My sequence of reading that has seen me tackling the Redwall books one by one, alternating between those I had already read in chronological order and those I hadn’t previously read in publication order has lead me to Rakkety Tam, the seventeenth book in the series, published in 2004, which is the last book I will be reviewing before the main event, Redwall itself.
As one of the series’ new-age editions Rakkety Tam sticks its nose ahead of much of its preceding competition and stands out a bit. By this time Jacques had settled in to a comfortable routine of producing one new book a year, roughly, risking little in each instalment and failing to deliver the kind of appealing characters and interesting situations common throughout his early work. Rakkety Tam is no different but it’s closer to past glories than many of the books published in the few years before.
The title character Rakkety Tam MacBurl is a tough, claymore-wielding highlander warrior squirrel currently in service to the insufferable Squirrelking Araltum and Idga Drayqueen whose realm is mercilessly ravaged by the forces of Gulo the Savage, a wolverine from the lands of snow and ice who steal the royal standard. Tam and stalwart buddy Wild Doogy Plumm strike a bargain with their employers and promise to recover the precious flag in exchange for their freedom from duty and set out to track Gulo’s horde down.
Meanwhile at Redwall Abbey a pair of wanderers bring news of another wolverine’s death beneath a fallen tree and a mysterious verse describing the whereabouts of the mysterious Walking Stone, an artefact Gulo needs to claim true leadership over his lands and which he is tirelessly searching for.
It’s a more eventful and less predictable tale than usual with plot threads clashing and parting frequently as various parties chase about striving to recover treasures from other parties. The villain is quite notable on this occasion, the vicious wolverine described as being the same size as a badger which helps create a vivid impressions of size and physical power in the antagonist for series veterans. However Gulo lacks real brains and is memorable solely for his species but it’s nice to see something new. That he and his gang are cannibals makes up for their relative seen-it-all-before status, a fact that gives rise to some uncharacteristically grisly early moments.
If it seems a darker tale than usual at the beginning things soon get back to normal with plenty of feasting and singing as a cast of okay characters trundle through the plot. As the hero Tam suffers from Lord Brocktree Syndrome, frequently upstaged by his number two but his thick accent, well-written by Jacques gives him character.
Not quite good or rounded enough to earn that fourth star but far too entertaining to warrant fewer than three. This is another middle-of-the-road outing from Jacques that beats much of his immediately preceding output.