© Estate of Brian Jacques, illustration by Tom Canty.
It’s taken me a few weeks to get through the fourth lengthy novel in this fantasy series, due to distractions like a new iPhone, but I think I enjoyed it the most of the three I’ve read so far. This book once again introduces a new group of characters from a different time period in the history of the anthropomorphic animal-inhabited Redwall Abbey, and they’re all entertaining, though the dialect of some is a bit thick and hard to get through, particularly the moles and hedgehogs. There are certain familiar scenes that reappear in each book like comfort food; in fact eating is one of them, as the animals of the Abbey feast continuously on rich and intriguing dishes, but there are enough new ideas in this volume to keep it interesting. For one thing, the villains are searats, the pirates of this world, so we have a lot more traveling on water than before, across a large ocean to and from the island of the searats, and along a river to Redwall, not to mention traversing a treacherous swamp.
The plot is complex and melodramatic at times, almost Dickensian, with exciting battles, and individual deeds both dastardly and heroic, but there is also plenty of time for humor, pathos, wisdom and even romance here and there. Jacques really seems to have hit his stride with this book. And the thing that took me out of the story the most in the previous three, the fact that warrior mice could thrash creatures much, much larger than themselves in hand-to-hand combat, is largely avoided this time, with the contests seeming more equal.
It’s not The Lord of the Rings, or Wind in the Willows, either in content or quality, but there are some elements of each in this series, and it makes for enjoyable, entertaining reading. Great for the summer, and recommended.