This first adventure book in the "Redwall" series by Brian Jacques is published by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Group and is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
The mice and other peaceful creatures of Redwall Abbey celebrate the Summer of the Late Rose — until an evil rat named Cluny the Scourge arrives to shatter their serenity. Cluny decides he wants Redwall for himself, and he plots with his army of vermin to destroy the current inhabitants. Matthias, a young, novice mouse, begins receiving signs from a legendary Redwall hero of ages past called Martin the Warrior. As Redwall comes under siege from Cluny's army, Matthias faces adventures and dangers in a quest to find Martin's sword. In the end, Matthias retrieves the sword, conquers Cluny and saves Redwall.
Matthias and the other mice are members of an order of monks who believe in doing good and living peacefully — but they never mention God or any "higher power" as the motivating force behind their monastic lifestyle. On one occasion they say grace, but they aren't actually praying to anyone. Martin the Warrior's sword is stolen and hoarded by an evil snake named Asmodeus; this may or may not be an allusion to the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
Abbot Mortimer and Brother Methuselah look out for Matthias and offer him direction concerning his future. Brother Methuselah reveals secrets to Matthias about Redwall's history and gives him clues to finding Martin's sword. Though both are strong believers in peace, Mortimer and Methuselah don't prevent Matthias from fighting when they come to believe he's destined to be a warrior. Cluny the Scourge treats his underlings with contempt. He assembles an army by threatening reluctant soldiers and their families, and he has no difficulty brutally injuring or killing those who disobey.
Other Belief Systems
Martin the Warrior seems to reincarnate himself in Matthias. Cluny calls for a healer — a fox named Sela — to cure him with her charms, spells and magic herbs.
A few words including d--n, darn, and a-- appear in the book. Cluny the Scourge and his army perpetrate many brutally vivid, scary acts of violence. Cluny talks freely about hell and Satan, and his cruelty is punctuated by his lack of regard for life and his willingness to kill.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Matthias believes he was born to fulfill a purpose.
What is your purpose, or how can you discover it?
- How is Redwall like the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)?
- Cluny seems to have no regard for the lives of others.
Where do you see that sort of behavior in our society?
- In what ways does Cluny's unkind behavior toward others end up hurting him?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.