About the Author:
Brian Jacques lived in Liverpool and had worked as a stand-up comedian, a playwright and a radio presenter. He died on the 5th February 2011.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3 out of 5
One of Jacques' hugely popular Redwall books, 'Salamandastron' is actually aimed at younger readers. In fact, this was one of the first books I ever read, along with 'The Hobbit' and 'Dracula'. Also, before I go on, for this review to make sense it's fairly important you know that the characters in this book are all anthropomorphic animals, like in 'Wind in the Willows'.
There are several parallel stories in this book which, in the way of classic fantasy adventures, all finally tie together in a grand finale. One of the story threads follows Mara the badger and Pikkle the hare as they are driven from the mountain fortress of Salamandastron by the army of the villain Ferahgo the Assassin. Another features Samkin the squirrel and Arula the mole in their quest to recover the stolen sword of Martin the Warrior on behalf of Redwall Abbey. A third storyline involves Thrugg the otter and Dumble the baby mouse setting off in search of a cure to the deadly disease that strikes down the inhabitants of Redwall. The final, and by far the most enjoyable, story thread focuses on the defenders of Salamandastron and their desperate fight against Ferahgo's hordes.
Overall this is a highly enjoyable children's fantasy with a good mix of action, cameraderie, sorrow and wonder. It's also fun to read the phonetically spelled accents of some of the characters, be it the south west England accents of the moles or the highland Scotland accents of the falcons. However, I would be lying if I didn't say that some of my enjoyment of reading this book as an adult was based upon my own nostalgic memories of the first time I read it.
4 out of 5
The Legend Of Luke
A Tale of Redwall. This book sees Martin the Warrior setting off from Redwall Abbey with a group of friends on a quest to return to the land of his birth and discover the story of his lost father, Luke.
Jacques has a brilliant talent for conveying the sense of warmth of friendship, good food, summer sunlight and peace; a talent which opens this book wonderfully. It was that talent combined with nostalgia that made me enjoy 'Salamandastron' so much upon re-reading it as an adult. However, it failed to work the same magic here for me.
What I found was that this book rapidly becomes tedious, largely consisting of an ongoing cycle of bad bantering, descriptions of food and short, pointless encounters with 'vermin'. On the latter, I'm not sure that having characters be 'goodbeasts' or 'vermin' based entirely on what race they are is a great message for kids.
I found it really hard to slog through this book and it repetetive nature made if feel like going in circles rather than a narrative progression. I particularly got sick to death of the overuse of the word 'vittles'. No more than about two pages passes anywhere in the book that Jacques doesn't cram in some comment about 'vittles'. It's almost as if no-one ever taught him the word 'food'. It got to the point towards the end that each time 'vittles' cropped up, my stomach turned. I could die happy never hearing/reading the word 'vittles' ever again. It may seem to be an odd thing to seize on, but it's indicative of the problems with the book as a whole.
This book has definitely put me off ever trying to read any more of the Redwall series.
2 out of 5