Loamhedge is the sixteenth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was published in 2003 by Philomel. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.
“Loamhedge, the deserted Abbey, forgotten for countless seasons. What secrets do its ruins hold?
Martha Braebuck, a young haremaid, wheelchair-bound since infancy, wonders about a mysterious old poem relating to the ancient Abbey. Could it really be the key to her cure? But how could she get to this Loamhedge? As fate has it, two old warriors, travelers returning to Redwall Abbey, are inspired by the spirit of Martin the Warrior to quest for the ancient place—and three young rebels are determined to go with them.
In another part of Mossflower Country, the giant badger Lonna Bowstripe thirsts for vengeance as he relentlessly hunts down the Searat Raga Bol and his murderous crew. He pursues them unto the very gates of Redwall—and finds valiant Abbeybeasts defending their home against the conniving band of marauding vermin!
What I Liked:
I liked that the heroes (two of them, anyway) were old warriors and served as the mentors of the three younger ones. It made the trope of “the heroes of Redwall know everything about fighting despite never going outside the Abbey walls before” much less noticeable. Horty, Fenna, and Springald are inexperienced and rash, and as a result have noticeable character development throughout the book as they journey with Bragoon and Saro.
Although not as good as the Freebooters in Triss, Badredd’s gang are portrayed more sympathetically/comically than other vermin gangs in the Redwall series. Despite their overall inefficiency, they do manage to lay siege to Redwall, and perhaps because of their comic portrayal, all of the named members of the gang that attacked Redwall survive and go off and apparently live off the land for the rest of their lives. Flinky, their Chief when the gang escapes Redwall, is also liked by the rest of the vermin, another rarity. I do enjoy these moments of departure from the Redwall formula, especially in a book that is full of said formula. Also, Ka-chunk!
What I Didn’t Like:
So, how did Sister Amyl get out of her wheelchair? It seems too unlikely that her and Martha’s inability to walk were both psychosomatic. In fact, the entire “willpower cure” that Bragoon and Sara create seems a bit crass, and not at all representative of actual disabilities. Willpower (or positive thinking) is good and does affect certain areas of your life, but having the message of the book be “through willpower your disability will vanish” seems…shortsighted.
So, the “hares are always hungry” gag was mildly funny for the first few books, but Jacques has really amped it up since then and now it’s only annoying. Horty is not as bad as Scarum, but still quite obnoxious. And speaking of formulas, the shrews were definitely only put in there so that there was a band of shrews with an acronym name.
I’m confused as to why Martha didn’t become Abbess, after all the leading she did during the battle, and Fenna, of all creatures, did.
Raga Bol, another vermin to have the most anticlimactic death ever. I’ve noticed that when badger lords are involved, the villain’s death is always swift and always anticlimactic.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: Violence/fighting, death.
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
A light smile hovered on Portula’s kind face. “Listen, missy, if you think we were naughty, you should have seen two Dibbuns who were younger than us at the time. Bragoon and Saro, an otter and a squirrel. Now those two really were a twin pestilence!”
Martha turned to Toran. “I’ve heard you telling the young ones tales about Bragoon and Saro, but I always thought they were make-believe creatures. Were they actually real?”
The ottercook nodded vigorously. “Oho, missy, that they were!”
It was a breathtaking panorama from the plateau. Horty’s keen eyes spotted a small dark smudge, moving across the scrublands in the distance. He pointed. “I say, you chaps, that could be thingummy, er, Lonna!”
Springald shaded her eyes “So it could! He’s headed northwest, that’s the direction we came from. Saro, d’you suppose he’s going to Redwall?”
Sarobando felt they were wasting time sightseeing. “I couldn’t really say, missy, but one thing’s shore, we ain’t goin’ to Redwall. ‘Tis Loamhedge we want.”
Loamhedge has good development for the three young heroes, and a rare element of old warriors acting as mentors throughout the journey. Badredd’s gang served as a departure from the usual villain formula, as well. However, the rest of the book was nothing special and Jacque’s reliance on past character traits is getting old. Also, the whole quest to find a cure for Martha had a slight “unfortunate implications” ending.
You can buy this here: Loamhedge: A Novel of Redwall