Book Review: Redwall
Redwall is the heart-warming, inventive, and epic adventure of a monkish mouse turned warrior named Matthias. In the vein of Wind in the Willows and Watership Down, it presents a world of anthropomorphized animals who inhabit a medieval abbey and its surroundings. The peace of its inhabitants is threatened right from the earliest chapters by the infamous Cluny the Scourge, a tyrannical rat who leads an army of selfish, backbiting rats, weasels, and stoats.
The story takes some time to settle in and advances very little during the first half of the book. But by the time it gets rolling, it is a rollicking, high adventure. Matthias grows into his role as rodent hero gradually and convincingly and even when you know the inevitable outcome of his endeavors, it is still immensely enjoyable watching them unfold.
The enemies in this book are not really all that threatening (with the exception of the snake.) Yes, a few mice die in the battles, but it mostly happens off scene. The rat horde is more bumbling and foolhardy than menacing and cruel. Because of this, the tension never really ratchets up very high until right near the end of the story. That’s all well and good, though. The story is more about camaraderie and pulling together than it is action and battle. The animals on the Redwall side are all generally good natured towards each other. There’s not a selfish Toad in the bunch. And that’s a welcome change from today’s modern landscape filled with anti-heroes and compromised protagonists.
Body of a mouse, heart of a lion
The ending of this novel is far and away the best part. The last third of the novel is positively brilliant as Matthias at last embarks on his great quest. This part had a very high fantasy feel, except that dragons and magic are replaced by snakes and ingenuity.
If you’re looking for memorable, heroic characters, a unique and well fleshed-out world, and epic, good vs. evil conflict this is a great choice. Though the pacing early on is a bit slow, this one should hold your interest from start to finish. And as it is only the first in a series, it should whet your appetite and leave you hungry for more of exploits from Matthias and the doughty Redwall defenders.