In the spirit of #TBT, I decided to review MOSSFLOWER by Brian Jacques. Why? Probably because this series is the reason I’m a writer. During my formative years, I read and re-read the Redwall books more than Mr. Jacques’ editor did, and then some… And if you didn’t partake of this wonderful, creature-filled world, then you are seriously missing out.
Of all the countless stories Brian Jacques told, MOSSFLOWER is my favorite. Most likely because it predates REDWALL, and I’m a super sucker for good world-building. You see, in REDWALL, there’s this awesome sword that the mouse protagonist must find to defeat Cluny the Scourge, who is as evil as his name suggests. It’s the sword of an ancient, honored warrior… and MOSSFLOWER is the story (well, part of it) of that warrior! Martin is his name, and kicking vermin butts is his game.
This novel is a conflation of probably the two best tropes in fantasy: the “quest” and the “siege”. The quest is about finding a warrior fit enough to take down Tsarmina–the wildcat patricide who lords over Mossflower woods. And the siege, well, there’s actually two of them, are both pretty rocking. Oh, and there’s a ship named *Bloodwake* and food is called ‘vittles’. Epic stuff.
But those aren’t the reasons I love MOSSFLOWER. I love it because of its themes.
Martin has a sword. It’s reforged from the shard of a meteorite. But that just makes it a better tool. The sword is neither good nor bad, though it can be *used* for good or for bad. The first REDWALL book made a pretty clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. Good guys = friendly, cute creatures. Bad guys = rats and gross creatures (adders, ferrets and the like). But MOSSFLOWER deals with morality in a more evenhanded fashion. Martin could choose to use the sword to rule over Mossflower like his enemy does, but he elects to help others instead. On the other hand, there are a few ‘villianous’ creatures who end up being decent people, like Tsarmina’s wildcat brother. All in all, it’s a much more realistic look at storytelling (as realistic as talking animals can be, that is…)
So if you haven’t been paying attention, this book is great. Read it.