by Kaley Ingenito
I was a little late jumping on the Harry Potter band wagon. No disrespect to JK Rowling. Its just that my father recommended the series to me when I was cresting my most angsty phase of pre-teendom and was unwilling to take suggestions from anyone speaking from a place of power. I have since realized the error of my ways (although I strongly disagree with Pottermore- I’m clearly a Ravenclaw, not a Gryffindor).
In lieu of the magic of Hogwarts, my young mind found enchantment, adventure, and love in a different fantasy realm- that of Redwall.
Redwall is a series of 22 books by Brian Jacques about a peaceful Abbey (the namesake of the series) and the woodland creatures that live there; practical mice, fearsome badgers, pithy hares, warrior otters. It’s a kind place, a place of hope and healing, that draws much unwanted attention from the greed and evil plaguing the world.
Every book involves a kind of quest (some more epic than others), and usually there is a riddle or dream that must be deciphered in order to beat whatever evil is overshadowing our beloved Abbey, complete with endearing characters, adventure at every turn, and some of the best descriptions of food I have ever had the pleasure to read.
The books teach grace in the face of hardship, mercy for one’s enemies and an undying loyalty to one’s friends, all wrapped in cleverness and wit. I learned a lot from these books as a child and, if you’re looking to delve in to the series, I have compiled a list of the best books to get you started.
Of course in any series it makes sense to start with the original. Follow the tale of Redwall Abbey as it is besieged by Cluny the Scourge (a giant rat with a poisoned barb for a tail), and the young mouse Matthias who must find the lost sword of Martin the Warrior to save the Abbey and his friends.
This happens to be the next book in the series but also one of the best. Little Mattimeo, son of Matthias, is kidnapped to be sold in to slavery (yeah it sounds dark but I promise it is definitely child friendly). The Abbey enlists the help of their fellow woodland creatures who embark on a heartwarming adventure to track down the slaver, Slagar the Cruel, and bring the Abbey youngster home.
#3: The Long Patrol
Easily the funniest of Jacques’ books, this episode centers around the warriors of the Long Patrol, an esteemed fighting troupe of fearsome, well trained hares that go to battle with a fleet of sea rats threatening the Abbey’s way of life.
Now that you have the general idea of the world, let’s have a bit of a history lesson. This book tells the story of Martin the Warrior (the mouse that founded Redwall Abbey) and how he came to the forest of Mossflower. Battling ferocious wildcats with his friends at his side, this is a David and Goliath tale of good and evil.
#5: The Bellmaker
A warrior crew sets out from Redwall to help a besieged castle across the sea that has been taken over by a Foxwolf and his band of rats. This book is action packed and hilarious but also has a lot of moments that tug at your heart strings.
#6: The Pearls of Lutra
This is perhaps my favorite book in the series because the riddle to be solved is the most complicated and because the villain is so— vile. Our Abbey dwellers search for the pearls- six perfect pink orbs- as ransom for their kidnapped friends, while a group of warriors pursues the criminals across the sea to an island inhabited by monitor lizards.
This list is just to get you started. Once you immerse yourself in Jacques’ world of anthropomorphic woodland creatures, you wont be able to get enough. Lucky for you, there are 15 more books to explore!