Saturday, July 13, 2013

Redwall and a Tangent

Cover of "Redwall (Redwall, Book 1)"
Cover of Redwall (Redwall, Book 1)
Die hard Redwall fans.... don't hate me.
3/5 stars 

Before I start this review, I would like to go over something that I think plagues stories in the worst possible way. The exclamation point.

This elusive little creature denotes excitement or a tone of voice that differs from the usual pitch. It is meant to let people know that 'hey, this thing that's happening right now is being delivered to you with lots of feels and urgency'. This little guy is the 'strong emotion' symbol in the punctuation family and if left to its own devices, it will murder its siblings.

Less is more. Strong, declarative sentences from a character shouldn't have to have an exclamation point at the end of the sentence in order to indicate to the reader that someone is upset or excited. That should come from word choice or from the narration surrounding the sentence. Furthermore, exclamation points shouldn't be in the narration. The narrator is often times a third party that is omniscient. They don't need to become excited like the characters. It's weird. Don't do it. Exclamation points have their time and their place. They should not be used because the writer can't seem to convey in any other way, the characters feelings at any given moment.

Redwall suffers from the plague of exclamation. Every character seems to be yelling at each other in impassioned tones. Maybe that was a choice on the authors part. Maybe the idea of a small little mouse talking, deserved exclamation points because they had to talk louder when speaking to badgers or foxes. I don't know but I desperately am hoping that Brian Jacques didn't just throw a handful of exclamation confetti at his story because he thought it was a great way to make his dialogue more exciting or intense. Although, the idea of small creatures yelling at each other in constant excitement or anger is funny. Though, when I imagine a world where everyone always talked to each other in exclamation point sentences, it is not pretty. I think it would probably look something like this... except for the scary center part.

That is not to say the exclamation point didn't work in moments. One thing that I learned about Redwall is that it is over the top. Very over the top. So, when the main bad guy Cluny had to repeatedly announce his title to people as “I am Cluny the Scourge!”, I felt like the exclamation point was deserved. Cluny was kind of one of those bad guys that thought he was a lot more awesome than he actually was. The frequent reminders of his title to everyone he met, even people that are in his presence constantly, is a pretty good indication that the guys a dick who probably thinks he's a hit with the ladies and is what all little rats want to grow up to be. When the reality is, all the other rats are talking behind his back and making fun of him. No, this wasn't actually in the story but its the story I've decided to make up about him. Because really, I felt like most scenes with Cluny went like this:

Cluny: “I'm Cluny the Scourge!”
Any other character in the book: “What would you like for breakfast, Cluny?”
Cluny: “Cluny the Scourge does not order breakfast! People bring Cluny the Scourge breakfast without asking! I am Cluny the Scourge! You should know what I want! Cluny the Scourge does not ask! He simply receives!”
Other Character: “So cheese is fine, then?”
Cluny stabs other character: “That will teach you to ask questions of Cluny the Scourge! All others must see and fear me and my actions! Know that I will kill you because I enjoy it! Cluny the Scourge takes no prisoners!”

That's how I felt most of the story with the bad guy went. No motive other than he was a dick that obviously didn't get enough love from his mother as a baby rat. And yes, he often did seem to be a toddler throwing a tantrum.

Now, I want to make it clear, I didn't dislike this book. I just had some major issues with it. Yes, I'm aware its a children/young adult novel and there are a lot of people who are going to bring that to light as a counter argument. But you know what my counter argument to them is? Harry Potter is also a children's/young adult novel. So is the Hobbit, any of the Everworld series, The Outsiders and The Giver. You don't have to dumb down your book for children. They are much smarter than we want to give them credit for.

Now for the good things. I love the fact that there are no humans in this. I adore that the cast of characters are small little mice and squirrels and badgers, running around, trying to save what they love. Redwall has all the makings of a classic fantasy novel where the young and naïve main character has to rise to greatness in order to save the people and the land that he loves. It is a great introduction into a fantasy series (story wise) for people first starting to read. It holds unbelievable imagination and charm with its cast of talking little rodents and is very reminiscent of Wind in the Willows in that respect. There were parts that made me giggle simply because I got to imagine a tiny little field mice making declarative statements and holding a sword high in the air. It was fantastic. Plus, there was Silent Sam the squirrel who is quite possibly the most adorable thing in all of fiction.

I didn't particularly enjoy the story that was told but that was more to do with the fact that it is a very typical ABC story. In my mid twenties, I want something more out of my literature and the writing wasn't done well enough for me to enjoy reading a story that I've read a thousand times before. Redwall unfortunately suffers from having a storyline that is repeated throughout cinema and literature. But, I would again like to point out that this is a great introduction novel into the fantasy world in the respect that the story was good if you've not had much experience with this type of fantasy novel. The writing definitely left a lot to be desired, but if a child is struggling to get into reading, the story is probably more important than a good writing style. I don't feel like this tale holds up once you become an experienced reader, however, or if you are a beginning reader who enjoys a bit more than the surface value retelling of the hero's tale.

I'm afraid in the case of Redwall, nostalgia is what keeps it lasting. I wasn't a Redwall kid so much but I did read a few of them. I do plan on continuing on, at least through Mossflower because I do remember that when I read Redwall the first time around, I was pretty luke warm towards the story and characters.Mossflower was the one that gutted me.

Overall, I think Redwall is great for inexperience readers who are looking for an interesting fantasy to indulge in. For experienced readers, however (young children included), this might be a bit of a let down. Also, if you are an adult that loved this series as a kid, continue to love it. Don't go back and read it because like most things we re read when we're older, cringing may ensue.

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