cover image The Bellmaker

The Bellmaker

Brian Jacques. Philomel Books, $24.99 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22805-6

For the seventh volume of the Redwall series, Jacques sticks to the tried-and-true formula-action aplenty and a huge cast of woodland creatures-that has won him such a dedicated following. When the merciless Foxwolf Urgan Nagru and his mate, the scheming vixen Silvamord, oust good Gael Squirrelking from the throne of Southsward, Mariel the Warriormaid and her companion Dandin-two adventuresome wandering mice from Redwall Abbey-join forces with those forest denizens still loyal to their king. Meanwhile, back at the Abbey, a prophetic dream inspires Mariel's father to round up a party to search for his daughter. Comic relief-as well as a touch of tragedy-is provided by a pair of uncouth and piratical rats as a seemingly endless stream of cliff-hangers and dazzling combat winds its way through lovingly described forest feasts. The author must be commended for creating a world of equal-opportunity adventuring, in which female creatures can be just as courageous (or as diabolical) as their male counterparts, but the characterizations are broadly drawn. Despite their well-delineated quirks, foibles and quaint speech patterns (``Zurr, thurr'm a gurt 'ole in ee shipper 'ere''), ``nobeast'' really grows or changes much in this neck of the woods. Ages 9-up. Author tour. (Mar.)