Reviews: Redwall

Don\'t Think too Hard About it

Good points:

1. Good use of descriptive language. Use of accents makes each race/species easily identifiable and fun to read. Food Porn and Scenery Porn is usually good.

2. Fight scenes are usually fast-paced and fun to read, particularly in scenes with open warfare where armies are pitted against each other.

3. You can begin with any book and understand what's going on without prior context.

Bad points:

1. Lack of continuity. Many locations aren't mentioned again if they aren't plot-important, even if they're within walking distance of Redwall. Many characters aren't mentioned again, even in books that are direct sequels. The books being written anachronistically also results in inconsistent details.

2. Characters are flat and static. Many are so similar, to the point of being the same character under a different name and setting, due to repeated use of the same archetypes. Any character development that does happen is either only informed or extremely abrupt. The earlier books (1980-1990's) are better at avoiding this.

3. The plots are very simple, black-and-white and formulaic. There are clear good guys and bad guys, and you always have the heroes' main plot and multiple subplots. Sometimes the subplots are more interesting than the main plot, due to featuring more likable characters and/or being more relevant/interesting.

4. The multiple plot threads can also lead to bad pacing or a lack of focus. Loads and Loads of Characters doesn't help.

5. Lack of world-building, coupled with the lack of continuity, leads to a lot of Fridge Logic on how things work, especially if you think of multiple books collectively. For example, where does Salamandastron get its constant supply of metal? How does Redwall never suffer from overpopulation?

6. Villains are usually killed off anticlimactically, either in a Curb-Stomp Battle or an Ironic Death indirectly caused by the heroes. Most of the time we don't even get a cool duel between the protagonist and antagonist. Which is a pity, since many of them are built up as such evil monsters.

7. Aesops and messages can be mixed and inconsistent.

Conclusion

All in all, the Redwall series has a lot of flaws but can still be enjoyable to read. I think it's better suited for its target audience (children) because of its simple story, and its more advanced writing style and use of obscure words is good for kids honing their reading skills. Even so, there are some books that are just really badly written and uninteresting to read (a lot of the books released in the 2000's).

But if you just take them as children's stories about animals going on adventures, it's not bad. Just don't think about it too hard and avoid the later books.

Outcast of Redwall: Probably the Worst in the Series

I will admit, I haven't read *every* Redwall book, just the ones up to Rakkety Tam. But I sincerely doubt any of them will top Outcast for sheer lack of quality. It has three major problems, and I'll tackle them in order:

  1. Lack of Focus and Messy Plotting - Probably the biggest problem with it comes from the fact that it feels like two books clumsily mashed together. On the one hand, we have the life story of Sunflash the Mace, of which his Mossflower cameo was the middle. On the other, we have the machinations of Swartt Sixclaw as he does various evil things with the nebulous goal of avenging himself on Sunflash. On the other-other hand, we have a timeskip so that his son, the titular character, can show up halfway through the book, and his abbey friends who go looking for him and oh you get the picture. Nothing gets developed enough. And, on a side note, the sheer fact that the abbey is, by the timeline, barely new when this story takes place makes it all the worse when everyone acts like they've had countless vermin fights over the years.

  2. Poor Quality Characterization - Unfortunately, actually learning the history of Sunflash doesn't work in his favor. He never stops feeling raw and untested all through the book, stripping away the cool mystique he had in his Mossflower cameo. Sure, he's an unstoppable One-Man Army, but he's a Redwall badger. Comes with the territory. Swartt's plans are kinda clever, but he's a pretty one-note eeevil character. And actually establishing what made Veil turn out evil was too much work, so it's just In the Blood.

  3. Mixed Messages - Everyone harps about this, but only because it really is that bad. In the novel that, theoretically, sets out to focus on the vermin and the question of whether they're just born evil, the answer is a resounding yes. Shoot, after Veil Takes the Javelin for his adoptive mother in a final act of selflessness, she decides he really was always evil and wouldn't have even tried to save her if he really thought he was in danger. Let's just say the question is better addressed in every other book that gives it a fair shake!

In summary, avoid. There's nothing here that can't be found better elsewhere in the series.
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