Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: Redwall

Redwall (Redwall, book one)
By Brian Jacques, performed by a full cast
Published 2005 by Listening Library

Cluny the Scourge is about to lead an attack on Redwall Abbey and it is up to young Matthias, a mouse who longs to be a hero, to discover his birthright and protect the Abbey.

My fiance and I recently took a trip to Maine, planning to settle some details for our upcoming wedding. We also planned an excursion for a few days up the coast, a chance to take a small break. Both of these plans meant several hours in the car, so we decided we needed an audiobook to listen to. Since we were picking one at the last minute, it was a bit of a scramble. I stumbled upon this one and (jokingly) suggested it. I should have known better.

The Redwall series is one of his favorites from childhood - he actually met Brian Jacques in high school, I think. I have never read any of them - I'm not big into animal fantasy. But, it is a classic series, so I planned on reading it eventually, and I knew my fiance wanted to reread it as well. So I guess it was lucky for us that the downloadable audiobook was available when we needed something to listen to.

It's a pretty enjoyable story and I can definitely see the appealing factors - heroism, puzzles, quests, memorable characters, fierce battles. It has all the makings of an epic story (and I'm quite surprised that it's only been made into a film once). There were a few moments when the story lost my interest (though that may have had more to do with my travel fatigue than the story itself) but for the most part, the action kept moving nicely. I loved the riddles as Matthias tries to figure out where Martin the Warrior hid his great sword. What I think Jacques has done best is the creation of a plethora of fascinating characters. They are all unique and memorable and I really enjoyed getting to know each of them (though some I wish had been more clearly developed).

My main quibbles with this comes from the format. I think this actually works quite well as an audiobook - there is enough action to keep listeners engaged throughout, though the number of characters could be overwhelming. However, the version we listened to was performed by a full cast and it was a bit too much for me. In fact, it was extremely off-putting initially and, actually, we mostly made fun of the ridiculous accents throughout the story. Because each character is performed by a different actor (or simply a different voice), that certainly helps eliminate any confusion over the characters. But, as I said, most of them are given quite absurd accents (Cluny the Scourge being, by far, the worst), which actually makes the book difficult to listen to at times. When a listener is focusing more on how something is being said instead of what is actually being said, it's not really a good thing. Eventually, we were mostly able to ignore the accents and lose ourselves in the story, but it was pretty difficult at first.

Will I continue the series? I'd like to, but I've got several other things I'm much more excited about first, so we'll see when I can find time for it.

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