Home School Book Review, February 17, 2012
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In the prologue to this fifth novel of Redwall, Ferahgo the Assassin, a weasel, has killed the badger lord Urthound and his wife Urthrun, leaving their two babies, one striped and the other white, to die of starvation. But do they die? Chapter one opens after many long seasons. Ferahgo and his Corpsemakers have slowly moved northward and are determined to capture Salamandastron, ruled by the badger lord Urthstripe and protected by the hares of the Long Patrol. However, Urthstripe’s daughter Mara runs away with one of the hares named Pikkle Ffloger. Ferahgo’s son Klitch tricks the two, and they are almost captured by the horde, but they escape, only to be deceived by a lizard named Slinkee who leads them to a group of cannibal toads under King Glagweb. However, they are rescued by Log-a-Log and his shrews, and together they set out to find the Blackstone, symbol of leadership among the shrews, which is now in the possession of the white “ghost badger” who lives on a mysterious island in the middle of a large lake. Their plan is then to head for Salamandastron and help in the fight against Ferahgo.
Meanwhile, at Redwall, two deserters from Ferahgo’s army, Thura and Dingeye, are taken in, but after they accidentally kill Brother Hal they escape with the sword of Martin the Warrior, intending to return to Ferahgo. A young squirrel named Samkim and a molemaid named Arula set out after them. Shortly afterwards, however, the abbey is plagued with Dryditch Fever, so the otter Thrugg and his little friend Dumble, a dormouse babe, set off for the Mountains of the North, ruled over by the golden eagle Wild King McPhearsome, to find Icetor Flowers which are said to cure the fever. After Thura dies of Dryditch fever and Dingeye is killed by the fox Dethbrush, whom Ferahgo had sent out to find them, Samkim and Arula, along with another group of shrews under the leadership of Alfoh, chase after Dethbrush, who now has the sword and is trying to escape in a boat through the same lake where Mara, Pikkle, and Log-a-Log have gone searching for the Blackstone. Will Samkim and Arula recover the sword of Martin the Warrior? Will Mara and Pikkle get the Blackstone back for Log-a-Log? Will Thrugg and Dumble return fever cure in time to save Redwall? And what will happen in the battle for Salamandastron?
Some people may find the plot a little confusing, because the chapters go back and forth describing the activities of Urthstripe and Ferahgo at Salamandastron, of Mara and Pikkle on their journey as they look for the Blackstone, of Samkim and Arula in their search for the sword, of the Redwallers as they deal with the Dryditch Fever, and of Thrugg and Dumble seeking the Icetor Flowers. However, the story is told so well, in Jacques’ inimitable style, that this should not be too much of a problem for most readers. The “veiled curse du jour” of this particular Redwall book is “hellsteeth.” There are also a few common euphemisms and childish slang terms, such as gosh, darn, and “frogsbum.” Otherwise, it has the usual strong sense of good versus evil, with no lack of villains to overcome and a host of quaint characters, such as Furgle, Tubgutt, Nordo, Spriggat, and Rocangus, to work together in overcoming them��"and a few surprises along the way. I especially liked the way that Mara eventually comes to understand the truth, even though in the end it is a little late to do anything about it. That happens in real life sometimes. I have never read a Redwall book that I did not thoroughly enjoy.