Series Rating: 3/5
It was a long journey, but I finally made it through all 22 Redwall books! Here’s a series that follows that old rhyme about the little girl with the little curl in the middle of her forehead: when it’s good, it’s really good (or at least pretty good), but when it’s bad it’s horrid. Jacques recycles plots and character types like mad, resulting in stale and predictable stories, sometimes with forgettable heroes and useless villains.
However, there are also times when Jacques spins a wonderful yarn, with engaging characters and subversions of his own formulas. He also can pull at your heartstrings with the deaths of sweet, innocent characters (the most notable example is Rose) or the deaths of awesome warriors (Clary and Thyme!). The entire Redwall series revolves around a strict Black and White, Justice Prevails system, which can be quite refreshing–and makes the books with more “grey” characters stand out from the rest, in a good way, as subversions of his own theme. His best books are those that have most or all of these good things, coupled with a focused plot and a decent villain.
I must admit, though, that it’s not necessary at all to read all of the Redwall books. The top four on my list below, and the first book Redwall, are the ones I would recommend reading from the series. Redwall and/or Mossflower are sufficient to get a look at what the series is about, but the other three feature the most unique (in my opinion) plot and characters (Taggerung); the most heart-wrenching story (Martin the Warrior); and the best Invasion/War plot (The Long Patrol). I’ll even go a step further and name the books to read for specific categories:
For Best Puzzle Quest, read Pearls of Lutra (although Redwall has a good one).
For Best Villain, read The Sable Quean.
For Best Redwall Story, read “In The Wake of the Red Ship” from The Legend of Luke.
These are all entirely based on my opinion, of course.
Speaking of opinion, here is my list of favorites, from most to least:
2.) Martin the Warrior
4.) The Long Patrol
5.) Rakkety Tam
6.) The Sable Quean
7.) The Bellmaker
8.) The Legend of Luke
9.) Pearls of Lutra
13.) Lord Brocktree
15.) High Rhulain
18.) Mariel of Redwall
19.) Outcast of Redwall
20.)The Rogue Crew
Thanks for sticking with me for this enormously long series!