Taggerung is the fourteenth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was published in 2001 by Philomel. It is the sequel to Marlfox. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.
“The vermin clan of Sawney Rath has long awaited their Taggerung—the chosen beast who will lead them to victory against any foe. Now at last the seer Grissoul has foretold the Taggerung’s birth: they will find him by the river, and know him by the birthmark on one paw.
But the marked beast that they discover is neither stoat nor fox nor rat, but an otterbabe! Nonetheless, the vermin take and raise him. It is only when the young otter steps into his famed and fearsome role that he sense something is wrong. Very wrong!
Is he the Taggerung after all? And if he is not, who is he?”
What I Liked:
I mentioned way back in my review of Mossflower that Taggerung was my favorite Redwall book, but I didn’t know if that would change or not because of this reread.
It’s still true. Taggerung is, by far, my favorite Redwall book. And the reason why is because, despite still sticking to several familiar Redwall formulas, Taggerung is an incredibly unique book in the series. Not only does Jacques stay away from some of the more familiar and getting-old symbols of the series, he also circumvents some of them.
Example one: the puzzle quest. Not only does Mhera fail to solve the puzzle, it’s also not a puzzle set out seasons in advance by some wise, ancient creature (although Song did lead the way). There’s also no treasure/reward/goal for the puzzle; it’s purely a test of character.
Example two: the villains. Usually, the main villain is either smarter than his cohorts or strong enough that brains don’t matter. However, almost every single vermin in Gruven’s tracking party are competent, cunning and knowledgable, notably Vallug and Eefera. For once, they’re not blundering around. Vallug and Eefera, by themselves, also manage to do quite a bit of damage to Redwall.
Example three: the side characters, Nimbalo especially. I don’t think any character has a background like Nimbalo’s. The side characters also sound unique for their staple species, so that Boorab doesn’t just sound like a regular hare, he sounds like Boorab and not some interchangeable hare.
My final reason for liking Taggerung so much is that Deyna is awesome, and a nice departure from the usual heroes of Redwall.
What I Didn’t Like:
Just like Veil was Automatically Evil, Deyna is Automatically Good. Not even being raised in a vermin camp by a vermin can shake his morals. A nice plot device and a nice sentiment, one that I liked in fact, but I don’t know how realistic it is.
Russano’s arrival is a bit Deus Ex Machina.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: Violence/fighting, war, death
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“So then, Grissoul, is this what we came seeking? Tell me.”
The Seer opened the cloak and inspected Deyna. She held up the infant’s right paw, showing Sawney the marked pad. “See!”
The four-petal mark was pink and clear, like a tiny blossom. Sawney looked anxiously at Grissoul. “Well, is it really him?”
For answer the Seer took Sawney’s paw and placed it against the otterbabe’s footpaws. Then she spoke.
“Zann Juskarath Taggerung!”
Sawney recognized the ancient words, and translated them.
“Mighty warrior of our clan. Taggerung!”
Boorab called out, loud and curt. “We’re listenin’. Who are you and what d’you want?”
Vallug’s voice came back a moment later. “Never mind who we are. Send out the Taggerung!”
Boorab looked at Mhera, who gave a mystified shrug. “What in the blazes d’you mean?” he shouted back.
This time it was Eefera’s voice that replied. “We’ve come fer the Taggerung!”
The hare had been binding his kerchief to the end of the ladle he carried about as a swagger stick. He sprang up waving it. “Truce, chaps, truce!” He sidestepped smartly, but was not quick enough to stop Vallug’s arrow slicing a wound in his cheek as it zipped by.
“No truce, rabbit. Send the Taggerung out to us, or yore all deadbeasts, that’s all!”
Taggerung is my favorite Redwall book, and definitely one of the best due to the unique features and the departures and circumventions of the usual Redwall formulas. The villains are actually competent and genuinely terrifying when two, and then I think six total, manage to wreak havoc in Redwall. Before Deyna goes all awesome on them, I mean.
You can buy this here: Taggerung (Redwall)