Mattimeo is the third REDWALL novel written by Brian Jacques, and contains all of the elements which have come to define the series in the minds of fans: noble heroes, dastardly villains, young animals who mature into budding heroes, lengthy descriptions of food, mysterious riddles, and dual plots which see the residents of Redwall Abbey defending its red sandstone walls against invaders while the principal hero-characters journey far afield. Subsequent books do jump around quite a bit within the series’ chronology, but Mattimeo takes place “eight seasons” after the events of Redwall and features Matthias the Warrior Mouse, his wife Cornflower, and their son Mattimeo in prominent roles.
During their annual feast celebrating the Summer Equinox, the residents of Redwall Abbey make the grave mistake of inviting what appears to be a traveling circus to share in the festivities; in truth, it is a band of weasels, stoats, and rats, led by a mask-wearing fox who calls himself Slagar the Cruel. Mattimeo and most of the other younglings are abducted in the night and added to Slagar’s collection of slaves, which he plans to sell to a mysterious cult far to the south. Matthias, Jess the Squirrel, and Basil Stag Hare set off after them, later joined by Jabez Stump (a hedgehog) and Orlando the Axe (a badger) who are also seeking abducted offspring. Meanwhile, the remaining Redwallers soon find themselves under siege from General Ironbeak, a raven who commands an army of crows, magpies, and rooks; tired of living a hardscrabble life in the frigid north, Ironbeak has followed the mystical visions of his seer, Magiz, to the apparent utopia of the Abbey, determined to slay the residents and take the Abbey for himself.
Even more so than in Redwall and Mossflower, the heroic characters really shine in Mattimeo. Basil Stag Hare’s goofy antics and food-based monomania belie his well-honed scout’s discipline and balance out the fear and torment experienced by Mattimeo and the other slaves; Mattimeo, himself, has a believable and welcome character shift from spoiled brat to warrior’s son as he undergoes starvation, forced marching, and beatings. Hard on the heels of Slagar’s group, Matthias is appropriately grim, while Cornflower takes command of the Redwall rebellion against the invaders, coming up with ingenious plots to thwart the birds while discovering a hidden riddle and clues which play a large part in Matthias’ journey. All of their triumphs and setbacks were well-conveyed and spaced in such a way to keep the plot moving briskly, and the final battles for each of the separate groups were action-packed.
As a child, I loved these books, despite the too-obvious dichotomy between good and evil; the repetition of plot elements and character types didn’t bother me because I enjoyed the familiarity and reassurances that the good guys would win, even if some of their friends were lost along the way. Since I was reading the REDWALL series as the books were published, meaning a gap of a few years between installments, I was able to focus more on the fantastic exploits of Jacques’ characters rather than the issues which I notice as an adult reader. However, knowing what the target audience is and having experienced the books as part of that audience, I continue to confidently recommend Mattimeo and the other REDWALL books for children and tweens who are looking for a fantasy series which is heavy on action and friendship while light on romance.
Redwall — (1986-2011) Publisher: When the peaceful life of ancient Redwall Abbey is shattered by the arrival of the evil rat Cluny and his villainous hordes, Matthias, a young mouse, determines to find the legendary sword of Martin the Warrior which, he is convinced, will help Redwall’s inhabitants destroy the enemy.
Tribes of Redwall — (2001-2004) Publisher: The Tribes of Redwall series takes an exciting new look at the wealth of clans– the badgers, the moles, the shrews — that make up the legendary life of Brian Jacques’ best-selling series. In this first guide, readers can learn about and celebrate the hidden world of the badger Lords and the badger warrior spirit. In the tradition of Redwall Map and Riddler and Redwall Friend and Foe, the packet features a detailed 16-page booklet, complete with a wealth of information on badgers, several puzzles, and a quiz to test the knowledge of Redwall fans old and new. Also included is a stunning full-color pullout poster illustrating the badger heroes and heroines profiled in the booklet. Complete with an introduction by Brian Jacques himself, Tribes of Redwall is a must for any Redwall enthusiast!