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Warning This is chock-full of spoilers for The Sable Quean further down...and plenty other Redwall stories besides. If you do not wish to be spoiled, you'd best be heading on.
In the beginning, there was creativity.
In what I call 'The First Decade of Redwall'--even though the books may not have necessarily all been published in the space of 10 years--Each tale was something new to the series. There was no choice, you may say, the series was new. True. But think about how the main plot.
Redwall: Defend the abbey from evil beasts--but you have to find the 'magic' scabbard, shield, and sword to do so!
Mattimeo: Revenge is here, gotta go get your kids back while the hearth defends the home.
Mariel of Redwall: Enslaved you and your father, threw you overboard when he wouldn't comply, you want revenge...possibly, the most swashbuckling and violence-happy book of the series, which makes it almost a personal favorite of mine.
...But, you get the point,right? The only ones even remotely resembling a reused plot were Redwall, Salamandastron, and The Bellmaker--A building has been taken over, and we'd like it back, please.
Next, the second decade, from Marlfox to Doomwyte.
There are quite a few absolute gems (Marlfox, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung) alongside the dull ordinariness of regular old rocks (Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, and even a little High Rhulain and Eulalia!)
High Rhulain and Eulalia! are the slight exceptions, the former being Let's go help someone else! and the latter being...sort of like The Long Patrol.
Doomwytes was just a Pearls of Lutra injected with darkness and evil and depression.
Here, the problem isn't the plots are the same--It's formulaic is the main complaint I hear.
Please do not get it confused; I love the Redwall books.
But it seems like that might change in the third gen if The Sable Quean has something to say about it.
From of all twenty of its elder siblings with love
If you look closely (Or, like myself, think too hard about it.), you will find a small chunk of each book inside of The Sable Quean, along with a few more standards of its own its starting.
I'm not listing them all right now, but here are some:
The clear ones
From Redwall, Mossflower, Salamandastron, The Bellmaker, Lord Brocktree: 'You have taken over our landmark, and we want it back NOW! Oh, you want to do this the hard way? You got it! Eulaliiiiaaaaa!'
From The Legend of Luke: Ambrevina's revelations and dreams about who she is, and where she wants to belong. It's a very slight comparison.
From Mossflower and Triss: Whenever Brockhall is involved, the villain is female. (Well spotted, Doogy.)
From High Rhulain: Abbess Marjoram reminds me very much of Abbes Lycian. Tall, slim, young mice abbesses who end up doing things the rest of the Abbey doesn't expect them to, like slamming earthenware bowls onto tables. Marjoram seems to have more personality, though.
From Doomwyte: A watermeadow being a place of evil activity. No, actually, I don't suppose that counts; The cave of the Doomwytes turns into a water meadow.
From Martin The Warrior: The toughest oppressed animal is killed by the oppressor (Felldoh and Flandor)
The Petty Ones
From Marlfox: 'Stop breaking into our Great Hall.', the villians' ability to 'disappear' and reappear at will.
From Doomwytes: 'Stop taking our Dibbuns, please.'. Even though, in Doomwytes, it was a half-baked plan, not a big focus of the story.
- It also shares the 'crazy hedgehog' with both books. Is there something in the October Ale or what?
From Pearls of Lutra: Hunt for something precious. Dibbuns, pearls...
What Sable Brought To the Table
Once again, spoilers for The Sable Quean
Equal Opportunity (For those with funny accents and speech)
It took 20+ years for Axtel Sturnclaw, a mole warrior, a chap who is big on "Rush first, think later." The philosophical warriors were starting to annoy me.
ALSO, it was wonderful to see Buckler be a hare who didn't speak in the Salamandastron dialect, which, if truth be told, gives me a bit of a migraine if I read too much of it at once.
The Useless Titular Villan(ess) and the Super Underpaw lackey
While reading, I came to the conclusion that if Vilaya was not in the story, this book would have been titled Redwall Number 21. She sits around not being that much of a threat or showing any skills that make us believe she is of an ancient warrior queen line as opposed to someone bestowing silly titles upon their selves. Of course, she had to do SOMETHING to amass such a following. Or maybe Zwilt was just a mercenary for hire.
While Zwilt the Shade was the real enemy here, I can see why he wasn't in charge--All killing and no thinking a typical Redwall story make!
Because Vilaya actually had a pretty bright idea. Pity there wasn't time to act on it.
The Huge, Confusing Prophecy That the Entire Harry Potter series is based off of...Simplified
Buckler's willingness to sacrifice himself for Dubdub, even though Zwilt probably would have just slew every beast eventually.
And Clarinna's bravery, for sure.
Carry Your Tunes
I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were a ton of songs that actually have a fitting rhythm you could put music to. I sung a good deal of them, my favorite being the vengeance dirge and Jiddle and Jinty's song in the cave.
The Preformation Era (Pun on 'The Reformation Era', see?)
The Witherspyk Performing Players were easily my favorite roving traveler band in the entire series. The ones before seemed like simply a circus act; The Witherspyks were actual thespians. The hoglets were absolutely charming, although you only saw Auroria, Rainbow, and...whoever the squirrel was only once.
Brockhall is rediscovered for a second time, and seems to have gone the south wall tower way--boggy. But It's a nice change to see that the only danger of a non speakable force is the yellowfin eel.
Now if we could only rediscover Noonvale, yes?
Riddle Me Less
There's something missing...the riddles! I realized that it didn't seem like a tedious chore to read the Redwaller parts, but couldn't think of why until now. (Thanks for pointing it out, ARBL!) There's a small section about where/what Althier is, but that only takes a bit of research, nothing to make you whip out a notepad.
But Why Is the Era "New"?
...Didn't you read the opening paragraph? 'Generations', 'In the beginning...' ring a bell?
First of all, it reintroduces the concept of We Can't Afford A Vacation This Year--There is only a minor bit of traveling outside of Mossflower, at the very beginning and end. Proof that the old forest can still hold its own for a setting.
Secondly, the plot is simple.
- -Something's missing!
- -Find it, and
- -Eradicate the evil.
That's all a story needs is a simple plot. The embellishments of Badger Ladies and Warrior Moles and what not are not the main focus of the story. One thing that made Martin The Warrior so trivial to me was that Martin was so oppressed yet powerful and good-willed and the main character. Unless the story is written in first person, that just makes the character look Gary-Stu-ish.
Third, No one is safe. Sort of. Now, I fail to understand how, in the story, nameless animals were dropping like flies on the goodbeasts' side and, on the enemy side, we get to know a few names and personalities, then they're killed, and we (That is to say, I) felt saddened by it? Are the gray characters and gray situations finally coming back? Will an evil squirrel or mole be the main villain soon (It happens in other literature--namely, The Mistmantle Chronicles)? I...'liked' the fact that one of Vilaya's prisoners, Flandor, was killed. That's improvement. In a real hostage situation, I'm sure many more would have died, but then again, these are talking animals, and none of them as fierce as the otter, except probably Flib.
This also is the first book to be printed only in the new covers. The large ornate 'Redwall' header is actually much nicer than you'd think. I dislike how, upon removing the cover, the book title embellishment on the spine is reduced to this wimpy script, and not the ornateness of the older books.
In my list of favorite Redwall books, The Sable Quean would probably rank as such:
- 1. Lord Brocktree
- 2. Mossflower
- 3. The Sable Quean
- 4. Eulalia!
- 5. Redwall
- 6. Marlfox
And the rest go on and on.
Otters that are 'like pirates'? You can see my surprise that, with the sheer love for otters that is on this site and in the fandom, how has someone already not written this. Will they actually plunder and murder anybeast, including good ones? They're going to have a change of heart somewhere down the line if that's so, we know it. But we'll have to see.