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Book Review: Doomwyte
By: Ashen Fox
As the years pass and we mature, we are bound to look at the world through different eyes. The darker facts of reality that we have known in our minds become more manifest. No one lives forever. The lines between good and evil, while they still exist, are not always easy to see. Everything might not turn out alright in the end. And yet, some worlds will never lose their magic, their black and white stance. Upon reading Doomwyte, I realized that, for me, Redwall was one of those worlds.
Granted, this is the first time in years that I have read a Redwall book, and that may have some bearing on how much I enjoyed the novel, yet I think there was a little more to it than absence making my heart grow fonder. Brian Jacques, while retaining all the elements that make a Redwall story a Redwall story, also managed to make Doomwyte a unique addition to the series.
For one thing, our beloved sandstone abbey is not besieged for the majority of the novel - or for any of it, for that matter. There are no power-hungry warlords advancing on Mossflower, intent on wreaking death and destruction on all who dare stand in their path. There are no vast legions of scruffy, scraggly, villainous vermin camped just outside the gates trying time and time again to get in, only to be warded off just in the nick of time. In fact, the only vermin to be seen, save for birds and reptiles, are a pair of rats, and they never meet our heroes anyway.
As has been noted by a few others, the entire book felt much more relaxed than most of the others. While death is lurking around corners and threatening to strike the adventurers from time to time - as is wont to happen to beasts who wander off in search of excitement and clues and magnificent jewels - the general tone of the book is much slower. For much of the first part, the creatures of Redwall are more or less confined indoors due to heavy rain.
Also, while the quests that send the Redwallers off to the ends of the land are, in most books, brought about by necessity and a daring grasp for hope in the face of grave danger, the quests and riddles found in Doomwyte actually come before the danger. They could even be said to have caused the danger in the first place.
Besides all that, moles seemed to play a more substantial role than normal. Perhaps this is just me noticing them more, which is quite possible thanks to Brooga Delfan of Redventure 4. However, I don't believe Jacques has ever had a mole as the Abbey Friar who writes about the Foremole. It was absolutely wonderful to see our old, velvet-furred friends getting some well-deserved attention.
One other thing I read that had never really struck me personally while reading previous Redwall books was the way the desire for vengeance was portrayed. I could go into a long-drawn-out comparison here, between the wicked adder Baliss and the otter Zaran, both of who are intent on doing great harm to the Doomwyte - but that is for another time and another place. Suffice to say, it makes one think - can a goodbeast remain truly a goodbeast whilst devoting their life to the harm of another?
It's well-known that a good plot is certainly important when it comes to writing an enjoyable story. But at the same time, a good plot will not get you very far if you do not have a cast of characters worthy of such a plot. And Doomwyte certainly didn't lack such a cast. From Bisky, Dwink, and Umfry, some of Redwall's finest young ones, to Corksnout the cellarhog with a literal cork for a nose, and Bosie, the northern hare, there's about a dozen characters I'm not likely to forget anytime soon. Although at this point I must admit confusing Bisky and Dwink for each other several times.
There's so much more I could say … the irritable infirmary keeper Brother Torilis could provide more than enough material for an entire article all on his own. The ending that comes together so neatly is enough to make me smile just thinking about it.
In short, Doomwyte was a truly enjoyable read. Certainly, it required a suspension of disbelief, but really, what else is to be expected of a novel peopled by talking animals who bravely wield sword and bow in defense of their loved ones and their homes? I truly felt for these characters. I felt their fears, their worries, and in doing so was able to take a much needed break from the troubles of our real world.