Redwall Series

Redwall (additional review)

ISBN: 
441 005 489
Copyright: 
1945
Publisher: 
Ace Books / Penguin Putnam Inc. NY
Series: 
Redwall
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
333 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Redwall Abbey, inhabited by peaceful monk-like mice, is set in the heart of Mossflower Woods and is the center of life for all the peaceful creatures who inhabit the woods. In this story the abbey is besieged by evil sea rats with an infamously merciless huge rat, Cluny the Scourge, as their leader. The rats are unable to conquer the abbey at first fight and thus infuriated, Cluny is all the more determined to have Redwall Abbey as his own. The rats attack the abbey with various battle plans and finally enter the abbey through the betrayal of a field mouse.

One of the abbey mice, Matthias becomes an unlikely hero, rescuing captive field mice, solving mysterious riddles of prophecy, fighting warlike sparrows, killing a huge adder and finally facing and defeating Cluny in one last show-down. Most of this action does not take place in defense of the abbey but on Matthias' quest for the famous sword of an ancient defender of Mossflower: Martin the Warrior. Through one of the prophecies Matthias discovers that Martin had foreseen the days of the rats' attack and Matthias' heroic part of it. He had hidden the sword for Matthias to find and Matthias feels the safety of the abbey rests on this sword alone. Of course it isn't where Martin left it so Matthias must go questing to find it.

When I first read this book several years ago, I was greatly disappointed. It received rave reviews in book catalogs and from 4th and 5th grade teachers everywhere. But, I found the story much too obvious and the writing weak. The dialogue was a distasteful modern sarcastic banter. The plot was full of too many coincidences and no real surprises. The hero showed no signs of heroic virtue, or any other virtue, before he took a central role in the defense of the abbey.

Recently, through the urging of some friends of my children, my husband and I read Redwall aloud to our children. To my surprise, the story, brought to life by my husband reading the voices, was not as stale as I had first thought. The children loved it. Yes, Matthias had no great obvious character from which to draw his heroism but that made him more loveable to my children. He was an ordinary, awkward nobody who rose to greatness and defeated the greatest of evils. He was like them, and yet found the ability to wield a sword. This afforded a great opportunity for discussion about the source of our strength for battling evil.

Fortunately, while they play Matthias and company, they haven't forgotten Jim Hawkins or Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. While I thought the book a somewhat inferior literary effort, it has continued to increase their excitement about reading and storytelling and has not ruined their taste for finer pieces.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Mossflower

Copyright: 
1988
Publisher: 
Philomel Books
Series: 
Redwall
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Mossflower, the second book in the Redwall series, tells the story of the founding of Redwall Abbey and of Martin the Warrior's part in it. The peaceful woodland creatures of Mossflower woods are invaded and conquered by a wild cat and his army of weasel, stoats and ferrets. After mounting an unsuccessful attempt at rebellion, the woodlanders slowly retreat further and further into the woods and out of the grasp of the cat. He dies leaving his evil daughter, Tsarmina to rule. Evil as she is, no matter what plan she hatches, she can't seem to subdue the woodlanders and enslave them as she desires. The woodlanders have pinned their hopes on the return of the onetime ruler of Mossflower, the great badger, Boar the Fighter. He had long since left the woods on a quest to the volcano, Salamandastron, and never returned. His daughter, Bella, feels sure that he is alive and must return to vanquish the evil Tsarmina.

Martin the Warrior, a bard-like mouse named Gonff and Dinny the mole leave to find and bring back Boar the fighter. They encounter many adventures along the way, meeting friends and foes, leaving the woodlanders to fend off the increasingly maddened Tsarmina. They do find Boar but his destiny lies in the defeat of an evil sea rat, not in his return to Mossflower. He forges a sword for Martin, however, from the fires of Salamandastron (which is really not a volcano but a huge forge in the mountain) and charges Martin with the duty of the defeat of Tsarmina in his place.

Martin and his friends return to Mossflower just as a plan to flood the evil cat's castle is underway. With Martin's battle plan, the cat's castle is destroyed and the army subdued. Martin himself battles the cat and defeats her. In the end, the mice plan to build an abbey there in the woods dedicated to peace and designed for the protection of the woodlanders. Martin becomes a legend and his saga told to all successive ages of Mossflower inhabitants.

There are many similarities to the original Redwall story, such as a thoroughly evil antagonist, the hero away on a quest during most of the story, the quest ending in finding a sword and a battle between so-called peaceful creatures and trained armies. In this story, however, the hero Martin is portrayed as a noble warrior from the beginning. He has great courage and chivalry and is proven time after time. Another pleasant part of this story is the bard mouse Gonff. He is a delightful character, making up songs and poetry at every turn in the story. The woodlanders are quite ingenious in their resistance to the wild cats (squirrel archers, otter commanders and tunneling moles). I kept thinking that they were doing pretty well without Boar the Fighter. I still found the dialogue trite at times and the plot pretty obvious. When Tsarmina starts to have nightmares about water, we know she's going to die in water.

Mossflower was a good prequel to Redwall in that references made in the first book were explained and the stage set for other stories. Other books in the series suggested by this story include the titles Salamandastron, Martin the Warrior, Luke (father of Martin), Mattimeo (son of Matthias) and more. They all have similar themes in the defeat of evil rats or other vermin by the peaceful, good woodlanders.

Review Date: 
4-25-01
Reviewed by: 

Redwall

Book cover: 'Redwall'
ISBN: 
441 005 489
Copyright: 
1945
Publisher: 
Ace Books / Penguin Putnam Inc. NY
Series: 
Redwall
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
333 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a novel about a mouse among mice. There is a community of mice that lives in Redwall Abbey. The newest novice, Matthias, cuts a willing but uninspiring figure. He has an inordinate passion for Martin the warrior mouse whose legend is like that of Arthur - except that it lacks everything but the ability to swing a sword for the right side. There isn't much depth to Martin. But thanks to his efforts the abbey is become a place of peace and goodness to the surrounding forest community of animals. The abbey is an impressive structure and a formidable fortress despite it's peaceful look. But it is not 'deep' either -beyond the fact that it is an abbey and that the inhabitants wear robes God, religion and eternal truth is absent to the players in this story. Cluny the Scourge is a rat. He is a big, ugly, evil rat with only one eye left due to his warlike ways. Cluny has a legion of rats, ferrets and other unsavory characters in his company. And Cluny is on the move. He has been wandering down from the north spreading despair and ruin - killing, destroying and pillaging wherever he felt like stopping. Cluny feels like stopping at Redwall abbey. But, he finds the abbey of the 'peaceloving' little mouse community much more impenetrable than he expected - due in large part to Matthais and company. Matthias turns out to be a genius, a rabbit-tail of good luck, and a guy who everybody seems to love and trust. The book goes on and on with battle, skirmish and raids. Matthias is searching and searching for the sword of the legendary Martin. He has a sixth sense about it's ultimate importance (there is way too much sixth sense and forshadowing in this story for my taste). In fact the Abbey is often without his incredible leadership skills and sixth sense intuition because he keeps taking unnecessary sorties. But by extrordinary good luck (and because he's the hero of the book) he survives them all. I still wonder what the sense of this is in the book. It is poor philosopy and worse morals. Cluny, on the other hand, is conducting war as a leader of a rough hewn horde of this type would. In fact the author gets inside his head on a number of occasions regarding strategy, psycholgy and primitive politics. And from what I can tell he is probably quite accurate! This is an interesting study since the gallic wars and other writings of succesful generals usually view the other kind of army - the good guys. I kept wondering where the people were. There is no explanation. Though I did learn late in the book that the abbey was actually built by the mice in ages past (it is not the mouse occupation of a man made church which one would find so believable!) And more importantly I kept wondering why I should be sympathetic to Matthias. He didn't ever quite earn the right to my sympathy even though I knew he was the good guy. And his novice's habit failed to stir me as it seemed to be little beyond just the type of clothes he happened to wear. This is an OK story. I don't get the fanfare though. There are MUCH better war tales out there.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: