Friday, February 03, 2012
Author: Brian Jacques
Series: Redwall #5 (but Redwall can be read in any order)
Genre: YA, MG, fantasy
Publisher: Firebird, 1992
Source: Husband's high school bedroom
Read for: Redwall Nostalgia Challenge
In this book, there are many Things going on, and they all randomly come together at the end. So first of all, Ferahgo is an evil vermin that loves to kill and plunder and pillage. Then we have Mara, who lives on the mighty badger mountain Salamandastron, but desperately wants to escape, because her foster father, Urthstripe, stifles her. Then there is Samkim the squirrel, who with his trusty sidekick Arula wreaks havoc all over Redwall, but who has the makings of a mighty warrior within him. When murder and plague strike Redwall almost simultaneously, Samkim and Arula go off in search of the culprit, while an otter and a baby stowaway mouse search for a cure. Everything comes together at the end in an epic battle. And there is a lot of food described along the way.
These books were among my favorites in the last few years of middle school, so when I found out that Brian Jacques passed away last year, I wanted to revisit one of his books for nostalgia's sake. I have to say, it was a fun ride. Even though the books were a little juvenile for my tastes now, I was transported back to how epic they made me feel when I was ten years old and thirsting for adventure. It is amazing to me how the animals seem so real, from the wholesome, hard-working animals at the Abbey, to the fierce guerilla shrews led by Log-a-Log (always), to the hordes of vermin led by assorted nasty creatures with vengeance to wreak. There is still something powerful in the battle cries shouted by the various groups in Mossflower forest ("Redwaaaaaaaaall!" "Eulalia!" "Logalogalogalogalooog!"). Reading these books definitely sweeps me up in the heroic adventures.
Honestly, though, the food descriptions are the very best part of the Redwall books, even though the foods they describe don't actually exist. Daffodil cordial? Buttercup meadowcream? October ale? Yes, yes, yes. And get me some deeper 'n' ever beetroot 'n' turnip 'n' tater pie while you're at it. Those are some well-fed animals.
A few things bothered me in my older, wiser rereading of the book. First of all, the dialects. I don't remember being bothered by them as a child, but they definitely slowed down my reading this time around. I would have happily done without them. Secondly, it bothered me that all vermin were bad, and all non-vermin (for the most part) were good. It seemed like this was a sort of racist attitude -- that some animals were better than other animals. Rats, weasels, ferrets, lizards, frogs and foxes are evil; mice, shrews, badgers, hedgehogs, squirrels and moles are good. I don't know if that is the best message for the kids reading these books. I'm probably reading too much into it, but it definitely stayed in my mind throughout the novel.
Overall, however, this was a fun reread. I loved experiencing these characters again. While I don't know if I will reread any more of the books for my own pleasure, I definitely hope to revisit them with my children someday.