Redwall is a series of fantasy novels by Brian Jacques. It is the title of the first book of the series, published in 1986, the name of the Abbey featured in the book, and the name of an animated TV series based on three of the books (Redwall, Mattimeo, and Martin the Warrior), which first aired in 1999. The books are primarily aimed at older children, but have fans of all ages. There have been nineteen novels and two picture books published as of Autumn 2006. "Doomwyte", the twentieth novel, is scheduled to be released on October 16, 2008.
The book series does not chronicle any one particular timeframe. Rather, it is set in many different periods in the history of the world of Redwall, which entails Mossflower woods, surrounding islands, and a land called Southsward. Some of the books focus on characters who, in other volumes, are historical figures (e.g., Martin the Warrior's father, Luke, in The Legend of Luke). Typically, those books are set before the founding of Redwall Abbey. There is a timeline in the Redwall series, but it generally places the books in a completely different order than the order in which they were written. However, there were two phases when the novels were published in chronological order.
Despite the fact that Redwall is a fantasy series, it contains no elements of magic. Occasionally, elements of the supernatural or paranormal appear, mainly in two forms. First, the ghost of Martin the Warrior or another long-dead hero will often appear in dreams or visions to one of the woodland creatures (usually, but not always, an Abbey-dweller) and impart information. The information is always accurate (though often in the form of a riddle that is solved by accident) and is of a nature such that it must have come from the ghost of Martin the Warrior and could not be the result of a creature "solving" a mystery in its sleep and dreaming about Martin the Warrior on its own. Also, some creatures in the books are called "seers" and claim to be able to see the future. While some of these "seers" turn out to be frauds, others such as the seers of Loamhedge, Taggerung and Lord Brocktree are quite real and play a key part in the turning of events in these books. Virtually all of the seers, both real and fraudulent, are vermin, who are generally considered more primitive and superstitious than woodlanders and other goodly creatures and are almost always the "bad guys". However, in the book Tribes of Redwall Mice, both Martin the Warrior and Abbess Germaine can foresee the future. Also present is the sword of Martin the Warrior, which is believed by many creatures to be magical. This sword was forged from the fragment of a shooting star (meteorite) at Salamandastron by Badger Lord Boar The Fighter.
Though the primary location is an abbey, and a church of St. Ninian makes appearances, there has been no mention of a creator or godlike deity; although in the Legend of Luke a song is sung about how "St. Ninian" is a misnomer from a sign that originally read "This ain't Ninian's", after Ninian refused to help his wife build a house; some of the lettering later wore off, leaving the words "s ain't Ninian's". However, there have been at least three mentions of the devil, Hell and other demons. After sending one of his minions to death, Cluny the Scourge roars "Tell the devil Cluny sent you!" On another occasion Constance the Badger makes a reference to "Hell's whiskers." According to the ferret Killconey, the snake Asmodeus is named for "the devil himself." While these references from Redwall, the first book, were made before the series had truly realised itself, The Taggerung makes references to an underworld again when a devilish character called "Vulpuz" is mentioned by one seer as the ruler of Hellgates and the ancestor of foxes. In several of the later novels, whenever a creature dies, characters make references to "The Dark Forest" or "Hellgates" as places where creatures go after death. The Dark Forest however, has not been explained further.
Books in the series often contain one or more "monsters", but these are not mythical creatures, rather being some type of ferocious predator. Monsters have included snakes (from Redwall and Triss), large carnivorous fish such as pikes (from Marlfox and Mossflower), a plesiosaur-type creature (from High Rhulain), a wolverine (from Rakkety Tam), a giant scorpion (from Mariel of Redwall) and a giant sea serpent (from Salamandastron), along with an eel (from Mossflower and "Taggerung").
A typical book in the Redwall series details a particular period in the history of Redwall Abbey. In all but a few cases, the book is about the inhabitants of Redwall and the surrounding Mossflower Woods. Usually, there are at least two different stories going on. For example, a typical book may relate the story of a small expedition by a group of woodlanders, as well as the story of a large group of Redwallers at home fending off a vermin horde. Because of the widely spaced storylines (chronologically speaking), very few creatures are mentioned in more than one or two novels, except in a passing historical sense. One notable exception is Martin the Warrior, who appears in all books, even if, most of the time, only in spirit form or no more than as a passing historical mention. Also, Martin's sword appears in all of the novels. Though he is not mentioned by name in Lord Brocktree, Martin does appear, referred to in Brocktree's dream as "a young mouse bearing a beautiful sword".
Other recurring elements and characters in the Redwall series include Badger Lords and Badger Mothers, "Dibbuns" (the Redwall name for toddler woodlanders), the Skipper of Otters, Foremoles, helpful birds, mouth-wateringly detailed descriptions of (almost entirely vegetarian) food, and one or more Log-a-logs (a Log-a-log is a leader of a tribe of shrews).
Until 2001, the books were not written in the order that the stories take place in the Redwall universe. The books are listed below, both in publication order and in their chronological order within the fictional world of Redwall. Each book except the four marked with (*) are available as audiobooks. The three marked with (**) were used for the television series
The first three books (in chronological order) take place before the construction of Redwall Abbey, while the fourth takes place during the construction. Many or most of the books that take place before Redwall was constructed are written in the format of a story told by a visitor--for example, Martin the Warrior is told as a story by a descendant of Brome, who was visiting Redwall. These books are organized by the main story, not by the "actual" time period which is almost always after the construction of Redwall.
Most books that are adjacent to each other in chronological order take place within a generation or so of each other (as evidenced by mentions of past characters in the later books). It is notable that, by contrast, there is an indefinitely long chronological gap between Salamandastron and Redwall.
The Redwall series has also received praise for its “equal-opportunity adventuring, in which female creatures can be just as courageous (or as diabolical) as their male counterparts.” Novels such as Mariel of Redwall, The Pearls of Lutra, and Triss all feature strong female leading characters. Jacques has also received acclaim for his development of unique language intrinsic to certain species, giving the novels an "endearing dialectal dialogue".
Some reviews have been critical of the Redwall novels for providing too simplistic a view of good and evil. The characteristics of the animals in the novels are fixed by their species, making them quite “predictable”. Also, characters always seem to “epitomize their class origins,” rarely rising above them.
Many reviewers have also criticized the Redwall series for repetition and predictability, citing "recycled" plot lines and Jacques’ tendency to follow a “pattern to the dot.” Of course, other reviewers note that such predictable “ingredients” may be what “makes the Redwall recipe so consistently popular.” Although the series does not continue to break new ground, it does provide satisfying adventures with “comforting, predictable conclusions for its fans.”