The Redwall bus keeps on rolling. This is the sixth book in the series I’ve reviewed and we’re not even half way through it.
The Taggerung, published in 2001 takes place after Marlfox and is the third book to feature Lady Cregga Rose Eyes. Sawney Rath is the chief of the coast-dwelling Juskarath tribe. His father was a Taggerung an exceptionally skilled warrior born once in a generation. When his vixen seer Grissoul foresees the birth of a new Taggerung at Redwall abbey he plots to kidnap him and amke him his clan’s prised asset. The Taggerung turn out to be a baby otter called Deyna whose father takes him to a ford as part of an otter birth ritual but Sawney’s efficient hordebeasts slay him and take the child to raise him as one of them.
There are some genuine surprises in this one. The most noticeable departure from the familiar formula is how the roles of villains are handled. From the get-go we seem to be in different territory from usual, the Juskarath tribe far from being this massive horde seems relatively small and unambitious. Sawney himself appears to fill the role of the horde chief but a fairly early twist involving him shifts the focus. Notably he is uncharacteristically cautious for a Redwall villain, the suggestion of attacking or even going near Redwall is quickly dismissed based on stories of previous warlords’ failed attempts to conquer the place. It makes a nice change of pace. The story itself is pretty original too giving us a reversal of the Outcast of Redwall scenario with a decent character growing up amongst evildoers but managing to maintain his decency. His ultimate journey away from the tribe is the story’s drive at least on one side. Of course there are goings on at Redwall too with Deyna’s sister Mhera engaging in a series of riddles left by the departed Abbes Song. The Redwall riddles are always a joy and provide a wonderfully interactive experience and the riddles in the Taggerung are no different, at least until the frustrating ITTAGALLs turn up. You’ll know what they are and why they’re frustrating if and when you read the book. Although this focus is fun and the subject of Redwall’s next abbey leader and it’s rather lovely to read about Redwall in happy times the story itself as somewhat thin. It’s no rollercoaster but it’s decent.
And there are some nice twists and turns along the way. It turned out to be one of the least predictable books in the series and at times aspects of the plot slotted in nicely. Deyna, or Tagg is a likeable and vividly tough hero but he is upstaged a little by his overconfident companion Nimbalo the Slayer. Other stand out characters include Gruven the inept Taggerung wannabe, Fwirl the energetic mousemaid and Rakky the otterfixer. Overall it’s nothing to write home about but it’s better than Lord Brocktree.
By no means one of the Redwall classics but there’s enough going on here to keep fans entertained. The story is original for the series and some of the twists are geunuinely surprising.