As a young Redwall fan, I was hyped (as was said) when I heard this was coming out. It was clear that Redwall had run its course – perhaps the kindest thing to do would be for Brian Jacques to put a bullet through the skull of his decrepit and aging series and start out of with something fresh.
The first part was good, and seems to deliver the promise of Jacques reinvigorated. It trowels on the melodrama a bit thick, but it’s fast-paced and doesn’t have 30-page descriptions of food, so score one for the good guys.
It’s a 17th-century yarn about a boy and his dog who stow away on a ship – the ship that becomes the legendary Flying Dutchman, cursed to sail the seas eternally after its captain curses God. Ned and his dog escape, however, and use their gift of immortality for prosocial ends, setting out to do good deeds.
You should probably put the book down now, because all the good stuff is used up in the prologue. Brian Jacques immediately turns his premise into an excretable Hardy Boys adventure mystery. Basically, Ned and his dog end up in a turn of the century English village that is about to be demolished by some stereotypical rich candy-ass, and with the aid of some plucky village youngsters they must discover the secret behind…something. This was the part where I basically stopped caring. The transition from an awesome high-seas adventure to a cosy little Fantastic Five mystery jaunt was so underwhelming and disappointing that it caused me to not care.
All of Brian Jacques familiar Redwallisms emerge here too. There’s stupid villains (here, schoolyard bullies) who are somehow the terror of the village despite the fact that they can’t find their ass with both hands, the brave and principled heroes who do nothing wrong and are consequently as interesting to read about as the items on Brian Jacques’ grocery list, there’s the inevitable scene where the main character faces the villain, looks him in the eyes, and the villain is forced to look away because the intensity of his stare, the long and pointless descriptions of food…do I have to go on? This crap is in a score of Redwall books.
It’s not that the story is bad so much as that he set us up to expect so much more. Why couldn’t the entire damn book be like the first part? The Redwall books were always like this. A few amazing scenes, and the rest of the book might as well have been written by a different person.