Mossflower: Woodland creatures rebel against a cruel tyrant

Mossflower by Brian Jacques children's fantasy book reviewsMossflower by Brian Jacques

Martin, a traveling warrior mouse, is accidentally caught up in a war between the wildcat Tsarmina, who rules over Mossflower Wood, and the gentle woodland creatures starving under her rule. The creatures have formed a resistance group, but most of them are farmers or weavers who lack the experience needed to fight Tsarmina’s army of stoats, weasels, and other assorted nasties. Once Martin joins the resistance, they may finally have a chance to win their freedom and drive Tsarmina out.

I loved Brian JacquesREDWALL series as a child, and re-reading Mossflower as an adult was a very nostalgic experience for me. It’s been long enough since I last read the first few books of the series that I don’t remember exactly which characters make it to the end of the novels and which heroes get noble deaths. I did, however, remember the massive number of enemies that are slaughtered without a second thought, while the deaths of sympathetic characters are more evenly spaced and given more weight.

Mossflower has more female characters than its predecessor, Redwall, which is good to see, though many of them are placed in domestic or supporting roles while the majority of the male characters take part in battles and epic quests. I’m also uncomfortable with Jacques’ insistence that there is a clear dichotomy between “good” animals (prey: robins, squirrels, mice, otters, etc.) and “bad” animals (predators: foxes, weasels, wildcats, etc.), which he has used as a running theme for every book I’ve read in the REDWALL series. (Full disclosure: I’ve read most, but not all, of the twenty REDWALL books.) There’s usually a casual mention of a “good” predatory creature, which in Mossflower is portrayed by the wildcats Gingevere and Sandingomm, but that hardly feels inclusive. Even as a child, this felt odd to me, and it feels no less odd as an adult.

There are some pacing issues here, as well. A chapter might include three or four points of view, each taking place at a different point in time, which was slightly confusing. It’s sometimes difficult to tell whether events are occurring simultaneously or in a sequence. The dialogue and concepts are simplistic, written to a specific audience, and the hero-villain dynamic is very clearly delineated. However, Jacques does write heroes and their battle scenes well, with enough detail to make events clear to young readers without becoming too gory or gruesome.

At heart, these are fun books with clear moral messages about good triumphing over evil and the benefits of living in a positive community. They’re a great way to introduce children to commonly-used fantasy tropes and the wider possibilities of the fantasy genre as a whole. I recommend Mossflower and the rest of the REDWALL books for 5th-graders and older, including their parents.

Redwall — (1986-2011) Publisher: When the peaceful life of ancient Redwall Abbey is shattered by the arrival of the evil rat Cluny and his villainous hordes, Matthias, a young mouse, determines to find the legendary sword of Martin the Warrior which, he is convinced, will help Redwall’s inhabitants destroy the enemy.

Brian Jacques Redwall, Mossflower, Mattimeo, Mariel of Redwall, Salamandastron, Martin the Warrior, The Bellmaker, The Outcast of Redwall, Pearls of Lutra, The Long PatrolBrian Jacques Redwall, Mossflower, Mattimeo, Mariel of Redwall, Salamandastron, Martin the Warrior, The Bellmaker, The Outcast of Redwall, Pearls of Lutra, The Long Patrolfantasy and science fiction book reviewsBrian Jacques Redwall, Mossflower, Mattimeo, Mariel of Redwall, Salamandastron, Martin the Warrior, The Bellmaker, The Outcast of Redwall, Pearls of Lutra, The Long PatrolBrian Jacques Redwall, Mossflower, Mattimeo, Mariel of Redwall, Salamandastron, Martin the Warrior, The Bellmaker, The Outcast of Redwall, Pearls of Lutra, The Long PatrolBrian Jacques Redwall, Mossflower, Mattimeo, Mariel of Redwall, Salamandastron, Martin the Warrior, The Bellmaker, The Outcast of Redwall, Pearls of Lutra, The Long PatrolBrian Jacques Redwall, Mossflower, Mattimeo, Mariel of Redwall, Salamandastron, Martin the Warrior, The Bellmaker, The Outcast of Redwall, Pearls of Lutra, The Long PatrolBrian Jacques Redwall, Mossflower, Mattimeo, Mariel of Redwall, Salamandastron, Martin the Warrior, The Bellmaker, The Outcast of Redwall, Pearls of Lutra, The Long Patrolfantasy and science fiction book reviewsBrian Jacques Redwall, Mossflower, Mattimeo, Mariel of Redwall, Salamandastron, Martin the Warrior, The Bellmaker, The Outcast of Redwall, Pearls of Lutra, The Long PatrolMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, EulaliaMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, EulaliaMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, EulaliaMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, EulaliaMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, EulaliaMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, EulaliaMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, EulaliaMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, Eulalia, DoomwyteMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, Eulalia, DoomwyteMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, Eulalia, Doomwyte 21. The Sable QueanMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, Eulalia, Doomwyte 21. The Sable QueanMarlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, Eulalia, Doomwyte 21. The Sable Quean, The Rogue Crew

Tribes of Redwall — (2001-2004) Publisher: The Tribes of Redwall series takes an exciting new look at the wealth of clans– the badgers, the moles, the shrews — that make up the legendary life of Brian Jacques’ best-selling series. In this first guide, readers can learn about and celebrate the hidden world of the badger Lords and the badger warrior spirit. In the tradition of Redwall Map and Riddler and Redwall Friend and Foe, the packet features a detailed 16-page booklet, complete with a wealth of information on badgers, several puzzles, and a quiz to test the knowledge of Redwall fans old and new. Also included is a stunning full-color pullout poster illustrating the badger heroes and heroines profiled in the booklet. Complete with an introduction by Brian Jacques himself, Tribes of Redwall is a must for any Redwall enthusiast!

Brian Jacques Tribes of Redwall: Badgers, Otters, Mice, Hares, Squirrels Brian Jacques Tribes of Redwall: Badgers, Otters, Mice, Hares, Squirrels Brian Jacques Tribes of Redwall: Badgers, Otters, Mice, Hares, Squirrels


SHARE:  Facebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmail  FOLLOW:  Facebooktwitterrsstumblr
If you plan to buy this book, you can support FanLit by clicking on the book cover above and buying it (and anything else) at Amazon. It costs you nothing extra, but Amazon pays us a small referral fee. Click any book cover or this link. We use this income to keep the site running. It pays for website hosting, postage for giveaways, and bookmarks and t-shirts. Thank you!

JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

View all posts by

2 comments

  1. It sounds like the movie Zootopia takes on the “prey animal good/predator bad” trope as bigotry, which is a nice idea. I have to say, though, it’s got to be hard in a children’s book to represent animals in a realistic way.

    • I haven’t seen Zootopia yet, but I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback, including the point you’re making. The delineations of predator/prey in the Redwall books does sometimes drift a little too close to bigotry for my comfort. (In the vein of anthropomorphic sword-bearing critters, I’ve heard good things about David Petersen’s Mouse Guard series of graphic novels and Daniel Polansky’s short novel, The Builders.)

      My main complaint about the realism of Jacques’ writing is where he wants to ally the reader’s sympathy: regardless of what his characters do, predatory animals are a crucial part of any balanced ecosystem, which is just as important a lesson for kids as “contributing to your community is good” or “always be kind.” I think he has a tendency to stick too closely to the model of The Wind in the Willows rather than provided a more nuanced approach, which is a shame.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Reading Links…3/30/16 – Where Worlds Collide - […] http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/mossflower/ […]

Review this book and/or Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *