by Brian Jacques
The third book in the Redwall series – and I’m a little concerned. Because this was the first book of the three that started to feel formulaic.
It wasn’t, not entirely; Jacques was wonderful at creating characters, and he introduces half a dozen new ones – a young otter who was hilarious, a heroic badger whom I enjoyed very much, a kite that had a wonderful alien feel to him, as well as a new generation of Redwallers and, of course, new villains. The first book focused on the battle for Redwall, the second on the battle that led to the rise of Redwall; this one goes outside of Redwall for its main conflict, though there is a second conflict that happens within the Abbey walls. The combination was effective, because it made it easier to maintain suspense for the entire book in both plotlines, and that was good. I also have to compliment Jacques for being unafraid to kill off his characters: there was a whole group of Redwall creatures who were wiped out in this book, and though I hated that it happened – this group were some of my favorites – it does show that the characters we enjoy aren’t safe, and I think that is a necessary tension in a long-running series.
But: Matthias is essentially indistinguishable from Martin the Warrior, and so for all three books now, we’ve had a heroic mouse swinging a big sword to save the day. His son, Mattimeo, becomes more like his father over the course of the book, so I worry that the trend will continue. The old abbot is the same, as well, as is the mighty and cantankerous badger; Jacques even added a second badger (though I liked the new guy – he carries a giant battle-axe) so there could be a badger in both plotlines. The villains are stoats and weasels and rats, and they are exactly alike in every way; Basil Stag Hare, though I love his character, changes not a whit from the first book to this one. You have the fight for control of the Abbey, and the quest outside of the Abbey for the key that will win the main fight – a plot that also happened in the second book, as Martin went off in search of the great sword so he could win the battle against the cat queen. There’s a lot of talk about food, and a lot of mooning over adorable baby animals (Not that I’m against baby animals, but I prefer actual fuzzy puppies in front of me rather than narration and description.), and a secret within the Abbey that tells the animals what they need to know, all of which happened in the first and second books. So it made me a little wary.
Now, the villains in this were great: the fox who leads the raid on Redwall and kidnaps all the younguns for enslavement was a good character, as was the corrupt and decadent despot who plans to buy the slaves. The final battle scene regarding those slavers was truly epic. The assault on Redwall was honestly a little more annoying, but the villains there were new and more interesting, with different strengths and weaknesses than the usual weasels and rats; and the twist that made a Redwall victory possible was really neat. Reminded me of Hagrid’s brother Grawp from the last three Harry Potter books.
Overall, there were enough new things, and enough things that Jacques has done well for all three books, to make me enjoy this book; I did, quite a lot. I will definitely read the next book, as well. I’m just – a little concerned for the series as a whole, that’s all.