Redwall by Brian Jacques

by jptanabe

Book review of "Redwall" by Brian Jacques, the first book written in this series. Not the first chronologically, but a great introduction to the characters and world of Redwall.

"Redwall" is the first book written in a series, which also has the name Redwall. The author, Brian Jacques, is from Liverpool, England and the story is set in a rather English type of countryside. There is one important difference, however, the characters are all talking animals!

My daughter and I decided to read "Redwall," and the rest of the books in the series, quite a while ago. Actually, they're not written in the order of the chronology of events, which caused me a bit of confusion at one point. But "Redwall" was written first, and it is a wonderful introduction to the whole world, the creatures, and the style of storytelling that has become a favorite in our house. This review hopefully gives a flavor of that world, without any real spoilers!

A great tale set in an almost real world of talking animals.


The first book written by Brian Jacques in the Redwall series

This is the book that started the whole Redwall series - the enchanting books by Brian Jacques that have young readers, as well as those of us of the more mature persuasion, devouring the tales with almost as much glee as the animals in the books enjoy their magnificent feasts!

The Animals of Redwall

Good guys

Redwall is an abbey, and it is populated by animals. There are badgers, hedgehogs, moles, mice, squirrels, otters, shrews, hares, and various birds who are all basically the good guys. Their young ones are called "Dibbuns" and are usually mischievous, but also often save the day.

Villains and others

The vermin (mostly rats, but also ferrets, weasels, and sometimes foxes) are the villains.

There are also miscellaneous creatures, often reptiles, like snakes and toads, and giant fish (well giant compared to mice, rats, and shrews!) that are dangerous to both sides.

Introduction to Matthias, the hero of Redwall

"Er, sorry, Father Abbot. I tripped, y'see.

Trod on my Abbot, Father Habit. Oh dear, I mean ..."

Matthias is an Unlikely Hero!

Matthias enters the story on page 1, introduced as a "comical little figure" who trips and lands at the feet of the abbey's leader, Abbot Mortimer. Hence, the stumbling explanation of his plight posted above. From such an introduction Matthias seems an unlikely hero.

Oh and yes, Matthias is a mouse!

Woodmouse by David Aubrey
Woodmouse by David Aubrey

The Redwall Style

Redwall was written to be suitable for children, specifically blind children, and so has a very descriptive writing style. Jacques used words to paint pictures of the scenes, the creatures, and the action. This style gave the blind children the best chance to create the stories accurately in their imaginations.

I was not sure I'd love books written for children in this fashion, being a bit lacking in patience myself! But they captured my imagination instantly. Although Redwall hasn't made it to my list of Favorite Books to Re-read, that's only because I haven't finished reading the whole series yet! Surely when I get to the end, I'll be happy to pick up the first one and start all over again.

Why I Love Redwall

Why do I love this book?

  1.  Well, first off, I just love the way all the different animals have their own dialects. The moles go "Hurr, Burr" and love "deeper'n'ever turnip'n'tater'n'beetroot pie." The shrews are led by "Log-a-Log" who gets called "Log-a-Thing" by the hares, who generally speak like British country gentlemen, all "wot, wot," and "good old chap" and make fun of every "bally" thing, even the direst dangers. There are also the Sparras (sparrows) who shout stuff like "killee, killee, chop up all mouses, killee dead quickfast!" And in a later book there's some birds from the North Country who have Scottish accents - McTalon is one of my favorites! And all these funny creatures get along so well (at least the good ones do, the evildoers tend to fight among themselves a lot).
  2. I love the descriptions of the amazing delicious food they serve at their feasts, and even at the homes of friendly creatures the brave ones meet on their quests. It's incredible how many types of drinks, pies, cakes, salads, and generally delicious foods they manage to make from the berries, fruits, herbs, plants, and nuts that would grow in an English countryside. Just reading the book makes your mouth water!
  3. Even though the story is in some sense predictable - good triumphs over evil - there are so many twists and turns, riddles and unexpected friends appearing, that it's just a joy to read. The characters develop too. Some go from being a young "Dibbuns" to reaching adulthood, while the adults also age, usually quite gracefully.
  4. The message of the story is undeniably good. Good is better than evil. Friendship and trustworthiness are valued. Care and compassion make for a better life. But when evil threatens those you love, your family, your home, you'd better fight to protect them, even at the cost of your life! And, yes there are deaths and not just the bad guys - true to life really
  5. And finally, I guess I really love this story because its setting is so British! In many ways the characters and the countryside just seem so familiar, so real, so comfortable.

More books in the Redwall series

There are already over 20 books in this series! I've loved every one so far.

I can't show all 20 books here, so here are the next 3 in the series to get you going.


Mattimeo is the headstrong young son of Matthias, the fearless mouse warrior.

In this book, the evil Slagar the Fox is determined to vanquish peaceable Redwall. His dastardly plan, to be carried out by his mercenary band of evil doers - rats, stoats, and weasels - is to steal the children of Redwall from under their parents' very noses. Do you think he will succeed?


"Mossflower" is the second book in the series.

It's kind of a prequel though, since it tells the story of how Redwall Abbey was established.

This is the epic quest of the legendary mouse Martin for Salamandastron in an effort to defeat the villain Tsarmina, a wildcat who has taken over Mossflower woods..

Mariel of Redwall

This book features a brave heroine, a mouse called Mariel.

Mariel and her father the bellmaker are attacked by rat pirates (yes, the mice were were in a ship!) and end up at Redwall Abbey.

She gathers some brave companions and sets off to avenge her father and kill the evil rat pirate.


About the Author Brian Jacques

The author of Redwall is Brian Jacques - his name is pronounced "Jakes" because although his father's lineage has French origin he was born in Liverpool, England into a family of Irish ancestry. He realized at an early age he had a talent for writing, when his teacher refused to believe he wrote a story about animals by himself!

Leaving school at 15, Brian became a merchant seaman. After traveling the world, he got tired of the lonely life and returned to his hometown of Liverpool. There he had a variety of jobs, one of which involved delivering milk to a school for the blind. Redwall was written for the blind children at that school.

Brian Jacques
Brian Jacques

The ideas for the characters and their stories come from Brian's life experiences, and the stories of the people he has met. The good creatures are based on people who live in different parts of Britain, complete with their different accents. Living through World War II, and the Battle of Britain in which bombs fell on Liverpool daily, Brian Jacques was inspired by the bravery, even recklessness, of the air force pilots who saved the day. The theme of defending your home when attacked by evil comes from his war experiences.

Brian Jacques passed away in February 2011 at the age of 71.

Animated version of Redwall on DVD

For those who like to watch stories in animation, the Redwall stories come to life on DVD!
Redwall - Season One

A powerful tale of fantasy, courage and epic adventure. A wondrous quest to recover a legendary lost weapon. Brian Jacques' Redwall is the first of three volumes to be animated....

View on Amazon

The official Redwall site

Redwall Abbey - The official site about Brian Jacques and the Redwall series.

Updated: 07/29/2016, jptanabe
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