Salamandastron is the fifth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was published by Philomel in 1992. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.
“When the mountain stronghold of Salamandastron, ruled under the iron paw of the badger lord Urthstripe the Strong, is besieged by the ruthless weasel Ferhago the Assassin, the destinies of five creatures become intertwined: Samkim and Arula from Redwall Abbey, Mara and Pikkle of Salamandastron, and Klitch, son of Ferhago.
Why did Martin the Warrior’s sword fall from the Abbey roof? Will Thrugg and Dumble find the flowers of Icetor in time to stop the raging fever sweeping the Abbey? Who is the white badger? And can the good creatures triumph over the villain Ferhago?”
What I Liked:
So, despite the fact that I usually don’t like the random, usually unrelated to the main plot Redwall Abbey stories, this one wasn’t too bad. While the fever was random and Thrugg and Dumble’s quest added even more viewpoints to the already viewpoint-heavy book (seriously, there’s six different major viewpoints in this book: Salamandastron, Ferahgo/Klitch, Mara, Samkim, Thrugg, and Redwall), the side plot was a welcome relief from the five other viewpoints going on (more on that in the next section). The Salamandastron viewpoint was probably the best, especially since it introduced a place that hasn’t really been visited for a very long amount of time before. Plus, Salamandastron is where the hares are, and as you know from Mariel of Redwall, I love me the hares.
Ferahgo was a decent villain, probably one of Redwall’s best in terms of cleverness/presence/power over others/sanity, although I grew tired of the antagonism between him and his son. For once I’d like to see a villain who actually loves his family; I’m not sure if Jacques has that in future books, but considering his archetype for villains, probably not. When I saw the movie Epic, I was so excited that the villain loved his son. It’s not something I see or read often, although maybe I’m just not reading the right books.
Also, there were actual rabbits in this book, which surprised me! I thought rabbits didn’t exist in the world of Redwall!
What I Didn’t Like:
Is it just me, or are all the heroes (well, Samkim, Arula, Mara, and Pikkle) incredibly boring? I mean, Samkim and Arula are pretty much useless; all Samkim does is kill the Deepcoiler and that could easily have been done a different way. Samkim is worse than Dandin in terms of hero material. Mara’s the true hero of the four; she’s the one that does all the work and gets the most—scratch that, gets any–development. Her awful rebellious stage is annoying and cheesy, but at least she gets better.
Really, Redwall Abbey could have been completely cut out of the entire book and it would have been a better book. More focused, better characters, better development.
I absolutely hated how Samkim and Arula were never punished for their arrow-firing stunts. The elders were all, “They should probably be punished, but…they’re really quite good, we’re being too hard on them, we’re going to let them off and reward them instead.” When I did archery back in the day, I got in trouble just for bending down and picking up an arrow that had fallen close to another shooter. But in the discipline-less Redwall Abbey, rather than punish Samkim and Arula, Hollyberry lies, the elders say, “Oh, no, that punishment was too harsh! How terrible!” and Samkim and Arula say, “Suckers!” I think this is why I disliked Samkim all throughout the book, really.
As much I love this series, I have to admit that Jacques does a ton of retconning throughout. I’m pretty sure he just forgets characters and so either a.) gives the wrong name b.) changes their backstory or c.) completely changes their character. In this book, he calls Rufe Brush “Rufe Brushtail.” The most drastic example of retconning that I can think of is in The Bellmaker, and it involves the character that he got wrong here (Rufe), but we’ll get there.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: Violence, death.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Ferahgo slumped down and began thrusting his skinning knife into the ground in high bad temper. “It’s like I’ve always said, if you want anything doing then do it yourself, don’t rely on others. Fools and clods!”
Klitch curled his lip scornfully. “I did all the spying, me and Goffa. We brought them here—all you had to do was surround them.”
“You young whelp!” Ferahgo stood up, leveling his knife meaning .”Are you saying that it was me who let them escape?”
Klitch’s sword appeared swiftly; his eyes were hard as blue ice. “I’m just stating the facts, old one!”
At that Baby Dumble clambered from the haversack and began attacking the golden eagle’s leg, or at least one talon of it. “You leave Mista Thugg alone, ya big bully. Dumble fight you!”
One of the formidable talons looped through the infant dormouse’s smock and he was swung aloft, close to the golden eagle’s huge eye. “Name o’ crags! Whit have we here? Ah’m scairt an’ affrighted for mah life. Ye wouldnae kill me, would ye, mousie?”
Salamandastron is my least favorite book in Redwall so far. Most of the “heroes” are boring and lack development, Mara is better at the end and is the true “hero” but she’s too melodramatic for my tastes, and Samkim is the blandest character ever and could have been completely cut out of the book with no detriment. I am increasingly annoyed at Redwall Abbey’s method (or non-method) of discipline; the Flowers of Icetor plot, while being possibly the best part of the book besides the Salamandastron hares, is completely irrelevant to the main plot, and Jacques is retconning, darn it!
You can buy this here: Salamandastron: A Novel of Redwall
Coming Up Next: Martin the Warrior