Fantasy is not my norm, and children’s fantasy even less so. Perhaps the closest I’ve come since having left the anamorph-heavy world of children’s books was Watership Down by Richard Adams. Nevertheless, upon the strong recommendation from my older brother, I picked up not only Redwall—the first book published in the series—but also another twenty Jacques books from various thrift stores and garage sales, just in case. Interestingly enough, Redwall is actually the ninth book chronologically in this series that spans countless generations of honorable rodents in this fascinating world that Jacques created. While I doubt I’ll ever read them all, I’m happy to have had a taste of what they offer.
Since childhood, I have been fascinated by the concept of miniaturization, from The Borrowers and The Indian the Cupboard to Stuart Little and my own pre-teen creation, “The CD Adventure.” Because Redwall offers at least a hint of the same, I was immediately sucked into the adventures of Redwall Abbey (even though the Abbey and virtually everything else are pretty much mouse-sized).
This particular story, just one small event in the centuries of the region, follows the dangerous threat of Cluny the Scourge and the Abbey’s need for a hero, not to mention the lurking fear of Asmodeus the snake. Matthias the mouse seeks the armor of famed legend, Martin the Warrior, and deals with his romance with little Cornflower. In fighting sparrows and rats and making many friends along the way, Redwall certainly is an entertaining romp through Mossflower Woods.
Many of the scenes in this book were more violent that I had anticipated, making death a very real thing to young readers. Some scenes in the story reminded me of Tolkien adventures, though Jacques seems to deny all magic and “monsters,” preferring only to villainize ugly animals gone bad. His characters are all surprisingly well-rounded, despite their rodent identity, giving the story a truly epic feel. Probably due to the whole “tapestry mystery” early on in the book, I can literally recall many scenes from the story as if they were painted upon a wall. Jacques certainly is a master writer.
While there’s not much of a chance that I’ll personally get into the whole series, I can foresee my recommending them to my own kids when they get a little older. In fact, I kind of look forward to hearing from them how the stories progress! Perhaps I’ll be able to find them on audio someday, and we could make a family affair out of it. Perhaps. Whatever happens with me, I recommend them to any early teen reader who wants to get a taste of light fantasy.