I've been looking for a book for over ten years now on and off that I read and loved as a child but misplaced in a house move.
I'm not 100% sure of the title, but I believe it's called The Wizard of the Wood or Woods. I've been using that title to search many online databases over the years with increasing levels of frustration.
My book had an illustrated cover that looked (to my childish eyes) to belong in the 1970s or earlier.
It was an A5 paperback novel maybe just over a centimetre-and-a-half thick, and it was pretty well-worn.
I can't remember the main character's name but either he or the eventual antagonist was called Matt or Matthew.
The story follows an astronaut who is tasked with investigating the disappearance of a shuttle in the vicinity of a small forest planet. This poor man is dragged suddenly down to the surface of the planet as soon as he gets close, and after crash-landing in the middle of the forest, he realises that the planet's magnetic field caused his (and presumably the other pilot's) crash.
None of the instruments or equipment work - he can't even prise his weapon off the ground - which explains why the other pilot never made contact or sent out a distress signal.
However, there is a part of the ship which is a super-cooled metal rod which, with special gloves, our hero removes for use as a weapon.
Now stranded on this tiny forest planet, he is soon found and taken in by the local forest community, with whom he communicates through drawing pictures in a sand box until he learns their language.
The people he lives with are quite a weak tribe. There is some sort of tournament which involves staff-fighting in which the MC, for some reason, must compete. The strong tribe lives among hardwood trees, which is why they tend to win as their staffs don't break as easily. I think this may be when the MC goes back to fetch the metal rod, knowing it won't break against the hardwood. Plot ensues and the next thing I remember is that the MC is now travelling.
Along the road he meets a masked warrior woman (Thalia? Really don't remember her name sadly) who is eventually revealed to have a scarred face from an accident with her father's forge as a child, after which her mother took her away with her to the masked-women-warrior-group (or something) which she later left, for some reason. I think she's the love interest.
Also, the MC meets a boy called Thatch (named for the colour and texture of his hair) who's maybe twelve and lives in a coastal community of wooden houses on stilts.
At some point I think something is burned down and bad things start happening and it is eventually revealed that the other pilot survived his crash-landing as well and has set himself up as some sort of warlord/shaman/wizard (which is what everyone thought the MC was with his metal rod and weird gloves).
Other pilot has been plotting and raising an army, for some reason, and MC wants to stop him doing the Ultimate Bad Thing, whatever that is, and for some reason decides to set up a corral and get his friends to help him catch and train wild horses to give themselves the edge on the battlefield by having cavalry.
I can't remember how it ends (though obviously it ends well for the protagonists). Does anyone know what this is?