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.
“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?”
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.
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.
Recommended Age Range: 10+
Warnings: Fighting, death, war
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
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.
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!”
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