Contemplative, impressionistic and suffused with aspects of the mythic, these pieces operate at times like prose poems, and they return to a key setting of The Old Ways: the secret spaces of southern England, the flashpoints and the hidden paths ... they offer not a guide so much as a set of glimpses, enhanced by Donwood’s vivid sketches, which resemble etchings in a fairy tale ... At heart here is a sense of inference, or influence; the way the present is imbued with the past ... a strangely lovely book, more complement than extension of Macfarlane’s work. But in their modesty, their open-endedness, these peregrinations recall to us that even the newest ground is also ancient.
Our intense and often fraught relationship with the natural world is an abiding theme in Robert Macfarlane’s books. Perhaps the most gifted naturalist working today, he is an intrepid explorer and poetic observer of lofty heights and everything in between ... This friction between nature’s vitality and humanity’s hubris is fascinating, but Ness is often disorienting...the story’s dramatic power is undercut by its strange mix of obscurity and unsubtlety. Mr. Donwood’s ink drawings are charming, but it is hard to evoke emotion with cross-hatching ... Holloway, written with Dan Richards, is more engaging ... this story demonstrates a keen ear for lilt and syllable, but its diction can verge on precious ... Anyone unfamiliar with Mr. Macfarlane’s work should probably not start with this book. Still, these stories convey his talent for elevating even modest wonders with sincere attention. Like the Apache an ocean away, Mr. Macfarlane approaches the natural world with humility and a deep appreciation for the spirits that haunt a landscape.
The authors’ voices meld wonderfully, and readers may come to feel that 'paths run through people as surely as they run through places' ... Complete with instructions for reading, this book showcases some of Macfarlane’s most genre-defying work.