Ranking the Pixar Films

I absolutely love Pixar. Their movies are some of my favorite movies of all time, and definitely some of the best computer-animated films of all time (the How to Train Your Dragon movies, especially the second one, and some of Disney’s films are also on the list). I recently watched all of their animated films, in order, and decided to give them my own ranking. They’re loosely ordered from “most favorite” to “least favorite” but other factors affected my ratings, too, such as technique/animation, plot, setting, and story. Many of the middle films on the list (the ones with the 4 rating) are interchangeable.

What are your favorite Pixar movies?

1. Wall-E

Who knew a movie about robots with barely any dialogue (at least in the beginning) could be so charming and sweet? I absolutely love the opening music and the beginning exposition—the newspapers, holograms, advertisements, little snippets like that. The nonverbal exposition completely matches the nonverbal nature of the (first part of the) film. The choice of music from Hello, Dolly! is utterly perfect; it embodies that element of nostalgia that just would not have been as powerful with a more recent film. And yes, Wall-E does not go home before he kisses the girl. 5/5

 

2. Ratatouille

The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar movie, but stylistically I think Ratatouille is superior. And it stands out even more after the lackluster Cars (the movie that came out the year before). It’s a film about food and cooking, but its simplicity is fleshed out into a wonderful story, with some beautiful scenery and great moments—like the rats taking out the health inspector and Chef Skinner. 5/5

 

3. The Incredibles

This may be my favorite Pixar movie. Not only is it a fun, action-filled superhero movie, but it also has a fantastic message on the importance of family and on not living in the past. We all have some sort of “Glory Days” of our own, but, like Bob, we have to learn not to dwell on them so much that we ignore the people around us. We need people, and we need family. 5/5

4. Brave

I think I might like Brave better if it wasn’t a rebellious princess story (and those who regularly read my blog know that I don’t like rebellious princess stories) and if the message was less generic. However, the animation is gorgeous (Merida’s hair, oh my goodness), and Queen Elinor is awesome. Walking through a room and making fighting people get out of her way, her hilarious time as a bear, and that fantastic bear fight with Mordu…definitely the best character. 4/5

5. Up

I know, I know, you’re probably wondering why Up isn’t higher up on the list. Let me just say, first, that Up has a fantastic story—it punches you in the stomach in all the right places, it makes you cry, it’s about family, letting go of the past and of unimportant belongings, and letting people into your life. It’s visually gorgeous and Russell is a gem. However, I’ve always found the premise of this movie a bit hard to swallow. It just feels unrealistic to me, and most of what happens in the last quarter of the movie is extremely over the top as to be farcical. 4/5

6. Finding Nemo

To be fair, I’m not sure if I like Finding Nemo or Monsters, Inc. more. I like the message behind Finding Nemo more (family, not stifling your children, letting them explore and figure things out for themselves, overcoming tragedy) but I like the world of Monsters, Inc. more. Anyway, one of the things that stands out the most to me in Finding Nemo is how colorful it is. It’s a visually beautiful movie, and the different character attributes of the different ocean species (especially the seagulls (Mine! Mine!)) are so memorable. It’s also a very quotable movie, with dialogue that just sticks in your mind. 4/5

7. Monsters, Inc.

This movie has a fantastic world as its premise. Building the concept of “monsters in your closet” into a literal world is amazing; the added twist of monsters actually being scared of children at heart is genius. The rollercoaster of doors is still something that I wish to see implemented in real life at an amusement park. Also, Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski makes this movie. And Boo is adorable. 4/5.

 

8. Toy Story 2

Toy Story 2 takes everything good about Toy Story and expands it, making a hilariously fun, rootin’ tootin’ adventure that has toys running through airports and driving cars. The Star Wars references are slightly random, but extremely memorable, and the Toy Story films in general are very good at poignancy and with the overall theme of friendship and sticking together. This movie, I think, is really when Pixar starts hitting its stride. 4/5.

9. Toy Story 3

One thing I noticed while watching this is the precision and exactness of the animation for each toy. The toys move exactly how you think they would, and I think this is especially noticeable during Ken’s “fashion show.” As for the plot, the prison break is hilarious and so is Spanish Buzz; the ending makes me cry; and it’s a great way to end the “trilogy” with the continued theme of “getting back to Andy” with the addition of a message about growing up. This might have ranked higher on the list, but I like Toy Story 2 better. 4/5

10.  A Bug’s Life

For some reason, A Bug’s Life seems to be on the bottom of people’s lists when referring to Pixar films. It always seems to be referred to in some negative fashion. I don’t understand this, personally. As a child, I watched A Bug’s Life more times than I can count. The soundtrack is so wonderful and memorable to me, and the world of the film itself is so much bigger than that of Toy Story’s. The film is also hilariously funny and has some quite memorable bits of dialogue, in my opinion. 4/5.

11. Toy Story

I don’t think Toy Story was as revolutionary as Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, but it was still the first computer-animated feature length film (I think) and received a ton of critical acclaim, and its story and animation makes Pixar stand out. It also shows how much further animation in this style has come since 1995 (the year the movie came out). The plot is fairly simple, but the story itself is heartwarming and the scenes with Sid continue to be some of the creepiest I’ve seen. 4/5

12. Monsters University

The main problem I had with this movie was that it was completely unnecessary, not to mention Pixar actually retconned Monsters, Inc. A whole movie based around whether or not Mike Wazowski is scary? Come on, Pixar. You can do better than that (Okay, yes, I understand that it’s also about how Mike and Sully became friends, but even that’s not necessary, especially since it just led to retconning Monsters, Inc.). I did, however, love the animation, the college references, and the awesome moment when Mike pauses before opening the door to see his roommate and it’s not who the audience is expecting. 3/5

13. Cars

Cars isn’t a bad movie, but there’s definitely something missing when you compare it to the movies that come before (and after) it. It doesn’t have that extra oomph that movies like Finding Nemo or The Incredibles have. I do, however, love the ending. It’s always nice to see arrogance turn into compassion. 3/5

14. Cars 2

I can’t even begin to describe how boring, mediocre and just plain bad I thought this movie was. This is not a Pixar-worthy story. Sure, it has its fun moments, but the simplicity of the message just screams “kids movie,” while the rest of Pixar’s films are much more nuanced. I actually found this movie painful to watch. 1/5

Emerald Green: All The Time-Traveling Shenanigans You Could Want

Emerald Green is written by Kerstin Gier. It was first published in 2010 in Germany and then in 2013 by Henry Holt, translated by Anthea Bell. It is the third and final book in a trilogy, of which the first two books I reviewed here and here. Gier’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Gwen has a destiny to fulfill, but no one will tell her what it is.

She’s only recently learned that she is the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve, and since then nothing has been going right. She suspects the founder of the Circle, Count Saint-Germain, is up to something nefarious, but nobody believes her. And she’s just learned that her charming time-traveling partner, Gideon, has probably been using her all along.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

Okay, so remember all those doubts I discussed in my review of Sapphire Blue? I am happy to say that none of them came true, and that this book is an amazing finish to the trilogy. Tons of things happen (including, yes, Gwen delivering the note, helping to conk Gideon over the head, and stopping herself from being discovered), the romance is cute, there are some truly hilarious moments (check the second quote below for one of my favorites) and the ending reveal was pretty surprising!

So, first things first. The time travel was so well-executed here, and really has been throughout the trilogy. I loved the “crossing the streams”/Back to the Future aspect and all the little plot advances made. It’s so interesting to have Gwen’s second visit to Lady Tilney happen four years before her first visit to Lady Tilney, so really she’s meeting Lady Tilney for the first time in her second trip rather than her first. Also, it’s never explicitly mentioned, but I have to mention it because I thought Lucy/Paul/Gideon/Gwen’s plan with the chronograph was brilliant—the reason Lady Tilney gave Gideon her blood was obviously because however many years before they had come up with the plan and she had to give her blood to complete it. It’s mind-boggling stuff, and it’s great!

I was hesitant about the romance in the first two books because I was afraid it was overshadowing the plot, but Gideon’s “Gwenny’s” won me over. Also, it wasn’t overshadowing the plot, after all. And they’re cute.

As I said, the end reveal was pretty surprising; I was definitely not expecting it. I like the unexpected!

It was also super cute to see a different side of Lady Arista when Lucas was still alive.

What I Didn’t Like:

Um, so, what’s up with that immortality thing? That was random. And a little cliché and convenient.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence, swearing.

Genre: Realistic, Science Fiction, Supernatural, Historical Fiction, Young Adult

For some reason, I LOVE the German cover art

Passages/Quotes:

My grandfather wiped the palms of his hands on his trousers. “I’m beginning to feel too old for these adventures,” he said.

My eyes went to the chronograph. To me, it looked exactly like the one that had sent me here, a complicated device full of flaps, levers, little drawers, cogwheels, and knobs, covered all over with miniature drawings.

“I don’t object if you contradict me,” said Lucas, sounding slightly injured. “Something along the lines of but you’re much too young to feel old!”

“Oh. Yes, of course you are. Although that moustache makes you look decades older.”

“Arista says it makes me look serious and statesmanlike.”

~Gier 84-85

“Don’t be scared,” said a voice behind me.

Those must certainly fall into the category of Famous Last Words, the sort that are the last thing you hear before your death. (Along with “it isn’t loaded” and “he only wants to play.”) Of course I was terribly scared.

~Gier 194

Overall Review:

Emerald Green ends the time-traveling trilogy with all the twists, time-traveling shenanigans, and cunning plots you could want. Gideon and Gwen are really cute, and Gwen proves she’s not just a clumsy, mediocre girl. The immortality was strange and felt a little cliché and out of place, but otherwise, a fun trilogy.

You can buy this here: Emerald Green (Ruby Red)

Summer of Redwall: The Legend of Luke (And My 200th Book Review!)

If I counted correctly, this is my 200th book review! Wow!

The Legend of Luke is the twelfth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It is the sequel to Mossflower, but also the prequel to Martin the Warrior. It was published in 1999/2000 by Philomel.

Summary/Blurb:

“In this twelfth book of the masterful Redwall epic, storyteller Brian Jacques goes back in time to the days before Redwall, revealing with dramatic poignancy the legend of the first of the magnificent Redwall warriors—Luke, father of Martin.

Joined by Trimp the Hedgehog, Dinny Foremole, and Gonff—the ever-mischievous Prince of Mousethieves—it is that legend Martin hopes to discover when he embarks on a perilous journey to the northland shore, where his father abandoned him as a child. There, within the carcass of a great red ship—broken in half and wedged high up between pillars of stone—he finally uncovers what he has been searching for: the true story of the evil pirate stoat, Vilu Daskar, and the valiant warrior who pursued him relentlessly over the high seas, seeking to destroy Vilu at all costs, even if it meant deserting his only son.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

This book contains a unique format for Redwall: the story-within-a-story. The first and third parts are about Martin first traveling towards and then returning from the northern caves. The second part is Luke’s story, and what it shows above all is that Jacques was certainly capable of compacting a story when he wanted to. “In the Wake of the Red Ship,” as the characters call the tale, is essentially a novella, and it is probably the most concise story in all of Redwall. In fact, it makes the long, rambling journey of Martin, especially afterwards, seem boring and uneventful in comparison. I’ve always wondered why Jacques cuts out the return trip of the heroes in his books, and now I know why: after the meat of the story, such a long denouement is a bit…boring.

I love the character of Folgrim. We’ve had “gray” bad guys before, but Folgrim is maybe the closest we’ll get to a “gray” good guy, unless I’m mistaken. I’ve always liked otter characters and Folgrim is an especially interesting one. It’s always the unusual, abnormal quirky characters that are the most enticing in Redwall, it seems.

As much as I thought Martin’s journey was really flat compared to the fast-pace of Luke’s story, I did think that the dynamic between the characters was great—especially because there were so many on the journey. But Martin and Co. all sounded like old friends, and they interacted like old friends, and despite the large amount of people, nobody was lost in the mix. This might have been the best group dynamic in Redwall so far, even.

Cover Art

What I Didn’t Like:

Like I mentioned, Martin’s journey, especially the one back to Redwall, seems incredibly dim next to the bright and shining awesomeness of Luke’s. It’s nice to see his reaction to finally knowing what happened to his father, but the adventures he has are rather generic and almost take away from his introspections.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Violence/fighting, death, war.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Luke saying goodbye to Martin

Passages/Quotes:

“I’m Martin of Redwall, son of Luke the Warrior. Whom have I the pleasure of addressing, sir?”

The hare shook his hoary silver head, returning the smile. “Knew y’father well, sah. Excellent chap! I’m Beauhair Fethringham Cosfortingsol. No I ain’t, I’m Beausol Fethringhair Cosfortingclair. No I ain’t, wait a tick. I’m Beauham Fethringclair Confounditall. Tchah! I’m so old I’ve forgotten me own name. What a disgrace, wot!”

~Jacques 145

“What would you sooner do, Vurg, freeze t’death, drown t’death, or starve t’death?”

The mouse opened one eye and murmured, “You didn’t say wot wot.”

“Wot wot? Why the deuce should I say wot wot?”

Vurg smiled sleepily. “’Cos you always say wot wot!”

Beau’s ears stood rigid with indignation. “I beg your very pardon, sir, I do not. Wot wot?”

~Jacques 303

Overall Review:

“In the Wake of the Red Ship” is pretty brilliant, Redwall-wise. The other two parts are interesting, with a really good group dynamic and some interesting characters, but they unfortunately pale in comparison to the middle part. If only Jacques wrote every Redwall book like he wrote Luke’s story, because if you remember, the more concise the plot of a Redwall tale is, the better the Redwall tale is.

You can buy this here: Legend Of Luke (Redwall)

Summer of Redwall: Marlfox

 Marlfox is the eleventh book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It is the sequel to The Long Patrol. It was published in 1998 by Philomel. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“A villainous new presence is aprowl in Mossflower Woods—the Marlfoxes. Stealthy, mysterious, they can disappear at any time, in any place, and they are out to plunder and destroy everything in their path. And when they reach Redwall Abbey? They ruthlessly steal the most precious treasure of all—the tapestry of Martin the Warrior. It takes Dann Reguba and Song Swifteye, children of warrior squirrels, to follow in their fathers’ heroic footsteps, and together with the young shrew Dippler, and Burble the brave watervole, they embark upon the seemingly impossible quest to recover the famous tapestry.

Enemies and danger greet their every move as they make their way to the ominous island domain of the evil Marlfox leader, Queen Silth, and her children. But they are met most dramatically by themselves, as they prove their own courage and worth and discover the hero’s spirit that lives within each one of them.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

Once again, a focused plot without irrelevant side-plots makes for a good Redwall book. I enjoyed the uniqueness, for Redwall, of the “family” villains, although I still don’t like the fact that none of the villains seem capable of love (a topic that will come up again in Taggerung, which has sort of the opposite type of mechanic than Outcast of Redwall). I also found the quick demise of Lantur, after all her scheming, amusing.

Song and Dann (and Dippler and Burble) are probably the most endearing heroes that come from Redwall in a while. They’re not bland or flat, like Samkim was, and they’re not forgettable like Dandin. For once, theirs is a group that actually has a good dynamic and isn’t overshadowed by one character or the other. None of them seem to be simply tagging along for the purpose of having another character (i.e. Arula and whoever it was that was with Bryony that was probably a mole). I suppose that Burble is there simply for comic relief, but the other three actually have character development.

Speaking of comic relief, Jacques usually uses the hares for that and it’s especially noticeable here. Florian is probably one of my least favorite hares, but his inclusion makes for some of the funnier parts of the book.

Once again, I much prefer the UK cover art

What I Didn’t Like:

Dibbuns! They’re cute in the first five or so books, but then they just keep getting more and more annoying with their way of speaking and their antics. Dwopple…sigh. Also, why don’t we ever see vermin babies?

More retconning from Jacques, although that’s pretty much old news by now. Or maybe for this one he did it on purpose, to illustrate the way that legends change over time? Anyway, this time, when describing the history of Marlfox Island, Cregga mentions that Urthstripe (from Salamandastron) went to the island, met his brother Urthwyte, and then traveled back to Salamandastron with him where they fought Ferahgo. Uh, well, it was Mara who found Urthwyte, and the two brothers never actually met face-to-face. But it makes for a good legend, I guess.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: War, violence/fighting, death

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Our heroes!

Passages/Quotes:

Janglur Swifteye gazed in awe and admiration at the tapestry hanging on the west wall of the Abbey’s Great Hall. It depicted vermin fleeing in all directions from the figure standing boldly at its center, Martin the Warrior. The armor-clad mouse leaned upon the hilt of his fabulous sword, a friendly reckless smile on his striking features.

Janglur whistled softly. “Now there stands a warrior among warriors, by the seasons! He looks so confident an’ strong, small wonder those vermin are fleein’ for their lives, mate!”

Rusvul pointed to the name embroidered on the border. “Aye, that’s Martin the Warrior. He was the creature who freed Mossflower from tyranny an’ helped to found this Abbey of Redwall. I felt just as you do, when I first saw him. This tapestry means a great deal to any creature calling itself a Redwaller.”

~Jacques 66

Deesum picked him up, comforting Dwopple and castigating Florian in the same breath. “There there now, my little soldier, did the cruel rabbit steal your paddle, nasty wicked beast!”

“Madam! Cruel, nasty an’ jolly well wicked I may be, but I am a hare, marm, not a rabbit!”

“Indeed, sir? Well, you show all the sense of a rabbit, a two-day-old one. You are not fit to command that paddle you have stolen!”

Florian sat down dispiritedly upon the floorstones, staring about at the empty hall. “Huh! Bloomin’ paddle’s about all I’ve got left to command, wot!”

~Jacques 164

Overall Review:

Marlfox has some of the better heroes in the series (of those that come from Redwall) and a unique set of villains. I still think Redwall is at its best when Jacques doesn’t try to take on too much at once in regards to plot, and so far all the books that have one main plot are the best, Marlfox included. The Dibbuns are still annoying, though, alas.

You can buy this here: Marlfox: A Tale from Redwall

The Seer and the Sword: Do People Who Write The Book Summaries Even Read The Books?

The Seer and the Sword is written by Victoria Hanley. It was published in 2000 by Holiday House. Hanley’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Princess Torina lives a charmed life in the kingdom of Archeld. Then her father, King Kareed, seizes the peaceful kingdom of Bellandra—and its legendary sword, rumored able to defeat any enemy. On his return, he offers Torina two gifts: a beautiful crystal and the defeated king’s son, Landen, as a slave. Both prove to be more precious than she could ever imagine. For with them Torina makes two discoveries: She is a seer, able to glimpse the future in her crystal, and Landen is not a servant but a peer, a noble spirit who matches her in wits, humor, and character.

But all is not well in Archeld. Beneath the seemingly orderly surface lurk greed, revenge—and plots against the king’s life. Fingers point at Landen, but Torina cannot believe he would harm her or her family. Can she use her newfound powers to save her beleaguered kingdom? Or must the seer take up the sword?”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

The second part of the book was way better than the first. Fast pacing, decent action and suspense, heists, intrigue, mystery…a nice finish to the book.

The plot was fairly decent overall, although the worldbuilding was nothing special. I thought Torina’s character was interesting because Hanley made it appear as if she would be one of those rebel warrior princesses or something, but instead the focus is more on the dampening of her spirit rather than the fulfilling of it. She doesn’t form a band or shock everyone with her archery skills or whatever; she spends her time hiding in a cottage. Definitely not what I was expecting there. I mean, there is that one part with the archery at the very end, but the fact that she doesn’t spend the entire book doing things like that makes it even better, in my opinion, because it’s not the same tired trope as many other fantasy books.

Cover Art

What I Didn’t Like:

The writing was not that great; in fact, I almost stopped reading it about two chapters in (it did get better, or maybe the plot just got better so I could ignore the writing more). How do you glide from a horse’s back, anyway?

Talk about a deceptive blurb. “Must the seer take up the sword?” The sword in the title has nothing to do with the seer, and no, she doesn’t fight at all or even consider it. It’s Landen who has the fighting angst, not Torina.

I have to say, I rolled my eyes when at the very beginning Torina, at the tender age of nine, thought, “I can never live that way!” You’re nine years old, kid. Stop being so dramatic. Also, you’ve hardly developed anything at that age, much less a permanent goal or personality.

Did not like Irene, who’s all “I’m going to let the guard grope me because he’s handsome.” Um, no. No, no, no. Irene is also working with the bad guys, which makes it even worse (it’s the “All Bad Girls Are Promiscuous” trope, but I’m sorry, Bad Girls should not let themselves be treated that way).

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Violence, death.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Fan art! (by enchantedgiraffe)

Passages/Quotes:

“Will you be glad to hear I’m leaving your kingdom?”

“Leaving Archeld? Why?”

He took her hand, rubbing the fingers. “Because there are rumors that say I’ll kill the king.”

Shock cleared her head. “Kill my father? Why?”

Landen’s chest heaved. “To avenge Bellandra.”

“But Landen,” she said. “That was so long ago.”

“I haven’t forgotten.”

~Hanley 86

Anna set to work. “My dear, we must at least know our name, or what will we call you?”

Torina considered. “Vineda. Call me Vineda.”

~Hanley 167

Overall Review:

The Seer and the Sword has a decent plot, but it’s poorly developed in terms of worldbuilding and characterization. The writing is not that great, although I did get used to it near the end. It’s a very obvious trope fantasy and the characters are flat and one-dimensional. There’s the usual “oh no! Fighting and killing!” angst (not making light of the angst itself, just the trope, which I think is incredibly overused) and it’s simply a mediocre novel.

You can buy this book here: The Seer and the Sword

Summer of Redwall: The Long Patrol

The Long Patrol is the tenth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It is the sequel to Pearls of Lutra. It was published in 1997 by Philomel.

Summary/Blurb:

“The murderous Rapscallion army is on the move. Dealt a humiliating defeat by Lady Cregga Rose Eyes, the Badger Lady of Salamandastron, who still pursues them, the Rapscallions are heading inland to take an even greater prize: the peaceful Abbey of Redwall.

The Long Patrol, that fighting unit of perilous hares, is called out to draw them off—and fight them to the death if need be!

It is the young hare Tammo, who has always dreamt of being a member of the Long Patrol, who gets his chance, and who, by fate and happenstance, takes up the lead sword in one of the most ferocious battles Redwall has ever faced. Eulallllllllia is his cry.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

Keep up the overarching plots, Jacques, because it’s working well! The Redwall sidebar was slightly irrelevant (well, the Tansy and Co.: Adventures in Kotir was), but overall, once again Jacques maintained a tight focus. There was also an awesome sense of urgency created by the collapsing wall that made for some nice tension.

Hares! So many hares! So many hares that they were hard to tell apart, but hares are probably my favorite creatures in Redwall so a whole book devoted to them is a plus. What is unique about this book is that, for once, the main hero is not someone who carries the Sword of Martin. Tammo is the main hero (well, all the hares are, really); Arven carries the Sword but is really not even focused on all that much.

Cover Art

What I Didn’t Like:

So, what with Russa carrying on about Tammo not being a killer and that he doesn’t have to join the Long Patrol, you would think that at the end of the book Tammo would not join the LP. That’s how these things usually work. But he does, and it just left me confused. Maybe that was just Russa seeing her past self in Tammo?

Damug has probably the most anticlimactic villain exit ever. Cregga just grabs him and jumps; he doesn’t even get a prolonged fight or taunt.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Violence/fighting, war, death

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Fan art!

Passages/Quotes:

Tansy drew herself up grandly, spikes abristle and eyes alight. “Nonsense! Show me the wall this instant!”

The group wandered up and down the length of the high battlemented south wall for the remainder of the afternoon, talking and debating and pointing earnestly. The final conclusion was inescapable. The wall was sinking, bellying inward too. They probed the mortar between the stone joints, stood on top of the wall, and swung a weighted plumb line from top to bottom. Then, placing their faces flat to the wall surface and each one squinting with one eye, they gauged the extent of the stone warp. Whichever way they looked at it there was only one thing all were agreed upon. The south wall was crumbling!

~Jacques 50

The Sergeant’s tone was almost an outraged squeal. “Get those dirty great sweaty dustridden paws out o’ that water! It’s for drinkin’, not sloshin’ about in. Trowbaggs, what’n the name o’ seasons are you up to, bucko?”

“Wrappin’ m’self up in me groundsheet, Sarge. Good night!”

Veins stood out on the Sergeant’s brow as he roared at the hapless blunderer, “Sleepin’? Who said you could sleep, sah? Get that equipment cleaned, lay out yore mess kit, line up for supper! Forget sleep, Trowbaggs, stay awake! Yore on second watch!”

~Jacques 183

Overall Review:

The Long Patrol is a great blend of humor, tension, and action with the ever-memorable hares as the stars and the continuation of a focused, overarching plot that has made certain Redwall books shine for me. However, Damug had a bit of a lackluster exit and some of Tammo’s development didn’t make much sense to me.

You can buy this here: Long Patrol (Redwall)

Summer of Redwall: Pearls of Lutra

Pearls of Lutra is the ninth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It is the sequel to Mattimeo. It was published in 1996 by Philomel. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“The Tears of All Oceans are missing. Six magnificent rose-colored pearls that inspire passion and greed in all who see them, they have left a cryptic trail of death and deception in their wake. And now Ublaz Mad Eyes, the evil emperor of a tropical isle beyond where the sun sets, is determined to let no one stand in the way of his desperate attempt to claim the pearls as his own.

At Redwall Abbey, a young hedgehog maid, Tansy, is determined to find the pearls first, with the help of her friends. Each of the pearls is hidden separately, along with a riddle as to the whereabouts of the next. Tansy must succeed, as the life of one she holds dear is in great danger. Meanwhile, the crew of fearsome monitor lizards and corsairs gather by Ublaz grows restless…”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

I’ve found that the Redwall books that are the best (so far) are the ones that have an overarching plot that all the viewpoints participate in. So, no random Redwall side plots that have nothing to do with the hero’s quest or the villain’s plan, just one plot that affects everyone. This book has that, which means that the Redwall Abbey portion of the book is not tedious or irrelevant, but is actually quite fun and a great puzzle quest to boot.

Arven is an interesting character; he’s a Dibbun (ugh) here, but in another book he becomes the Warrior, and then he’s Abbot. He’s the only character to be both Warrior and Abbot, in fact. I had my issues with him in this book, but his “Tansy pansy toogle doo!” was pretty cute.

Cover Art

Romsca is a character that, like Blaggut, doesn’t follow the same pattern as the other “vermin” in the series. Although she never has a Heel Face Turn (don’t click that unless you want to waste hours of your life) like Blaggut, her parting scene with the Abbot is quite touching, if a little bittersweet.

The rule of the Redwall series: if it has Martin in it (in the flesh), then it’s one of the best. This one has Martin, but not the Martin. It’s Martin II, the son of Mattimeo (yes, that Mattimeo). But the rule still applies: this book is one of the better books in the series.

How many villains now have been hoisted by their own petards? Directly, there’s Ublaz in this one (killed by his own snake), Gabool in Mariel (killed by his own scorpion), and Klitch in Salamandastron (although the poison was Ferahgo’s, not his, technically). Indirectly, there’s Tsarmina from Mossflower (fear of water, drowning), Urgan Nagru from The Bellmaker (killed by his wolfskin), Slagar from Mattimeo (killed by his slyness). That’s almost every single villain. I’m going to keep track of this in later books…

Also, on a side note, the names of the enemies in this book were really great.

What I Didn’t Like:

Okay, so my main issue was this book was something I brought up in the previous book: discipline. Or, the lack of. Arven and Diggum place a bowl of porridge so that Viola sits in it. After they confess, Abbot Durral “sentences” them to play in the orchard while Tansy, who had nothing to do with it, and Viola have to clean for arguing. What? So, okay, Arven and Diggum didn’t let Tansy take the fall for it, which is admirable, but there was no consequence? Not even an apology or tasked to clean up the porridge? Just sent out to play?

This happens again later on, when Arven leads two other Dibbuns out of the Abbey. Rather than be punished for it, Rangapaw rewards them and Log a Log states that they shouldn’t “break [the Dibbuns’] spirits.” What? What? What? No wonder all the Dibbuns are little terrors in every book!

Tansy

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: Violence/fighting, war, death

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Passages/Quotes:

Inside the flourbag was the shell of a scallop, a huge one. Deep ridges on both sides met where the shell closed in a perfect watertight seal. At some time a clever and artful creature had created darkwood hinges to the shell’s back flanges and a cunning clasplock on the front. As Tansy opened the shell, she recited the second half of the rhyme:

“There wrought by mother nature ‘neath the main,

Lies that which holds the beauty, or the bane.”

Both halves of the scallop shell fell open before their eager eyes. The interior of the shell was lined with soft red cloth. One perfectly round ball of thin fine parchment nestled in a holder; five more holding spaces were empty.

~Jacques 99-100

“Why are you helping me like this, my child?”

Romsca sheathed her cutlass blade firmly. “I ain’t yore child, I keep tellin’ yer, an’ I ain’t doin’ this to ‘elp you. ‘Tis more fer my benefit you be kept alive. We’re sailin’ into bad cold weather, you wouldn’t last a day out on deck. Sit tight in ‘ere an’ keep the door locked, d’ye hear?”

Abbot Durral smiled warmly at the wild-looking corsair. “You are a good creature, Romsca. What a pity you chose the life of a corsair.”

~Jacques 226

Overall Review:

Pearls of Lutra is another Redwall book that demonstrates that a good, solid plot with little to no side-tracking makes for a good story. The complicated (for Redwall) puzzle quest, combined with the hero’s journey with a unique twist, makes this book one of the more memorable ones in the series.

You can buy this here: Pearls of Lutra (Redwall)

Coming Up Next: The Long Patrol

Sapphire Blue: Definitely A Middle-Of-The-Trilogy Book

Sapphire Blue is written by Kerstin Gier. It was published in 2010 in Germany and then in 2012 by Henry Holt in the US, translated by Anthea Bell. It is the sequel to Ruby Red. Gier’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Gwen’s life has been a roller coaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve. When not searching through history for the other time travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.

It’s not easy when a secret society, a dangerous Count, and her own time-traveling partner, Gideon, are determined to keep her from the truth. Especially since Gwen can’t decide whether Gideon really believes she’s a traitor to the Circle or might actually be on her side—and creeping into her heart.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

This book is highly amusing. The entire scene where Gwyneth drinks too much punch and Gideon is speechlessly disapproving was great (even though it distracted slightly from the Count), and there were some other bits of amusing dialogue that were fun, too.

Overall, I thought the romance angst was played very well. I mean, Gideon is the obvious “Guy-Who-Pretends-To-Love-A-Girl-And-Then-Really-Does” but his hot/cold nature is interesting.

The time-traveling aspect is very interesting, especially since several things have happened that the characters haven’t actually done yet, so I’m excited to see some “crossing the streams” in the next book (Gwyneth has to presumably help someone knock out Gideon, she still has to keep herself from being discovered behind the curtains, she has to give Lucas the note, etc.).

I’m also very curious to see what the big secret is behind the Circle, and now that there are some prophecies in play, to see the fulfillment of those.

Two cover arts! I prefer the one on the left, myself, if only because it mostly avoids the “generic girl in a dress” YA trend.

What I Didn’t Like:

Besides Gwyneth and Gideon, none of the characters are very fleshed out at all. Charlotte’s character is the typical Jealous, Spiteful Rival, Lesley is the Spunky Sidekick, and the mysterious Guardians and the Count just seem to be the usual, run-of-the-mill mysterious villains.

The plot developments are so slow. Nothing much really happens in this book. A lot is going to have to happen in the next. Nothing was developed in the case of Paul and Lucy, no developments were made about the secret of the chronograph, Gwyneth still has no idea about anything. The only thing that was developed was the romance, and there were some vague hints thrown around about the Count’s sinister nature, but nothing of much import or necessity. It’s still all just set-up, and all the set-up should have been mostly finished in the first book. It makes me worry that not everything is going to be resolved in the third book, and that the plot is being set aside to forefront the romance.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Swearing, violence.

Genre: Supernatural, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Realistic

Scene from the German movie

Passages/Quotes:

“I can do a really good trumpet imitation too,” said the gargoyle. “And a tuba imitation. Do you have a dog?”

“No!” I took a deep breath. I was going to need nerves of iron to cope with this little guy.

“Couldn’t you get one? Or a cat would be better than nothing, but they always look down their noses at you, and it’s not so easy to wind a cat up. A good many birds can see me, too. Do you have a bird?”

“My grandmother can’t stand pets,” I said. I was about to say she probably wouldn’t have much time for invisible pets either, but I swallowed the words again. “Okay, now let’s start over again from the beginning: My name is Gwyneth Shepherd. Nice to meet you.”

“Xemerius,” said the gargoyle, beaming all over his face. “Pleased to meet you too.” He climbed up on the washbasin and looked deep into my eyes. “Really! Very, very pleased! Will you buy me a cat?”

~Gier 45

“But that…that’s not magic!” I whispered, shocked.

Lesley sighed. “Not in the sense of hocus-pocus magical rituals, maybe, but it’s a magical ability. The magic of the raven.”

“More of an eccentricity, if you ask me,” I said. “Something that makes people laugh at me—and anyway no one believes I can do it.”

“Gwenny, it’s not eccentric to have extrasensory perception. It’s a gift. You can see ghosts and talk to them.”

“And demons,” Xemerius pointed out.

~Gier 203

Overall Review:

Sapphire Blue has the same fun and humor as Ruby Red, but unfortunately the fact that nothing much has happened by way of plot development/resolution has me a little worried that the romance is the main object of this series, rather than an interesting, complex plot. The romance is actually pretty well done, and the plot is certainly interesting, but a lot has to happen and considering the slow pace of the first two books, I don’t know if the third book will be able to deliver.

You can buy this book here: Sapphire Blue (Ruby Red)

Summer of Redwall: Outcast of Redwall

Outcast of Redwall is the eighth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was published in 1995 by Philomel.

Summary/Blurb:

“Can a creature be born completely evil, incapable of any good? For the mice and other inhabitants of Redwall, this is the question they ask themselves of Veil, ferret son of the evil warlord Swartt Sixclaw. Abandoned as an infant and left for dead by his father, Veil is raised by the kind-hearted Bryony. Despite concerns from everyone at Redwall, Bryony is convinced that the goodness in him will prevail. But when Veil commits a crime that is unforgivable, he is banished from the abbey forever. An outcast.

When Swartt and his evil hordes of searats and vermin attack the peaceful inhabitants of Redwall, Veil is left with a difficult decision: Should he join Swartt in battle against the only creature who has ever loved him? Or should he turn his back on his true father?”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

If it wasn’t for the unfortunate Veil part of this book (see below), Outcast would be a pretty decent Redwall book. It’s probably the book with the most set-up and the one that is spread out over the most amount of time, because it chronicles pretty much Sunflash’s (and Swartt’s) entire lifetime. I liked the build-up because it’s so different to the usual This Happens Over One Season plots. It was interesting to essentially “grow up” with both the hero and the villain.

Sunflash is probably one of my favorite badger heroes, and Skarlath (oh, Skarlath) is definitely my favorite bird. There aren’t many bird heroes in Redwall, so Skarlath really stands out.

Hello, Bella! You serve as a way to mark where in the chronology Outcast lies! You’re awesome. Also, your reunion with Sunflash is the sweetest thing in all of Redwall.

The UK cover got this right. Sunflash is the hero and should be on the cover, not Veil (coughUSversioncough)

What I Didn’t Like:

The blurb for this book is the most deceitful and thus most annoying blurb I have ever read. First of all, it talks as if Veil is the main focus of the book—he is not. Second, it implies that Swartt attacks Redwall—he does not. Finally, it doesn’t even mention Sunflash, who is the hero and whose journey is the focal point of the plot!

Why is this book named after Veil, who doesn’t even show up until halfway through the book? Veil doesn’t even really do anything important until his death! He’s basically another Irrelevant Redwall Sideplot because, really, Veil is completely irrelevant. His “development” is irrelevant, and just makes no sense. There is no prior lead-up or explanation for his sudden desire to save Bryony, so instead of being an “Aw, there is good in him!” moment, it’s more of an “Um, what? That was out of character…” moment.

Oh, Bryony. You take the prize for the most naïve (and annoying) Redwaller. At least you get better.

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: Violence/fighting, death, war

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Sunflash and Skarlath

Passages/Quotes:

Weighing his words carefully, [Sunflash] explained to Tirry. “Listen to what I must say, friend. If I stayed here it would mean great trouble, possibly death for those around me. I have told you of Swartt Sixclaw, the evil ferret. Make no mistake, if I make this place my home, then he will turn up here one day with his band. But even if he did not, my warrior spirit would grow restless and I would need to go and seek him out. We are sworn lifelong enemies, he and I.

“However, besides all that there are my dreams. Always I see the mountain of fire looming through my slumbers, and strange voices of other badgers, Warrior Lords whose names I do not know, call me. Why I must go to the mountain, where it is, what name it goes by, I do not know. But I am certain that my fate and destiny are bound to the mountain. Each night I dream, and the urge to travel there goes surging through home. One morning you will wake to find me gone. I am as sure of it as the turning of seasons, Tirry.”

~Jacques 47-48

Bella closed her eyes and leaned back. “Some creatures are always hungering after one thing or another. I have a feeling about this one, and if I am proved right in the seasons to come, I will tell you why I really called him Veil. But it is far better now to hope for the best that can happen, so we will say no more about it. You are a good mousemaid, Bryony, that is why the Abbess and I decided that you shall have Veil, to bring up and care for. He may benefit from you.”

Bryony’s eyes were shining, and she hugged the small bundle close. “Oh, Mother Abbess, is it true? I will be like his mother, no, more like his big sister, no, more like his good friend!”

The Abbess smiled at her friend the mousemaid. “Make your mind up, missie. Best be a little of all, mayhap that’s what Veil will need to grow up good. Put him back in his cradle now and take him up to the dormitory with you. Bella is too old to care for him, and I have my Abbey to look after. From this day forth he is your responsibility.”

~Jacques 188-189

Overall Review:

For having the book named after him, Veil is a pretty useless character. This totally should have been called Sunflash the Mace or Sunflash and Skarlath or The Badger and the Hawk or something that actually mentions the main protagonist instead of an annoying little ferret. Still better than Salamandastron, though.

You can buy this here: Outcast of Redwall

Summer of Redwall: The Bellmaker

The Bellmaker is the seventh book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It is the direct sequel to Mariel of Redwall. It was published in 1994 by Philomel. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Joseph the Bellmaker is troubled. It has been four seasons since his warrior-mouse daughter, Mariel, and her companion, Dandin, set off from Redwall to fight evil in Mossflower. Nothing has been heard of them since.

Then one night, in a dream, the legendary Martin the Warrior comes to the Bellmaker with a mysterious message. Clearly, Mariel and Dandin are in grave danger.

Joseph and four Redwallers set off at once to aid them. As they push over land and sea, they cannot know the terrible threats they face: the impossible Foxwolf, Urgan Nagru, his mate Silvamord, and their vicious rat hordes.

Can the impetuous sailor-otter Finbarr Galedeep help them cross the sea? What is the mystery of Roaringburn? And most important, will the Bellmaker and his companions arrive in time to help Mariel and Dandin?”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

As much as I disliked Mariel of Redwall, this sequel is probably one of the better books in the series. It has that nice focus that Martin the Warrior had, despite its many characters and viewpoints, and the Irrelevant Redwall Sideplot was made more interesting by the inclusion of a “good” vermin, Blaggut.

Blaggut is one of the only vermin characters in the series that is a friend to the Redwallers. There are a couple of others, but he’s the one that stands out the most to me when I think of good vermin. The sideplot involving him and Slipp is interesting, and, like I mentioned above, makes the Redwall portion of the book bearable. I also loved the implication that evil must be, and will be, defeated by good. The Redwall series has a great aspect on justice that a lot of other books don’t have.

Egbert the mole was probably my favorite character in the book. He’s a rather unique mole, which is quite refreshing if you’re tired of the “Plucky Mole Companion” trope that Jacques uses over and over again.

Cover Art

What I Didn’t Like:

The only thing that really marred this book for me was perhaps the most obvious example of retconning in the Redwall series; namely, Rufe Brush. In Mariel of Redwall, Rufe was a strong, silent older squirrel who was a leader in the battle against Graypatch. He hung around with Oak Tom and the “older” Redwallers (as opposed to the “younger” ones like Dandin, Saxtus, and Durry). However, in this book, Rufe suddenly changes into this really timid, “young squirrel” who seems younger than Durry, Dandin, et. al, rather than older, and who seems to have no knowledge of fighting or courage or anything. It’s like the two Rufes are two completely different characters. I much preferred the Mariel Rufe, as this one was way too whiny.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: Fighting, death, war

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Joseph the Bellmaker

Passages/Quotes:

Slipp wrung the tails of his coat in both claws, as if the tale was too harrowing for him to tell. “Well y’see, yer Lordship, we’re the only two beasts left alive from the wreck of the Muddy Duck, that was our ship. She was sunken by a storm an’ all our mates was drownded. Ain’t that right messmate?” He gave Blaggut a sly kick.

“Oh, er, that’s right, Cap’n,” the searat stammered. “The ole Dirty Swan was lost at sea right enough. There’s on’y me ‘n’ the Cap’n left alive to tell the tale.”

Mallen inspected the chipped cutlass blade. “One of you said your ship was the Muddy Duck, but the other said it was the Dirty Swan. Now which is it?”

Both searats started contradicting each other. “The Muddy Swan, er, the Dirty Duck, er, the Mucky Dud, er, er, the Swanny Duck, the Dirty Mud…”

“You mean you can’t remember the name of your own ship?” Sage interrupted sharply.

~Jacques 183

Out beyond the plateau, Egbert the Scholar popped up unexpectedly out of the ground beside Meldrum and smiled apologetically.

“You must excuse me,” he said. “I could go no farther because this large rock was in the way. My name is Egbert. How do you do?”

Meldrum was lost for words. He sat staring at the mole. Egbert shook his head despairingly and launched into mole speech.

“Bo urr, zurr, oi’m Eggbutt ee mole, cumm to taken you uns out of this yurr place, burr aye!”

~Jacques 279-280

Overall Review:

In terms of focus and plot, The Bellmaker is perhaps one of the better Redwall books. The unfortunate inclusion of an Irrelevant Redwall Sideplot is made more interesting by Blaggut, an atypical good searat. The retconning of Rufe Brush’s character is so obvious as to be startling and is exactly what fanfictioners would deem “OOC” (Out Of Character), but the book is still quite good regardless.

You can buy this here: The Bellmaker: A Novel of Redwall

Coming Up Next: Outcast of Redwall

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