I’m back again to the Redwall series, by Brian Jacques. I don’t think I actually read Mariel of Redwall the first time around, maybe just started it. I remember the beginning and nothing else.
Chronologically, this is set when the building of Redwall Abbey was almost complete. All of the characters are new, though Dandin is the great-grandson of Gonff. Joseph the bell-maker is set to deliver a great bell to the badger Rawnblade, Lord of Salamandastron, when the ship is captured by pirate rats. Joseph and his daughter Mariel are imprisoned in the sea fortress of Gabool the Wild. Mariel escapes but loses her memory in the process, eventually finding her way to Redwall. When she finally recall what happened, triggered by a prophetic poem, she sets out first to Salamandastron to enlist the badger’s help, and then on to face Gabool at Terramort. She is accompanied by Dandin, the hedgehog Durry, and Tarquin the lovelorn hare, who spends half his time composing ballads to the fair Rosie. (At this point you may be able to tell that the series is a bit formulaic, but it’s a good formula. They are difficult books to put down.)
One of the series’ strengths is that it does not rely on stereotypical gender roles. Mariel is clearly the heroine here, a fierce warrior mouse who will let nothing stand in the way of her goal and is not afraid to use a weapon well. In fact, all of the books have included female fighters, like the squirrels Jess and Lady Amber, the Sparra Queen, and the badger mothers. There are also plenty of males who are quiet and peace-loving. My own nature is far from that of a warrior, unless I were in danger, but it’s nice to see a wide spectrum of attitudes represented here.