What was the first book or series to plunge your imagination into fantasy? To really open up what fantasy could be?
For me, it was The Tales of Redwall. Brian Jacques created something truly magical in the world of Redwall — where mice, rabbits, moles, and badgers battled against blackhearted foxes, rats, and weasels. Where glasses of strawberry cordial and slices of apple and plum pie accompany songs and poems to stir the soul — between epic sword battles and noble quests, of course.
I’d hazard a guess that most fantasy fans have let these little mice into their hearts at some time in their life. That’s definitely true for the FanFiAddict family. But which of the stories in the twenty-four-book series are the cream of the crop? Which are the must-reads for the fantasy fanatics?
I asked the folks at FanFiAddict to name their favourite books of the series, and today, we’re breaking down the best of the bunch — the ones which mean the most to us. If you’re new to Redwall and are looking for a place to start, or you’re a die-hard member of the long patrol, then grab your vittles and come with us take a tour of this magical, mouse-driven series.
Martin The Warrior — Frasier
Chronologically, Martin The Warrior is the second book in the series. But it was the first book to make me cry. It’s a story of courage and sacrifice, and how necessity shapes us into the people we’re meant to be. This makes a brilliant jumping in point for the series. It demonstrates why the peace of Redwall Abbey is so essential, as well as showcasing the best aspects of what makes Redwall great — rich in style, signature innocence and charm, all mixed with blood-curdling action and a truly loathsome stoat. Not one for the faint-hearted. But certainly not one to be missed.
Lord Brocktree — David S (BookMeanderings)
Out of all the Redwall books I’ve read, and I’ve read most of them, Lord Brocktree has been the one that has stayed with me for the longest. I love everything about it. The story heavily involves my two favorite races in this world, hares and badgers. I also really enjoyed that this story is so atmospheric and just a little bit dark. There is a foreboding, a heaviness in the air that precipitates the arrival of the villain Ungatt Trunn. A cat who thinks he’s a god.
I think this particular book stuck with me because we see our heroes lose in a way that felt very final. It was just that little bit darker and very emotional as we see the fortress of Salamandastron, that always felt so impregnable, fall to the villain and his army. Hares and Badgers alike being killed. And we get to see the slow, deliberate planning and retaking of the fortress by Lord Brocktree, Dotti, and their band.
Looking back, this book was a beginning for me. I love the theme, story trope, or whatever you call it of all hope feeling lost, but characters fighting for good anyway and eventually triumphing. It’s the type of book I enjoy and its the type of book I would like to write someday.
Redwall — Tom Bookbeard
For me it has to be the original Redwall. The first time we read about the feasts in the abbey. The first introduction to Martin the Warrior. The siege of Redwall by none other than my favourite literary baddie, Cluny the Scourge, is such an absorbing tale and so surprisingly dark for a children’s book. This is one of the books that started my love of reading, let alone that of fantasy. I picked this up after reading The Hobbit and Dawn of the Dragons by Joe Dever and I couldn’t put it down, even to this day.
Cluny is one of my most beloved literary characters. From the moment he first roars onto the page, laughing at his dying subordinate and shouting “Tell the Devil Cluny sent you!”, the scenery-chewing villainy that is this terrible rat warlord chief is sublime. I remember only reading the Cluny chapters of the book and rooting for him to beat those pesky mice.
Triss — MJ Kuhn
Triss is my favorite book in the Redwall series (though there are SO many others that I love). The thing I love about Triss is that it’s a quintessential Redwall book in so many ways, while also introducing badass elements like seafaring adventures!
Triss follows a little squirrelmaid named, you guessed it, Triss. In the beginning of the book, she’s enslaved by a big time baddie, but she escapes and the book follows her journey as she attempts to return home to Redwall Abbey.
If you love the classic “good vs. evil” Redwall dynamic but also would love to read a Redwall book that reads legit like a Young Adult novel (Triss is VERY MUCH a coming of age story, even moreso than many of the other books in the series!) you should definitely check this one out!
Big thanks to David, Tom, and MJ for sharing their favourites. There are so many more Redwall titles which could’ve made this list, and we all found that whittling them down to name just one standout book from this series was much harder than we thought it would be!
So, just how good are the Tales of Redwall? They make us laugh. They make us cry. They warm our heart. They tingle our spines. They balance light-heartedness and fun with a sense of darkness and foreboding. They stay with us. They shape us. And they stand the test of time. What more could you ask from a fantasy series?
But if you’ve read a Redwall book, you’ll know all this already. So what did you think to our list? Did we leave out your favourite? Feel free to post in the comments which of this amazing series is most cherished by you. And if you’ve ever wondered whether to pick up a Redwall book, or you’ve dismissed them as simple stories for children, why not take the plunge and start with one of the books on this list? You may just find your new favourite fantasy series. Because that’s just how good Redwall is!