by Brain Jacques
adapted by Stuart Moore
Redwall is one of those J fiction series I looked at, thumbing through the pages of the first book, and realized I had no interest in reading. However, the visual appeal of the graphic novel version got me to sit down and read it. The story is about a group of mice and a few other talking animals that live peacefully in an abbey. Young Matthias longs for days of adventure; he constantly admires a tapestry of Martin the warrior-mouse and wishes to be like the legendary hero. His dreams come true soon enough as a gang of evil rats storms the abbey and the storyline is quickly launched into battle plans and defense tactics. There is a varied cast of characters- squirrels, badgers, otters and hares on the protagonist\’s side; weasels and foxes support the villains. Matthias soon goes off on a self-appointed quest to find the ancient sword of Martin, hoping to use it to defeat the rats. He meets up with a community of secretive shrews, an old owl and cat who have a quarrel, and a kingdom of sparrows. Surprisingly, the cat is a pacifist and the sparrows are fighters.
I really enjoyed the artwork. It\’s all black-and-white, with washes of gray. It\’s very atmospheric, has lots of different viewpoints and angles, making for a wonderful visual story. I had a few problems with how the characters were drawn, though. The mice and rats all had rather pointy ears, I kept thinking they didn\’t quite look like mice or rats. The rats look perfectly evil, but their snouts are so long and full of teeth they almost appear crocodilian. One particularly sneaky one also has a long neck- he looks more like a weasel than a proper rat. Another thing that bugged me was the scale- the foxes and badgers the mice interact with are only twice as big as the mice, which makes them either look smaller than normal, or the mice particularly large. This seemed normal in the context of the story until Matthias met the cat- who appeared a giant monster, having the usual size relationship to a mouse. But foxes are normally bigger than cats… It was a very nicely-drawn cat, I just couldn\’t get over the visual discrepancy.
Well, I can\’t compare how closely this book follows the original novel, as I haven\’t read that. I\’m sure it\’s left a lot of material out. But as a stand-alone the story is good enough, moves with a quick pace, and Matthias has plenty of interesting adventures dealing with spies, thieves and villains as well as finding friends in unexpected places. I\’m sure kids who like battles, adventure stories and animals would really enjoy this book.
rating: 3/5 …….. 143 pages, 2007