The Hollowing - Robert Holdstock

As much as I enjoy the comforts and luxuries that living in a city offers, I would much prefer to leave all of life's trappings behind and escape into the forest. I spent my summers barefoot in the woods around our cottage, truly believing that there were fairies and gnomes everywhere. I spoke to them and they spoke to me; I felt I was their official protectress. To me a forest is a very magical place that is not only alive with plant and animal life, but that also contains a secret hidden world that you just have to believe in to experience.

Ryhope Wood, in Holdstock's The Hollowing, takes my belief to a whole different level. This forest is inhabited by mythagos; all of human kind's mythical creations from Jason and the Argonauts to Gawain and the Green Knight, from celtic heroes to every variation of Jack the Giant Killer. Although the wood seems like a magical place, it is also one of great danger to the characters exploring there. Time runs differently and mythical monsters stalk through the trees.

The story follows Richard Bradley on a search through Ryhope Wood for his lost son, Alex. A series of strange events occur, beginning when Richard discovers a mysterious letter that leaves him in confusion. When James Keeton, missing for a year after entering the Wood in search of his daughter Tallis, appears in the headlights of Richard's car, life becomes stranger still. James, clutching a wooden mask and unresponsive, only seems to find comfort in his daughter's friend, twelve year old Alex.

Alex spends most of his time with James, trying to help his lost friend's father. When, in a moment of rare lucidity James claims he can see his daughter through the wooden mask, Alex places his face to the mask to see for himself. As soon as Alex looks in the mask he is propelled across the room with great strength. James falls dead and upon awakening, Alex has reverted to an unresponsive state, much like James.

After about a year, Alex disappears and his body is later discovered. Alex's death is too much for his parent's marriage and Richard moves to London to wallow in his grief. But, on a trip home, Richard meets Helen Silverlock and discovers that his son is indeed alive, but is hidding somewhere in Ryhope Wood. It is here that Richard's adventures begin, while he searches through a truly magical and terrible forest to reunite with his lost son.

An entertaining story. I will definitely read the other books belonging to the Mythago Cycle. I loved meeting my favourite characters from mythology and only wish that I could walk into the forest and be transported to a different world.

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