Long ago, when I was a wee lad of single-digit age, I had a friend who at the time exhibited learning difficulties, and did not learn to read until much later. During this time, I remember having sleepovers at his house, and witnessing his mother read to him at bed time. Though I was personally exposed to very little of this, I do have fond memories of my old friend telling me about his favorite stories – about a mouse with a sword forged from the iron of a fallen star, about how foxes were sly people, and how snakes and cats were as dragons.
Then, some twenty years later, I finally came around to reading the first of these books, Redwall, by Brian Jacques, a few months ago. Recently, having completed a number of other books since, I have found myself coming back to the series, and am as of this writing have completed the second book, Mossflower.
In a word, delightful. The Redwall books are clearly written for younglings, and the writer does not hide it (unlike the impression I got from Ender’s Game and Ready Player One). I normally am not interested in YA books, but something about the setting and atmosphere, if not the complexity of the plot, is intriguing. Brian Jacques is a wonderful storyteller and his characters feel alive, and there is a charm to the simplicity of things that truly makes for a story that is just plain fun to hear.
In understanding this, I think that after A Storm of Swords, perhaps the lightness of the subject matter is sort of a relief. Also, I’m quite familiar with Don Bluth’s animated The Secret of NIMH, and as such I wonder whether or not that primed me in my youth to enjoy stories about intelligent rodents, or I’m just drawn to that stuff regardless.
One day perhaps, I will come upon the opportunity to reading a book to my nephew, and in reading Redwall, I count this as among the top choices. Not far behind it would lilely be the Chronicles of Narnia, starting, of course, with The Magician’s Nephew.
As an aside, I have been listening to Redwall books as I have most books lately. It is worth saying that the Redwall series audiobook is tremendous – because it can be better describes as an audiodrama, with a wide cast and Brian Jacque himself narrating. This gives strength to the books, and I love them all the more for it.
Yet as I hear the words, I am saddened as well as joyed, because I know thst yet another one of my favorite authors has moved on the Dark Forest.