Everyone has a first book; and by this I mean your first chapter book, your first novel; the one that really got you into reading. Before I could really read I would check out large chapter books from the children’s section of the library. My older brother was reading the Redwall series by Brian Jacques and so obviously I wanted to read them as well. I would check them out of our tiny library and take them home where I studied the cover and flipped through the pages. I did this with all the books he read until I finally decided I could read well enough to actually read the books instead of just flipping the pages pretending to read. And when that happened, Redwall was the book I chose.
It was an incredibly nostalgic experience to re-read Redwall. I was six or seven in the second grade, so it’s been about sixteen years. My wife bought it for me as a gift and I finally got around to reading it again. As I read, I felt younger and couldn’t help but remember back on the other books from this series. However, as is frequented to happen when revisiting things from childhood, I discovered so much more than I remembered from previous readings.
This is a story of good versus evil in the most basic of senses. I have renewed respect for Brian Jacques in being able to succeed with a style that is associated with a great degree of being cliché. In my opinion, he accomplishes this by creating a unique group of characters, casted as a variety of small animals. This aspect spins the story toward a younger audience, creating a new atmosphere for the archetype to thrive.
The “good guys” live in an Abby, and for anyone who doesn’t know an Abby is a religious structure for the worship of deity and the residents of monks, friars, and abbots. They are a peaceful group dedicated to helping everyone in the surrounding countryside. However, the Abby is met with opposition from Cluny the Scourge; a rat that kills without emotion or thought, conquers for the sake of personal power, and will resort to anything in order to get what he wants.
When Cluny comes to the forest of Mossflower, he brings fear and danger to all that live in the region. As his greedy eye turns toward Redwall Abby the residents of this peaceful place prepare to oppose him in a way that they have never done before. For the young mouse, Matthias, there are other preparations in store as he searches for the sword and shield of the Abby’s ancient warrior guardian, Martin. As danger entrenches itself around the peaceful Abby, Matthias finds himself on a journey that will take him beyond the land he knows to meet new friends and face new trials in a race to find the artifacts before it’s too late.
Perhaps the best aspects of the Redwall series ap[[[[[[-;p[re the characters. They are comical, serious, endearing, and manage to worm their way into your heart and mind to be remembered long after the last pages are read. My favorite character happens to be Basil Stag Hare who, as the last name suggests, is a hare. He christened himself Stag because he finds the animal to be noble creatures and so decided that he would take the name for his own because he wanted to be one. His dialogue reminds me of an old British veteran and his sense of humor is both witty and comical. Add to that the appetite of an animal twice his size and he becomes an example of a character that is both memorable and wholly unique.
Re-reading this book revitalized a childish part of me that has lain dormant for a long time. As the lists of books to read pile up around me I may not be able to re-visit the rest of these tales for quite some time, but I now remember that they are there and just as good as I remembered.