, LarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walotsky, RonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451458575, Mass Market Paperback)

In this Locus Recommended Read by the author of Mythago Wood, Christian Huxley enters the strange, remarkable world of Ryhope Wood in search of his missing father.

"One of Britain's best fantasists." (London Times)

"The finest writer of metamorphic fantasy now working." (Washington Post Book World)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:48 -0400)

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