The Tales of Redwall is a series written by Brian Jacques and was started in the late 80s. It is a medieval fantasy series where the characters are semi-anthropomorphic beings that follow a hierarchy similar to their counterparts in nature. There are several books in this series and today I will be reviewing the first; Redwall.
With that said, let’s start the review!
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A Short Summary
In this book, the story is about Redwall Abbey, a humble abbey where mice and other friendly creatures reside. Being peaceful creatures who either heal the sick or farm or fish, it comes as a shock to them all when a band of bandit rats, led by a sea rat named Cluny the Scourge, puts their abbey under siege.
The creatures of Redwall must take up arms and defend their abbey, the main defender being the brave mouse Mathias, who has often dreamed of becoming a warrior. Fate has allowed him to do so and he faces many challenges that test his courage and strength throughout the novel.
It’s a story that should sound very familiar as it is a story as old as time; good vs evil, the pursuit of peace through a battle with those who seek to harm. Yet, war is one part of the novel, as many adventures add to the story in the quiet moments.
There is an array of characters, so in the interest of saving time, let me talk about the main characters that should interest you.
First, there is Mathias. Mathias is a small, naive mouse, who aspires to take up the sword and become a brave warrior like Martin the Warrior, an important mouse in the history of Redwall. His instincts are great, but his resolve is often tested. Mathias faces difficult challenges throughout the book.
Next, Cluny the Scourge. As I said before, Cluny is a sea rat, with a long tail that he often uses as a whip. He is a vicious warlord, seeking to conquer and destroy, growing his army as he razes peaceful places to the ground. Cluny sets his eyes on Redwall and the creatures of Redwall are understandably afraid.
Cluny has a large army, filled with rats, stoats and weasels. He also has various captains, each one ambitious and blackhearted, just like their leader.
When it comes to the contents of Redwall, many play key roles in the defence of the abbey. There is Constance, a badger, strong and fierce. Her strength is bolstered by her smarts, making her an excellent defender. The abbey is ‘led’ by an Abbot Mortimer, a wise old mouse who knows nothing of war and fighting, preferring to heal. He leaves the fighting and planning to these trusted friends, but is a source of counsel always. There are more characters introduced throughout the book, but these you will be presented with from the start.
Redwall is written in third-person narration, which is common with this genre. The style is simple, fast-paced, yet it does a great job of describing a scene as well. One could easily read Redwall over a weekend.
As I have said before, this style of simple writing, when done right, can tell a fast-paced and investing story, while still creating a vibrant and immersive world. It is used well in this case, so one’s imagination will fill in any gaps. At no point did I find myself asking any questions in regards to the plot or the characters, it was all pretty straightforward.
My Thoughts on Redwall
Now, the first thing I must address is the target reader for this series. The Tales of Redwall series is aimed at younger readers, yet I still found myself enjoying the story, even if I didn’t find it as real or impactful as general fiction. Yet, I would be lying if I didn’t say there were times when the book surprised me with its seriousness.
Perhaps the idea that all the characters are woodland creatures had me peg the book as a tame adventure story where nothing really bad happens. Yet, I found that there was plenty of death in the story to make it something else. The story, if not for the characters being woodland creatures, would read just like other medieval fiction. The tactics used during the siege are without mercy, as it is a situation where characters would fight to harm those on the other side.
It is when I realized this that I understood while the Tale of Redwall appeals to adults as well. There are various points in the story where I found the characters too black and white, either being too soft or over-the-top with their cruelty, but there were more moments when the characters were morally grey.
With that said, I found character personalities were very simple, even bland, with few exceptions here or there. The fact that the characters are animals added an interesting twist, but also a confusing one. Some animals played their roles as if they were nature, attacking some animals and fearing others, but then some got along without a problem, acting more human than animal. Some are small when they should be large, or large when they should be small. As you can imagine, I quickly abandoned the comparisons with reality, as it would spoil what I was reading.
I then took each character as they were and read it like that, which was no doubt the intention.
Now, my final thought on Redwall is simple; it was fun. The action was solid, the characters amusing at times and there were some scenes which I had to admire. I won’t lie, some scenes missed the mark for me, but thankfully they were short, few and far between.
If you enjoy medieval-themed adventures with silly, but charming elements, then you will enjoy Redwall by Brian Jacques.
I might read more in this series sometime in the future, but like all the series I read, I like to break it up with other books. I hope you found this review useful if you’ve been considering the Tales of Redwall series.
Good day, goodnight and happy reading!
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