Terrouge E-zine Archives
It was a dark and stormy night. . .
Well, actually, it was evening, but it was dark and stormy. On the Northeast Coast, Dibbun-aged Stugg the sea otter and his father Abruc suddenly have their foraging trip interrupted by the discovery of a severely wounded badger, whose presence strikes upon them both awe and fear: awe at the fact that the badger, called Lonna Bowstripe, survived the horrible gash slashed down his face; and fear, for this injury is clearly the work of Raga Bol, a Searat whose name is spoken with the same tone of one who is relating a nightmare.
Not too far away, that very same Searat is mourning the loss of his destroyed ship and his left paw--the latter of which was sliced nearly clean off in the unprovoked attack against Lonna. Nought can be done about either, however, so it is off south (the prime destination of most vermin hordes) for this pirate crew. Their trek comes with a double motive, though: Raga Bol is fleeing from panic-inducing dreams of a vengeful Bowstripe.
At Redwall, young Martha Braebuck, a bright and intelligent haremaid of the scholarly sort, who has spent the past ten seasons in a wheelchair, receives an unexpected vision from Martin, who hints that a cure for her inability to walk rests in Loamhedge.
Also at Redwall, teen rebels (a new idea to the series) Springald the mousemaid; Fenna the squirrelmaid; and Horty, Martha"s elder brother, are finding life within the Abbey"s sandstone walls more and more unbearably confining.
A few days to the north, a band of vermin becomes acquainted with the legend of Redwall Abbey"s "magical" sword. It"s not long before the chief"s greed for possession of this allegedly powerful tool is stirred; the Abbeydwellers are certain to find a party of sword-seeking vermin on their doorstep at any moment.
And last, but never least, two old wandering friends, Bragoon the otter and Sarobando the squirrel, are up to their usual antics--pinching dinner off of the aforementioned passel of vermin. Their childhood home of Redwall beckons from afar, however and the next stop on the duo"s itinerary is none other than the Abbey itself.
Six tales. I thought Brian Jacques had really outdone himself--for the worse; it seemed inconceivable to blend six separate story strands into one thick (and logical) thread. To tell you the truth, I was worried the pessimistic prophecies for the latest Redwall would come true; and, indeed, for the first couple dozen chapters it honestly looked like that would be so. I should never have questioned Jacques"s yarn-telling ability, however, for something unknown to me . . . changed in the middle of the book, which in some way made it seem like I was reading a Redwall novel from the early "90s--but with one difference. This time around, Brian Jacques has created a novel that is a fusion of revolutionary ideas and an underlying feeling reminiscent of the pre-Long Patrol era: There was character development; histories and settings not discussed in ages; a returning accent that I can"t recall seeing since Redwall itself; and, to put the cherry on the sundae, there is a surprise ending--in more than one way.
Among the new concepts explored is a hare without harespeech or a Northlands accent--something I originally thought was inconceivable. Interspecies relationships are all but confirmed--excellent news for fanfic writers, who have been toying with the theory on their own. Another foreign creature is introduced. And, probably my favourite of all, we discover in Loamhedge a new and ingenious use for hotroot pepper--that has absolutely nothing to do with the culinary arts!
Astonishingly, Brian Jacques managed to retain a high level of consistency with Mattimeo, exceeding my expectations in all fields (I was flabbergasted). The only apparent discrepancies are a misspelling, an added desert on the way to Loamhedge, and a shorter distance between the gorge and the Badger and Bell rocks; the last two can even be geologically explained away. A particular in the last third of the book made Loamhedge skyrocket several notches up on my favourites list, and, more importantly, truly tied it in with Mattimeo. I"m not going to divulge any more spoilers about it; let"s just say it also leaves a wide-open window for fanfic writing.
Just when it looks like Redwall has pretty much reached its old level of superiority, the quality of the prose itself seems to have deteriorated somewhat: awkward, choppy sentences pop up in rather inopportune areas, and there are more typos than I cared to keep track of--although, that sort of error could have occurred in the translation from paper manuscript to computer document. But besides these two splotches, this was an otherwise spotless novel, and I have not been this astonished with a Redwall since Marlfox.
Loamhedge is bound to satiate every Redwaller"s appetite for a yarn like those of the olden days.