Rakkety Tam is the seventeenth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was published in 2004 by Philomel. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.
“From beyond the cold northern seas and the lands of ice, a terrifying beast arrives on the shores of Mossflower Country: Gulo the Savage! With his crew of white-furred vermin, this creature out of nightmare comes to murder his brother and seize the fabled Walking Stone. Nobeast is safe from the mighty Gulo, who feasts on the flesh of his enemies.
But something stands between Gulo and what he seeks: the ancient Abbey of Redwall. Who will come to the aid of Abbot Humble and his peaceful woodlanders? The mercenary warriors from the borders, Rakkety Tam MacBurl, that’s who! With his mate Wild Doogy Plumm, the brave squirrel sets forth on a quest to rescue two kidnapped Redwall maidens, and joins forces with one hundred perilous hares from the Long Patrol. Together they face a battle that ranges far over the plains, streams and woodlands of Mossflower in this epic tale of war, courage and comradeship.”
What I Liked:
This is definitely the most indulgent of the Redwall books. You can tell that Jacques wrote it because he wanted a protagonist with a Scottish accent. And this indulgent feel makes the book tons of fun to read. Plus, Tam and Doogy are some of the more endearing heroes of the series as a whole.
Rakkety Tam also does away with the annoying “hares are constantly hungry” trope taken up to eleven, and instead focuses on the “hares are perilous beasts” trope which is much, much better (hence why The Long Patrol is so good). Really, any book with The Long Patrol taking center stage is good, because it focuses more on military technique than the overused “where’s the scoff?” aspect of the hares.
And speaking of military technique, I loved the strategy used by the creatures in this book, especially the “use the terrain against your enemy” strategy and the “let’s let them think their plan worked” strategy. It’s all the more satisfying because the villain of this book, Gulo, is from the start described as Awful and Terrible, even more so than other villains. He doesn’t just kill innocents, he eats them. And speaking of Gulo, hooray for a death scene that is not anticlimactic!
Also, there are moments of humor in this book that I found especially good and memorable, notably the scene where Brooky is sure that the snake threatening Armel is a grass snake, only to wipe away the mud and find out that it was an adder as Armel thought and thinks it’s hilarious. Oh, and “cwown pwince Woopert.”
What I Didn’t Like:
Hmmm…for the most part, I think this book did a very good job of avoiding or subverting a lot of the tropes that Jacques has used in the previous Redwall books. However, it’s still the same basic plot as all the Redwall books. It’s just less noticeable because of the aforementioned avoidance of tropes.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: Violence/fighting, death.
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Sister Screeve spread her parchment upon the ground. “Thank you kindly, sir. If Miss Brookflow can stop her merriment for just a moment, I’ll read the rhyme. Are you finished miss?”
The jolly ottermaid stifled her mouth with both paws. “Whoohoohoo…Oops! Sorry, Sister, just once more. Whoohoohaha! There, that’s better. Right, let’s get on with unpuzzling the riddle, or unrizzling the puddle. Whoohaha…”
Brooky looked about at the stern faces. “Sorry.”
Brooky broke out into laughter again. “That’s right! Oh, you are an old cleverclogs, Armel. No wonder they made you Infirmary Sister. But I was the best pebble chucker—I hit the sun more times than you did. They should’ve made me Abbey Pebble Chucker. Hahahahaha!”
She looked around at the stern faces, and the laughter faded on her lips. “Oh, you lot are about as funny as a boiled frog!”
~Jacques 92-93, 97
Tam grinned wolfishly. “Right, that’s what we’ll do then!”
Yoofus looked aghast. “Ye mean, go into the pine groves?”
It was Doogy’s turn to look superior. “Och, ye wee pudden-headed robber! Lissen now, an’ get yore own eddication completed. Rakkety Tam MacBurl’s got a braw brain for plannin’. Tell him, mate!”
The border squirrel outlined his scheme. “We’ve got to get Gulo to take his vermin into those pine groves. He doesn’t know about the big black birds.”
Rakkety Tam has an indulgent feel that just makes it fun to read, and in this book Jacques avoids or is more subtle with the tropes he has used to death in previous Redwall books, making for a Redwall book that at least feels different. The military aspect of the book is very good and the inclusion of The Long Patrol does away with the “solitary hungry hare” that is so ridiculous in previous books. It’s a fun book, and a welcome relief from the monotony of Redwall plots.
You can buy this here: Rakkety Tam: A Novel of Redwall