Well known for his Redwall books (over a dozen volumes detailing the quests and feasts of various plucky woodland creatures), Jacques here turns his attention to the human world, and his fans will not be disappointed. Readers led by the title and cover art to expect a briny swashbuckler may be surprised to find that the bulk of the story consists of an ambling scavenger hunt set in a cozy English village. Pure-hearted enough to escape the curse that befalls the crew of the legendary Flying Dutchman, a boy and his dog are instead granted immortality and sent forth to ""spread peace and joy"" throughout the world. Two centuries later, in 1896, the ageless Ben and Ned (the latter is the dog) land in Chapelvale, a quaint village threatened with industrialization by a passel of nasty developers and ruled by a gang of juvenile delinquents. With the help of the villagers, the duo conducts a fairly contrived search (one clue is even written in invisible ink) for the ancient land title that will save Chapelvale from its grim fate. Though most of the characters are bipeds, the story doesn't veer much from the Redwall formula. Ultimately, it doesn't much matter whether the bumbling thugs sent from London to intimidate the Chapelvale populace are weasels or humans--Jacques's fans will be tickled by the characters' goofy slapstick regardless of their genus. The care taken with design (among other features, line drawings are set niftily into the first page of each chapter) adds to the appeal. All ages. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/19/2001 Release date: 03/01/2001 Genre: Children's
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