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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: War, violence/fighting, death
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
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.”
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!”
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