A Page from the Past: Redwall

Hey guys! This week has been quite a film/TV–based week and I’d hate to go so long without talking about books so today I’ve decided to start up my first weekly feature rather pompously entitled: A Page from the Past! (get that alliteration!) I will be posting this weekly feature every Friday and it will basically be me writing a bit about a book I read a long time ago that I think is worth your time. This is much less formal than a review, more of a recommendation.

So, without further ado, I’m going to start off with a good ‘un…

Brian Jacques sadly passed away in 2011, at the age of 71

Redwall, by Brian Jacques (1986)
So, this is a pretty old book now, and I probably read it around 5 or 6 years ago. You may have heard of the Redwall book series, but today I’m just going to talk about the original book, which is also called Redwall (although technically it’s only the first book published – if read in chronological order it would be the 10th). The Redwall series is a collection of childrens’ fantasy books, in which all of the characters are animals. These characters live in a beautiful but often dangerous world of forests, fields and woodland rivers. There is a very stark line between who is good and who is evil. The good guys are the mild-mannered woodland creatures: the mice, the squirrels, the otters, the badgers etc, and the bad guys are the sly manipulative rodents: rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels, foxes…

Each book in the series follows the same basic pattern of an army of evil rodents invading the peaceful home of the good animals, before a band of assorted creatures can pull together to defeat them. And yet, to me, these books still don’t lose their appeal. Each story seems refreshingly new and the writing is just superb.

Just a ‘fun fact interlude’: I like to think of Redwall as my ‘camping books’. I always take one with me when I go camping in the summer, as a bit of a tradition! It’s nice to be reading about the beautiful green woods and the colourful forest creatures when you’re out in the Great Outdoors!

Anyway… so why do I recommend Redwall, the first published book in the series?

As Redwall Abbey’s creatures bask in the glorious RedwallBookCoverSummer of the Late Rose, all is quiet and peaceful. But not for long. Cluny the Scourge is coming! And the evil one-eyed rat warlord is prepared to do bloody battle to get exactly what he wants: Redwall.

The books of Redwall will always hold a special place in my heart, but especially this one. Mainly, probably, because it is the first of the series that I read (I didn’t realise there was a chronological order). But also because it lays down the formula for the stories to come. There are lots of characters with weird and wonderful names, but you can grow attached to each individual and the story benefits all the better for it. There’s lovely variety between all the different species of animal that exist – although it can get a bit confusing at times (was he a hedgehog or a mouse again?!) –  and Jacques writes the dialogue in such a way that even that can be attributed to each individual type of animal and makes the story much more involving and entertaining to read (I particularly recommend ‘Molespeak’, more commonly known as ‘The way farmers talk’!).

On the subject of the writing itself, Jacques is a superb writer, and I was very sad when he passed away a few years ago as he is in my top list of fantasy authors. If you’ve never heard of him, he’s been compared to Roald Dahl several times – he’s definitely worth checking out! He wins the title of being the only writer who can actually make me hungry when I read his books because:

  1. His descriptions of the luxuriously delicious meals at Redwall are so amazing!
  2. I spend so long reading and drooling over said descriptions I actually get hungry in real life!
From the TV adaptation of Redwall

Another part of his stories that I like is that they have a fairy-tale quality to them. They’re not gritty or overly serious – he’s definitely no George R.R Martin –but in a strange way this makes you more attached to the story. Also, my favourite part: there is always a happy ending. People often say that happy endings are boring – why can’t the baddies win for once? – but happy endings, if managed correctly, can actually make the story more interesting to read, because there is always that guarantee that everything’s going to turn out well in the end. The question is: how are they going to do it? So this is a thoroughly simple, traditional set-up: good vs evil, and good always wins out in the end. Makes great feel-good reading, I think.

So, that turned into more of an insight into the whole series than the specific book, but if you do want to enter into the world of Redwall, I suggest you try Redwall first – it’s a great place to  start. These are childrens’ books, remember, but if you start reading them as children – as I did – you’ll be sure to treasure them into adulthood and beyond!


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