THIS NEWS POSTING CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS REGARDING Doomwyte
- "Further down, the walls glistened with crusted filth, rotting matter spotted with
violently hued patches of fungi. Heaps of protruding, decayed and yellowed
bones were piled up against the lower walls, quivering with a life of their own,
as spiders and cockroaches hunted the countless squirming, wriggling insects who inhabited the nauseous debris. All around this hideous scene, birds were perched everywhere..."
- ―Description of the Doomwytes lair, from Doomwyte
Doomwyte is the second Redwall novel (and the first in exactly 10 years) to be named for a villain or group of villains, and it certainly does not disappoint.
The raven Korvus Skurr leads a hierarchal horde of carrion birds and reptiles called "Doomwytes" who rampage the Mossflower countryside with their capture of seemingly innocent creatures by tricking them into following mysterious lights during the night.
In days long gone, Gonff the Mousethief stole the jeweled eyes of their idol and hid them, and the recapture of the precious stones by the Wytes means a return to greatness and glory!
Chronologically, Doomwyte probably takes place after High Rhulain. I say "probably" because the previous 5 Redwall novels have all taken place ahead of each other, and Doomwyte makes no references to any characters in any of these books. In fact, Doomwyte features an all new cast of characters, with many references to others from days gone by, such as Gonff, Columbine, Martin the Warrior, Young Dinny, and Asmodeus.
As I surmised before, Doomwyte is a darker Redwall novel, however I feel Jacques has taken steps in an entirely new direction with this book.
While we have seen violent villains like Gulo the Savage, at times I felt as if Korvus Skurr was much more wicked; themes such as violence, torture, and death are prevalent throughout the story, and the language used by Jacques to detail various occurences and locations is vividly descriptive.
Additionally, in The Legend of Luke and Mossflower, we are used to seeing a happy-go-lucky, carefree Gonff. In Doomwyte, Gonff is depicted as more serious, even sober, as Jacques demonstrates the more emotive side of the thief. We also learn of Gonff's genealogy, and what became of his later descendants, now known as the Gonfelins!
Fan criticism in recent years of Mr. Jacques has been aimed vehemently at the lack of grey characters and what some deem as "formulaic" plots.
With the publication of Doomwyte, any suggestion that Jacques does not include grey characters in his books is not only totally unfair, but flat out wrong. In the last book we observed characters who blur the line of good and evil, and Doomwyte continues this trend with similar characters; the identity of one such implementation will surprise many readers.
Furthermore, Doomwyte can hardly be described as succumbing to one master Redwall formula: the story is filled with unpredictable surprises and plot twists sure to startle the most hardcore of Redwall fans. For instance, Redwall Abbey is not what the baddies strive to conquer.
The twentieth entry into the Redwall saga is an electrifying adventure tale sure to satisfy long-time readers and enthrall newcomers. Be sure to pick it up later this year!
Some other points of interest:
- Salamandastron is totally absent from the book; in fact badgers are absent from the book! However I feel this can be forgiven considering the subject matter of Eulalia!.
- Dibbuns Against Bedtime make their second appearance in a Redwall novel, the first time since Triss.
- The Painted Ones make their fourth appearance in a Redwall novel, earning them the titles of the longest lasting band of vermin, and the most recurring villain group.
- As usual in a Mossflower Wood-related book, the Guosim have a presence.
Finally, some thought-provoking questions to whet the appetites of readers for what's to come later this year...
- Who/What is Welzz? (You honestly didn't think I was going to tell you now, did ya?!)
- Where is the door that requires a key?
- Who is the dark avenger monitoring every move of Skurr and his minions?
- Note: it must be stated that the quoted excerpt at the beginning of this review is
- from the advance, uncorrected proof of the novel, and that final changes to this draft
- may be made before publication of the final book this autumn.