Okay this is the last one for the time being, at least until I’ve read Oucast of Redwall. After finishing Lord Brocktree I took a little break from my Redwall-athon by reading The Borrowers, so that will be reviewed next. And I promise to review some movies and games soon too.
Lord Brocktree, published in 2000 (those dates are important), was the next book following The Legend of Luke and is the first book chronologically in the series (I think it still is anyway – I still haven’t read any others written since yet). Lord Brocktree is the grandfather of Bella of Brockhall, the badger in Mossflower and was mentioned several times in that book. This is his story.
Lord Brocktree starts out promisingly. The mountain fortress of Salamadastron is under threat from what at first seems could be one of the very best Redwall villains, wildcat Ungatt Trunn, brother of Verdauga Greeneyes who appeared in Mossflower. Salamandastron is presently ruled by Lord Brocktree’s father Old Lord Stonepaw and his hares. The hare population of the mountain has been dwindling as, dissatisfied by peaceful times, the youngsters have been leaving the mountain in search of adventure leaving behind an ageing guard who are hard pressed to deal with the threat of Ungatt Trunn and the blue hordes. Stonepaw sends one of his hares, Fleetscut in search of aid. Meanwhile some distance away the titular Brocktree with his huge double-hilted sword is travelling in search of his destiny when he meets Dorothea Duckfontein Dillworthy (Dotti for short, mercifully) a haremaid and ‘fatal beauty’ on her own jounrey to the aforementioned Salamandastron. Brocktree is inspired to join her and the pair set off together for the mountain.
The introduction of Ungatt Trunn really gives you the impression that the heroes are up against a seriously evil piece of work. His obsession with spiders, the way none of his well-realised cronies dares to look at him and the nature of his vast army of blue-dyed vermin promises a memorable fight but sadly it doesn’t quite turn out that way. Though terrifying to begin with Trunn’s menace seems to diminish. He seems to acquire fallibility and the problems his horde faces undermines the impact of his character as we go along. He’s still memorable but he could have been amazing.
The same goes for the story as a whole. It seems as though Jacques was on autopilot for this one delivering a slightly by-the-numbers tale that occasionally excels. There isn’t the same variety or unpredictability as in Mossflower or Martin the Warrior but in spite of this the book unquestionably has some pretty vivid scenes such as a couple of drawn out escape sequences and the whole episode at the court of King Bucko but rather a lot of what takes place is somewhat uninspired. The biggest problem with Lord Brocktree though is the sheer number of characters, too many to really remember or serve any important purpose for the plot. Brocktree’s story strand is for some time all about a succession of meetings with new characters who agree to join the badger on his journey, among them otters, moles, hedgehogs, shrews and hares (strangely no mice). Likewise on the other side of the story there are a few too many Salamandastron hares to keep track of and characters somewhat blend into each other. Lord Brocktree is frequently upstaged in his own book by Dotti who, for most of the story, seems more like the main character, getting much more to do. There are times when the badger seems hardly to feature.
That’s not to say Lord Brocktree is a bad book. This is still a Tale of Redwall and it’s still Brian Jacques writing it and it’s always breezy and full of lighthearted japes. There are also a few interesting things to enjoy along the way such as the strained relationship between Fleetscut and squirrel warrior Jukka the Sling which is a rare example of heroes not getting on in a Jacques book. The book also reveals how the Long Patrol was first formed and most interestingly tells us the story of Ripfang, Boar the Fighter’s nemesis in Mossflower.
Fans will no doubt find plenty to enjoy but if you want to get into the books there are better places to start. Lord Brocktree has its good points and it’s never boring but we’ve undeniably had better.