4 1/2 stars
In the dead of winter, Martin, a lone mouse warrior, wanders into Mossflower woods and is captured by a wildcat warlord’s troops, who are seizing food from the few woodlanders who haven’t fled from their occupation.
That night, the warlord is poisoned by his own daughter, Tsarmina, who seizes the throne and leaves Martin forgotten in Kotir’s dungeons.
When spring comes a young mouse thief named Gonff is captured for stealing food from Kotir’s larders. He and Martin escape and join the woodlanders in hiding. With the evil Tsarmina in charge and her vermin troops going hungry without receiving tribute from the woodlanders, they’re on the hunt for slaves to grow food.
With the evil Tsarmina in charge and her vermin troops going hungry without receiving tribute from the woodlanders, they’re on the hunt for slaves to grow food.
The woodlanders can’t hide forever, but they have few warriors. The leader of the woodlanders urges Martin to go on a quest to find her father, Boar the fighter, the badger warrior who protected the land before the wildcat family took over. The journey to the fire mountain of Salamandastron will be fraught with difficulty, and the woodlanders will have a wildcat to worry about while Martin the Warrior is gone.
When I was a kid, I must have read this book at least three times, along with most of the other Redwall books. I was obsessed with Redwall and idolized Martin the Warrior, probably to an unhealthy extent, often trying to figure out what I should do by thinking about what Martin would do.
The writing style of the Redwall series is an older, slower paced style with many descriptions and is a more distant point of view than most modern stories, so it might be hard for a younger reader to get into. It jumps into the viewpoint of dozens of characters, even minor ones who die quickly.
The moral views in the book are also more simple. Heroes are heroic, and bad guys are bad, without much in between, two of the three wildcats being some of the rare exceptions of the series. Good guys are certain species such as mice, moles, squirrels, badgers and other creatures, while the bad guys are species like rats, foxes, weasels, and pine martins.
While religion isn’t mentioned in the books, most of the stories take place in an abbey that has monks, and there is mention of characters who die going to Dark Forest, while the bad guys are mentioned as going to Hellgates.
While I enjoyed reading the books multiple times, I suspect many older readers will eventually get annoyed at the repetitiveness of the series, but for younger readers, knowing that the story will always end with the good guys predictably defeating the bad guys may be a comfort.
*Note on the reading order: Mossflower is the second book written in the Redwall series. Chronologically, it’s the third book in the series. Martin the Warrior is a prequel to it. Because the Redwall books are all stand-alone, it’s easy to read them in publication or chronological order. My suggestion would be to start with Redwall, Martin the Warrior, or Mossflower. (Chronologically, Lord Brocktree is the first book, but it was written quite a while after the others, so it’s not necessary to start there.)
Heat: None. One character does end up being romantically interested in another mouse, but it stays clean.
Violence: Characters fight with swords, arrows, claws, and even teeth. Some get injured, and others are killed. There is blood, but nothing gory.
Genre: Animal fantasy
Age Recommendation: 10+ though it depends on the kid’s attention span and how well they handle stories with war and killing.
This book is available on Amazon and Audible.