Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book Review: The Legend of Luke

The Legend of Luke, by Brian Jacques.  Although this was the twelfth book written in the Redwall saga, it falls chronologically early in the series.  Martin the Warrior, after the events of Mossflower, is living quietly among the good folk at Redwall Abbey.  The Abbey is still under construction but promises to be a haven of peace for the gentle woodlanders.  However, a travelling hedgehog maiden, Trimp, inadvertently triggers some long-forgotten memories of his childhood, laying upon Martin the burden to find out the story of what happened to his father, Luke.  Only a quest through many dangers will suffice to bring the knowledge he seeks; knowledge both of his father's fate, and of his own character.  True to the Redwall pattern, he is joined by many friends, old and new; Trimp, Dinny the mole, Gonff the mousethief, the young squirrel Chugger, and a rather memorable hare named (for short) Beau.  Much of the later part of the book is told in flashback, a tale-within-a-tale that gives us the noble lineage of Martin's sword, and suggests why he is willing to put it aside at the end.

Some have critiqued the Redwall books as being repetitive; there is always a quest, always at least one horde of evil vermin, always a desire for peace which only comes at a high cost.  If they are repetitive, I believe they have the best kind of repetition, the kind that bridges the gap between old and young and leaves us all wanting "more of the same, but different."  As I have read these books, I have begun to see recurring themes as well; in this book particularly, the sacrifices the older generation must make to protect the younger; the inherent nobility of an unselfish character, the qualities of bravery and leadership which emerge in necessity; the tension between the need for war and the desire for peace.  In a larger sense, Redwall Abbey and the noble woodlanders who dwell there are a metaphor for the island of Britain, constantly beseiged and in need of able defenders, but a beacon of civilization in a dark world.

If you enjoy audiobooks at all, these are well worth listening to: the late Brian Jacques himself narrated them with music and a full cast.  I believe they are the kind of children's books that all children should be exposed to.

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