Mossflower (Redwall #2), Brian Jacques. New York: Avon Books, 1988.
Summary: A prequel to Redwall, narrating the quest of Martin the Warrior and his companions to deliver Mossflower from the attack of the cruel wildcat Tsarmina, ruling from the fortress Kotir, next to Mossflower Wood.
Martin the warrior mouse is marching by the Kotir fortress when seized, after a fierce fight, by the forces of Verdauga, the dying wildcat Lord of Kotir. His daughter Tsarmina, furious that Verdauga has spared Martin’s life, breaks his sword, creating the enmity between Tsarmina and Martin that builds throughout the book. Martin meets Gonff, a mouse-thief in the prison, and Gonff succeeds in helping them both escape into Mossflower Wood.
Verdauga dies. Tsarmina imprisons her brother and rules. She is ruthless, willing to kill any who challenge her. The tribute she enforces drives villagers into Mossflower, leading to increasingly depleted stores. She plots the conquest of Mossflower. Her forays are resisted by mice, moles, hedgehogs and squirrels but it is apparent that Kotir’s might is superior. It is decided that only with the aid of Boar the Fighter, who went off many years ago on a quest to Salamandastrom Mountain, the Mountain of Dragons, that they can conquer. Martin, wearing his broken sword around his neck, along with Gonff and Dinny the mole, go on a quest to the mountain, surmounting encounters with crabs, toads, gulls and owls.
Will they find Boar alive? Will they return in time when no one has come back from Salamandastrom? And will the determined animals of Mossflower be able to withstand the attacks of Tsarmina until reinforcements arrive? Along the way, we see Martin truly emerge as the Warrior, and learn of the forging of his sword that plays such an important role in Redwall. We also admire the ingenuity and fierce resolution of the creatures of Mossflower.
Martin and Gonff make ideal companions and part of the enjoyment of the book is the friendship between the determined warrior and the happy-go-lucky but equally courageous Gonff. We also observe the folly of evil, its propensity to self-destruction that help undermine the advantages Tsarmina has enjoyed, even as her fortress is slowly being undermined. By contrast, there is the goodness of the creatures of Mossflower, loving peace but resolute and self-sacrificial in the defense of their home. The arrival of the Abbess Germaine adds wisdom, spiritual depth, and the arts of a healer, desperately needed as Mossflower faces war. And in her arrival, the foundations are laid for Redwall.
In addition to the contest between the forces of Tsarmina and those of Mossflower, Jacques fills in many backstories alluded to in Redwall. I hope this is not all we see of this generation. I really liked Martin and Gonff and hope I will see more of them.
2 thoughts on “Review: Mossflower”
So happy to see one of my favorite books here, Watership Down being another! Must be time for me to reread them.
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