Redwall by Brian Jacques

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Redwall

Five words from the blurb: mice, monastery, attack, evil, rats 

Redwall is a classic of children’s literature. I didn’t read it as a child, but my husband has fond memories of it and so bought a copy for our boys. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try and so offered to read it with my oldest son. 

Redwall is a typical story of good versus evil. The peaceful mice of Redwall monastery come under attack from the evil rat, Cluny, and his band of followers. A range of other woodland animals are recruited on each side, but size is not relevant as bravery and quick thinking win every time.

This is a lovely story for older children. It has the perfect amount of action to hold their attention, but manages to combine it with vivid descriptions that create a wonderful atmosphere. It also contains many good moral messages, encouraging children to believe that anything is possible given thought and determination. 

“This sword is made for only one purpose, to kill. It will only be as good or evil as the one who wields it. I know that you intend to use it only for the good of your Abbey, Matthias; do so, but never allow yourself to be tempted into using it in a careless or idle way. It would inevitably cost you your life, or that of your dear ones. Martin the Warrior used the sword only for right and good. This is why it has become a symbol of power to Redwall. Knowledge is gained through wisdom, my friend. Use the sword wisely.” 

The vocabulary is quite complex so I’d only recommend it to a strong reader. It hasn’t dated in the 30 years since it was first published, but many of the words aren’t in frequent use and I had to use a dictionary more than I normally do when reading complex adult literature. 

I enjoyed reading Redwall, but I think I’d have appreciated it much more as a child. It probably works best for those between the ages of 10 and 12, but even as an adult I was still able to appreciate its charm. Recommended to anyone looking for a bit of escapism.

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Redwall is the first in a series of 22 books. My son is planning to read more, but would I get anything from the rest? I fear they might be too similar to each other to make it worth it?

Have you read Redwall? Did you enjoy the series as an adult?


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10 Comments

  1. My older sister was wild about these books when we were kids, but I never liked them so much. I found them really really REALLY slow to start. I’m glad you and your son are enjoying them now, though!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, Yes, I suppose they are quite slow compared to other books for children. I guess I’m used to literary fiction with no plot so they seemed quite fast paced in comparison. My son wasn’t complaining either. I’m happy with anything that has a bit of atmosphere so enjoyed this one, but I wonder if I’d get frustrated if I tried to read more of them.

  2. I haven’t read them but my son, around the age of 9 fell in love with them. In fact, today, I am just weeding out my kids’s books. They don’t want them anymore and I need to downsize. (Well, not moving yet but need to start decluttering. Oh dear.)

    1. Jackie says:

      Whispering Gums, I hate decluttering. It’s so sad to get rid of books your children once loved. Hope you manage to find a good new home for the Redwall books. Good luck with the move!

  3. Patty says:

    We first encountered Redwall on a road trip and the first chapter is so chilling heard put loud. “Cluny is coming”. We bought a copy and read it out loud to the two boys. My eldest recently told me that one of his fondest reading memories is sitting on the couch listening to his dad read this series.

    We have almost all of them but flagged at the end. The thing to remember about the series is there are different sets. We love the early ones (Redwall, Martin the warier, etc.), the badger ones (not my favorite), the sea ones (sea rats are the best villains), epic journeys etc.

    You may find that you have an affinity to one particular animal clan and gravitate to the books where that clan is predominate. My oldest is very fond of the otters whereas my youngest was more for the badgers.

    The other thing to remember is the author loves food and the over abundant descriptions of food are in every book.

    PB

    1. Jackie says:

      Patty,

      Thank you for all the information! It is so lovely to hear that your eldest thought of his experience so fondly. I hope my boy feels the same way in years to come.

  4. Christy says:

    I loved the Redwall books when I was a pre-teen / early teen, which was about the time that the seventh and eighth books were coming out. Anyway, I remember really liking Mariel of Redwall, in large part due to the female titled character, Salamandastron (the abbey gets hit by a plague, and it had my favorite villain in Ferahgo the Assassin). I think I also liked Mattimeo a lot – I remember there was an abyss the mice had to traverse at one point and it made quite an impression on me. I eventually outgrew / got turned off by the series thanks mostly to reading Outcast of Redwall. The series throughout always kind of had this problem where certain species almost always acted a certain way and some species were always bad, and in the eighth book, Outcast of Redwall, that kind of nature over nurture slant goes up a whole new level when one of the Redwall mice adopts a baby ferret. I can’t vouch for any books that were published after The Bellmaker, but they were by and large fun escapist reading for me as a kid, as you mentioned.

    1. Jackie says:

      Christy, I wish I’d read them when I was that age. I can see why you object to the way species are portrayed – it is always nice when there is a bit of blurring around the lines of good and evil.

      I’ll pass all your information onto my boys and perhaps read some of the others with my youngest boy when he’s older as it sounds as though there isn’t enough to interest an independent adult.

  5. I discovered the Redwall books when I was 9 or 10 and loved them dearly. I reread the first three over and over again until I was 16 or 17. I didn’t get through all the sequels before I outgrew them though. I’m not likely to go back and reread them, I think.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kate, No, I think these are probably books not to be re-read as an adult. I enjoyed reading this with my son, but I don’t think I’d have liked it as much if I hadn’t been seeing it through his eyes. Glad you managed to read a few before you grew out of them.

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