On December the 13th 2010 I posted my first review – Brian Jacques’ Mossflower. Two years and nearly 150 other reviews later the 22nd and final Tale of Redwall brings this blog full circle.
It’s difficult to know how Jacques intended to conclude his enduring saga. It’s possible he may have had in mind something special for the final chapter, something that referred back to Martin the Warrior or the era of the original book. Perhaps he planned book 25, a nice round number, to be the last entry, or perhaps things turned out exactly as he wanted; to carry on writing and adding to the series until the end of his days. Whatever the truth is we know for certain that if he had lived longer we would have more books to look forward to. The Rogue Crew was never intended to be our last visit to Redwall Abbey and its surrounding country; Brian Jacques was working on the 23rd book in the series Ponticherry when he died suddenly last year. Unless someone finishes that book its predecessor will forever carry with it the distinction of concluding the saga. Bearing in mind that this weighty task was not its intended purpose does The Rogue Crew end the series on a high note?
I’d love to answer ‘yes’ but by the standards of his own work Jacques’ posthumously-published final book will not be remembered as one of his finest but it’s not his worst either. The title is a bit misleading; the eponymous Rogue Crew of battling otters led by the burly Skor Axehound doesn’t come into the story until a third of the way through and never takes a fully commanding presence in a story lacking a definitive hero. We spend more time with a company of Salamandastron hares as they embark on an investigation into the strange deaths of a few of their recruits. The chief participant from the enduring sandstone abbey is a hedgehog, Uggo Wiltud, one of a ragtag clan of oddballs and hardly the most resourceful or appealing hero. The book lacks a proper main character opting for a more ensemble approach with various factions of fighting creatures joining forces in an attempt to foil the designs of Razzid Wearat whose ambitions drive him towards Redwall Abbey with the goal of conquest. There’s almost nothing completely original or surprising about the plot (except the villain’s ship), hardly a shock given how long the series has stuck to its formula but it comes with a warm sense of familiarity and character that distinguishes Jacques’ work right to the end.
The Rogue Crew has its highs and lows and is a likeable read but its quality compared to the rest of the series especially the heyday of the first ten or so books feels somehow unimportant after twenty-six years of publications. The mere fact that a series of children’s books, each a not inconsiderable length, can continue for such a long time is worth celebrating. Even if the standard of the series gradually and inevitably declined over time, it never lost its inimitable spirit and above all as so many epilogues have attested down the years, you will always be welcome to visit Redwall Abbey.
Signing off with a short but memorable battle for the legendary abbey The Rogue Crew is a reasonable final visit to Mossflower country. If you love the series enough to follow it to its conclusion you will know what to expect.