cover image Salamandastron


Brian Jacques. Philomel Books, $24.99 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-399-21992-4

The beastly names have changed but the epic struggle between good and evil rages on in this continuation of the acclaimed Redwall series. Leading the fight is the badger maid, Mara; a dashing hare named Pikkle; and Dumble, a baby vole all aptly named in the colorful tradition of Jacques's animal characterizations. At stake are the lives of all the good beasts of Redwall Abbey who are stricken with a terrible plague. A bittersweet relationship between Mara and her guardian, the Badger Lord of Salamandastron, provides an emotional thread that cleverly joins far-flung bands of swashbuckling beasts, on various quests and fighting sorties, in its moving ceremonial conclusion. Against the backdrop of a seemingly endless parade of heroes and villains, danger and daring rescues, Jacques has created over the years a loyalty between his readers and the creatures of Redwall Abbey: the reader feels included in the Abbey's history as it is being written, and Jacques encourages that empathy by creating animal characters that respond to extraordinary circumstances with compellingly human-like humility and strength. Chalk's black-and-white illustrations above each chapter number are small marvels of nuance and personality. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)