Martin the Warrior is the sixth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was published by Philomel in 1993. It is the prequel to Mossflower.
“Marshank! A fortress of timber and stone built by the sweat of a hundred slaves and ruled over by the ruthless stoat Badrang the Tyrant. It is here that Martin—a young mouse with a warrior’s spirit—is brought as a child, held captive and forced to labor within its walls. But he vows to free himself one day, and to win back his father’s honored sword, which the tyrant now possesses.
Aided by Laterose and Grumm of Noonvale, sent to save Rose’s brother Brome, Martin escapes. He then journeys with them across an anger-filled land toward their home in the hopes of raising an army and returning to Marshank to destroy the fortress.
Meanwhile, the vindictive Captain Tramun Clogg, Badrang’s onetime partner in crime, stumbles upon Marshank with visions of owning it for himself. And a band of wily players stalk the fortress, intent on setting the slaves free. But in the end, it is Martin—brave Martin the Warrior—who faces Badrang in a final challenge.”
What I Liked:
Warning: There will be major spoilers regarding one of the characters.
So, this is possibly the best Redwall book that Jacques ever wrote. It’s focused (no random sideplots that have nothing to do with the main one), it has a lot of characters but doesn’t jump between them too much ala Salamandastron, it has unique features that depart from the formulas of previous books, and the ending is simply fantastic (but also sad).
Before I get into what really makes the book stand out for me, let me just say that at the beginning of these reviews, I mentioned how Mossflower and Redwall get the most references in the future books. Forget that, Mariel of Redwall gets the most mentions! How many times has Abbot Saxtus been mentioned now (okay, it’s only been two books since Mariel, but still)?
Ok, here it goes. Here’s what makes this book so great/so sad.
Main warriors never die in Redwall (well, rarely)! Only slightly less important characters do, like Felldoh! I mean, in hindsight having read Mossflower, it makes sense that she dies because Martin is alone in Mossflower and Jacques had to avoid retconning (although he’s never been reticent about that…), but still! It also explains everything about Martin in Mossflower. But Rose’s death really just makes this book stand out.
It’s also one of the best books in terms of plot. As I mentioned above, there’s no irrelevant sideplots, all the creatures have the same quest, there’s not too many viewpoints, and there are a lot of original (to the series) features introduced. Brome has great development, and Martin has heartbreaking development. All of these add up to the Redwall series’ best book, in my opinion.
Also, Clogg is a hilarious villain. Jacques said that Clogg was his favorite villain to write. He’s also the only villain to not die at the end of a book.
What I Didn’t Like:
Nitpicky: Why is Saxtus characterized as an old mouse when he’s the same age as Dandin?
Felldoh. Felldoh Felldoh Felldoh. Every single time someone called him a warrior like Martin, I wanted to scream. Felldoh is not a warrior like Martin, in fact he’s more of a foil to Martin because he shows all the reasons why Martin is a better warrior than him, and a better character. Felldoh let his revenge overtake him and in the end acted more like a villain than a hero. I couldn’t stand him, but that’s just me.
Recommended Age Range: 10+
Warnings: Violence, war, death
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Martin rubbed dust from his eyes and stared at the mousemaid as he accepted the canteen of liquid. He was thunderstruck.
“You must be Martin.”
He stared silently into the most gentle hazel eyes that ever reflected starlight, lost for words as a quiet smile spread over the mousemaid’s serene features.
“Drink up, Martin. Your friend and my brother are waiting their turn.”
He took a quick mouthful, suddenly finding his voice as he did. “Yurn b’rosty nose!
“I beg your pardon?” Her laughter was like a summer breeze among bluebells.
Martin took another gulp and cleared his throat. “Sorry. You must be Rose.”
Felldoh grinned as he grabbed the canteen from his friend’s faltering paws. “Aye, she is. Remember me? I’m Felldoh, and this other creature is Brome. Your name’s Martin and the beast whose head you’re standin’ on is our rescuer Grumm.”
The Warden was not listening, he was stalking off out of the camp, calling back to them, “Come, follow me. I will guide you through my marshes to the mountain. I must stay here, I am the law.”
As they trekked over what appeared to be a slender trail through the wetlands, Grumm whispered to Pallum, “Yurr, they burd doant say much, do ‘ee.”
Pallum could not resist doing a comical impression of the Warden. Strutting stiff-legged, he glared at Grumm and spoke sharply. “I am the law. These are my marshes. I am the law!”
Both the hedgehog and the mole burst into subdued chuckles.
The Warden turned and glared at them. “Make fun of the law, and I deal with you. I am the law!”
Pallum and Grumm froze for a moment then they saluted vigorously.
“Martin, did you hear what the Warden said—he’d guide us to the mountain. I wonder where that is.”
“Me too. I suppose the only way we’ll find out is by following him. He seems to know the country well enough.”
“Oh yes, and d’you know why that is?”
Martin smiled knowingly. Leaning close he whispered into Rose’s ear so that the Warden could not hear.
“Because he is the law!”
Martin the Warrior is the best book in the Redwall series (so far, of course, but I don’t think any will pass it). The ending is possibly the saddest in the series, but that’s why it’s so great. Jacques does new things with this book, departing from the formulas of previous books to deliver a tightly focused, heart-wrenching story with characters that actually develop and whom I actually care about. I was right: the Martin books are the best books.
You can buy this here: Martin the Warrior: A Novel of Redwall
Coming Up Next: The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix