Now that society has a certain… open-mindedness about certain touchy subjects, someone like me can come out of the closet, and what better forum to do that than right here in Geek Speak Magazine? Yes, that’s right, I’m not ashamed to admit it: I am a grown, mature man (all three of those are up for debate, but that’s a discussion for another time) who enjoys reading kids’ books… and I did so, even before all of the Harry-Potter-kind-of-makes-it-okay-for-adults-to-read-literature-meant-for-people-less-than-half-their-age-or-more hype.
So what does one do upon making an announcement such as that? Why, try and convert everyone else to one’s way of thinking, of course! And what better way to do so than by reviewing Brian Jacques’ masterpiece of Young Adult Fantasy (and no, that’s not the same thing as the fantasies of young adults), the Redwall series.
The Redwall universe, introduced in the cleverly-titled first book Redwall, centers around the animals (mice, squirrels, otters, etc..) of Mossflower Wood, focused particularly on those who live inside Redwall Abbey, a place of sanctuary and healing for all those in need. Just this very premise sets the tone of fantasy, for it requires the use of one’s imagination in order to accept that rodents and other animals all have human abilities and characteristics, while still retaining the qualities specific to their respective species.
If I had to pick one word to describe the series, it would be: magical. This is actually a tad odd when one considers that there isn’t any magic involved anywhere in the books. Upon reading it for the first time, the climax of Redwall gave me chills, and I can’t begin to describe the excitement I felt when I discovered that a prequel (the second book in the series, Mossflower) had been released. So what is it about the series that makes it so good? Well, follow me as we journey to the next paragraph to discover…
… it is extremely well written. First, the characters are always quite believable. Each has his or her own distinct personality, despite the large number of characters in each book. Many series get way too bogged down in characters and the reader loses interest, but here, strange as it might seem, we really do care about these rodents, and their fight for their lives. Combine this with a very smooth and eloquent use of language (again, it is geared toward a younger audience, so it is a very easy read for those of us who are, well, not), full of colorful descriptions and some clever riddles, and you have a yourself an incredible book that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. But that’s not all, for Brian Jacques has a secret weapon…
…food. Yep, Brian Jacques loves to write about food. His descriptions of the various meals, whether a massive feast, or a simple backpack full of traveling rations, really complete the already vivid picture the reader has in mind. One just can’t resist reading the rest of the book… oh, and before you ask, no, none of the series’ book’s pages taste as good as the descriptions printed upon them (not even with honey mustard, depressingly). You’d think they’d have tried at least one read-n-taste printing by now.
Underlying throughout are themes (among others) of: life, death, courage, good vs. evil, friendship, and teamwork. Everything a young, impressionable mind needs.
Having said all that, though, there are a few issues with the series. The plots are all somewhat similar, and after the first, oh, ten or so, they get rather derivative and/or cookie-cutter-esque (though that does go along nicely with the food motif mentioned above). Some are better than others, sure, but still extremely Redwallian. But here is where I discover an issue in writing this review: despite my best efforts to remain a Young Adult (up to and including a variety of nefarious schemes reminiscent of Pinky and the Brain – I leave it to you, dear readers, to determine which of those two I am most like), time continues to pass, thus making it harder to judge the entire series. For me, carbon copy plots become more and more noticeable, and the books in the middle of the series all tend to blend together. Were I a Young(er) Adult now, and able to read all the books in a short period of time, my opinion could be different. But the books are still good, written at a quality higher than much of the category’s offerings.
The bottom line (in case you were confused at any point during this review) is that this series, despite being geared toward Young Adults, is highly entertaining, well-written, and worth reading by anyone (yes, even you… yeah, you… I’m looking at you… that computer monitor of yours isn’t as secure as you think it is). So go! Locate the first book and go read! For the good of the people, go!
It was the start of the Summer of the Late Rose. Mossflower country shimmered…