Friday, July 24, 2020

The Great Redwall Reread Reviewed (Fixed? I hope?)

(Note: If you tried to read the earlier post and it was blank, I have exactly 0% idea what happened. Hopefully this fixes it. If not, I'm going to go throw Blogger into a lake or something, or maybe just seriously consider consolidating all my blogging over to Wordpress.)

So, I've been saying for some time that I was going to do a review of or reflection on my reread of the Redwall series. And since it's been nearly a month now since I finished that reread, I figure I'd better do that review now or it'll never get done at all.

I discovered Redwall when I was twelve or thirteen, on recommendation from the same friend who introduced me to most of the fantasy books I've loved longest. I must've read the series two or three times in that first year — first in publication order, then in chronological order. I kept all the books in a great stack beside my bed and refused to return them to the library until I had to — though I usually refused to return library books sooner than necessary. After all, I never knew if I'd want to read them again the day after I took them back. I reread them a time or two after returning them as well, after I'd built up my own collection from library book sales. However, I discovered other books quickly, and Redwall got left behind — until I returned to it this year. And when I did, what did I find? Did the series hold up to the test of the time?

The Great Redwall Reread Reviewed

  1. To answer the question I just asked: Yes. Yes, much of the series is as good as I remembered — some of it's even better. Not that I ever mistook Redwall for high literature. But there's a bit more artistry than I recalled, and more importantly, there's more nuance than I recalled. True, the sides are fairly black-and-white — these races are almost always good; those races are almost always evil, and nature wins over nurture in almost every case — but there's a surprising exploration of the pain left in the wake of violence and battle that feels more genuine even than some more modern, gritty stories. Perhaps because it's balanced by a great deal of light and hope and promise and a recognition of what's most important — things that are missing in a lot of stories I encounter these days. Anyway. A lot of the books that I didn't like as much when I was younger, I like much more now. These are mostly the early books, chronologically — Martin the Warrior, Mossflower, The Legend of Luke — and a few later ones, like The Long Patrol, Taggerung, and Triss. That's not to say that they've all become favorites now, but I appreciate them more now. And the books I really loved — Pearls of Lutra, Marlfox, Rakketty Tam, High Rhulain, Lord Brocktree, held up very well indeed. Some of them held up better than others (Pearls is one of the best books in the series; I will fight you on this point), but that's beside the point.
  2. The stories in general are much less formulaic than I remembered. When I started the reread, I laid out five "types" for Redwall stories with the expectation that all the books would fit perfectly into at least one of those types. And a lot of them did, but many more of them didn't fit as well as I expected or only technically fit the plot type. (It was also interesting to note that one of the plot types — "Evil comes to Salamandastron (and besieges it)" — just stopped happening altogether after Salamandastron.) In addition, I had a sort of idea that the villains in Redwall books almost always went crazy by the end of the book, which was just . . . not correct? A few do. But most of them stay sane and surprisingly cunning all the way through, aside from the habit some have of killing off their minions. (Even the number who do that, though, is lower than I remembered.)
  3. I'm pretty sure this is why food figures so heavily in almost all my books. Well, this and Narnia. But you cannot read a Redwall book without getting hungry at some point. And more than that, food is pretty much a plot point in some stories. I could probably write a not-insignificant essay on the role of food in Redwall as a series — not that I'm going to; I've written enough essays in the last four years. But food and types of food and its quality or lack thereof are pretty significant in these stories, and care is taken when describing food, and yeah. It's a thing, and I adopted it without really realizing it. (On a side note: part of me wants to try to cook and bake my way through the books sometime. The other part of me quite reasonably points out that I probably would just end up disappointed.)
  4. The inconsistencies didn't bother me half as much as I expected. I went into the series knowing that there were inconsistencies and half-expecting to make fun of them in a loving sort of way. But that . . . didn't really happen? There are some things that still really bug me (like the fact that a plot-relevant location in Salamandastron doesn't exist until several books later, chronologically), but a lot of the other inconsistencies (most of which involve the Guosim, for some reason?) just feel like things that have shifted with the seasons. And there are a lot of actually-consistent callbacks to other books, which I had forgotten about! And finding those was quite fun!
  5. The level of nomance in these books is honestly refreshing. Just under half the books involve romance of some kind. Of those eleven-ish books, only eight recognize that romance outside of an epilogue or a one-sided or short-lived flirtation. And even then, the romance is almost always, at most, a sub-subplot. Everyone seems to recognize that, romance or no, there's work to do, and relationships can be sorted out after the villain is gone for good. (And before you say that the reason for the lack of romance is that it's a middle-grade series: so are plenty of other books I've read that had much more romance in them than this.) It's really nice.

So, yes. Perhaps not as poetic or scholarly of reflections as I thought I'd do, once upon a time, but there's my honest thoughts. In addition, if you're interested in more of my observations from rereading the series, I kept track of everything in a spreadsheet available here. Y'know, if you want to know exactly how many books involve villains actually going crazy, or what I mean when I say that a lot of inconsistencies involve the Guosim, or what are the plot types I thought I'd identified.

Have you reread Redwall recently? If so, what were your thoughts? If not, what are your favorite Redwall memories? Please tell me in the comments!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)


  1. I still haven't read Redwall yet. Where do you suggest I start?

    1. Good question! I suggest reading them in publication order for your first time. So, that would be starting with Redwall (the series-naming book), or possibly with Mossflower, which is the second in the series (if you can't get Redwall quickly enough). Hope you enjoy!


I'd love to hear your thoughts! But remember: it pays to be polite to dragons.