Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This one's for you, Love...

Kyle and I don't really have a lot in common. We're pretty much polar opposites. So naturally, our reading lists are quite different. I grew up with Harry Potter (which I'll defend to the death), and he has been an ardent fan of the Brian Jacques Redwall Series for years. We've been trying to convince each other of the virtues of our favorites since we've been together, but I didn't understand what I could possibly derive from reading a book about mice with swords and he... Well. I can't speak to his reasoning.

I finally caved and gave Redwall a go. It actually wasn't half bad. (NOTE: I said "not half bad." Harry Potter still reigns supreme.)

The novel follows the classic hero's journey of Matthias, a young orphaned mouse living in the haven that is Redwall Abbey. The abbey provides shelter and safety for any living creature that seeks it. (Except for those treacherous snakes, of course.) Jacques describes every inch of the structure in great detail, making it seem the perfect refuge: calm, beautiful and tranquil. It's towers and great outer walls fit the bill of a traditional medieval castle...but in miniature.

The creatures of the abbey live in perfect harmony until the infamous Cluny the Scourge and his hoard of rats come calling. The fiend decides he wants the fortress for his own uses, waging war and laying siege against the peace-loving woodland animals. Guided by Father Abbot Mortimer, the wise old record keeper Methuselah, and fierce fighting badger Constance, Matthias is able to rise to the occasion and become another legendary warrior of Redwall.

The novel is written in from a narrator's all seeing eye, which builds suspense as our main characters go off on separate quests since the narrative jumps from action-packed scene to scene. The battles are penned skillfully and with enough detail to satisfy even the most finicky of audiences. The plot moves swiftly, keeping us thoroughly entangled from start to finish. The story is one of virtuousness, courage, and the power of hope in the face of utter despair. It's even speckled with a bit of romance. Who'd have thought?

I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. However, there is the issue that the book is, in short, about cute little mice running around with swords. While the plot is good and the characters are believable, it's obviously meant to be read by a much younger audience. I couldn't help but think "Oh, how adorable!" at the most inconvenient moments. If I'd grown up reading this series I'd probably have a much deeper attachment, but as things stand it's just a great way to pass a rainy day.

Would I recommend it? Definitely. In fact, I'll probably continue on with the series. Would I guarantee you'll love it? Only if you are under the age of thirteen. At the very least, it would make a most excellent bedtime story for your kids. Who knows? You might look forward to their bedtime reading as well. ;)

[This review is also featured on PTBC.]

PS -- Don't forget to submit your questions for the blog-sprucing Q&A next Monday!  Email/comment me your questions here by this Saturday, May 1st at 11:59 pm to have them included in the post.


  1. It's great that you gave Kyle's preference a go - it means you discovered something new!

    Spud and I are complete opposites too but he doesn't read any fiction at all (shock horror!) whereas I'll read most fiction.

  2. I love Redwall! Our family owns all the books in the series but one, and it is still a favorite of mine (even at fifteen!) I do love harry potter though! I think there's a place in the literary world for each, and in my opinion, the Harry Potter books were rather juvenile as well until the fourth book. I don't know, I guess some books just have to grow on you :)

  3. Anna: I agree with you. In fact, when I recommend the HP books to an older audience I always tell people to watch the first three movies, start reading at four, and then go back and read 1-3 later. ;)

  4. I've actually never heard of this book. I might have to give it a try!

  5. Oh, so you were one of those poor suckers who got into Harry Potter BEFORE Redwall? Tsk tsk. Did you miss out.

    And while I agree that they're for a younger audience (author Brian Jacques actually got his start telling stories to children laid up in hospitals) even I still find something to appreciate when I go back and look at the series (I have every Redwall book he ever wrote, except Eulalia!, the most recent).

    This is (ahem) an integral part of my childhood, Redwall. Thanks for posting. Gratifying to know there's yet another person in the world who knows about it.

  6. Jen: You definitely should.

    Postman: I really wish I'd discovered them both around the same time. :/ Would have given me something to do while waiting around for HP releases. ;)

    Kyle now has all the books too. I kind of went a little crazy and bought him all of them for his birthday last year. :]

  7. You're keeping them safe snuggled up with your collection too, right?

  8. :] Of course. They occupy most of the third shelf down from the left. They're right next to my Victoria Holt novels.

  9. @Postman actually the most recent Redwall book is The Sable Quean, it came out in February. And before that, Doomwyte came out in 2008.


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