Mossflower lay deep in the grip of midwinter beneath a sky of leaden gray that showed tinges of scarlet and orange on the horizon. A cold mantle of snow draped the landscape, covering the flatlands to the west. Snow was everywhere, filling ditches, drifting high against hedgerows, making paths invisible, smoothing the contours of earth in its white embrace. The gaunt, leafless ceiling of Mossflower Wood was penetrated by constant snowfall, which carpeted the sprawling woodland floor, building canopies on evergreen shrubs and bushes. Winter had muted the eart; the muffled stillness was broken only by a traveler’s paws.

This is the third book from the “Redwall” canon that I’ve read in the past few months. I seem to be unable to get enough of the little rodent inhabitants of that country. Brian Jacques is a lovely storyteller, although I’m interested to see if he can break away from the “evil tyrant threatening the humble but tenacious villagers” routine for any of the following books.

In this tome by Jacques, we encounter the forest of Mossflower – the future home of Redwall Abbey. Martin the Warrior has been wandering and happens to wander into a small village near the fortress of Kotire, which is held by the ruthless wildcat Verdauga family. The fortress is soon run by Tsarmina, the daughter of the original wildcat conqueror, and she is cruel, exacting, and unfortunately – slightly insane. Martin is captured by Tsarmina’s forces, where he learns the sad fate of the creatures of Mossflower forest and vows to help them; whether this means fighting along side them or traveling long distances to the mythical mountain of Salamandastron – home of the fire lizards.

Once again, the storytelling is masterful and engaging. (I know I use those words a great deal, sorry). Jacques is not afraid to have his characters suffer and die – often violently. Although his stories are about small animals warring with each other, the author recognizes that it is war and there will be casualties, whether they be main characters or not. I applaud him for being realistic. Without ruining the plotline, I would like to scold Christopher Paolini for stealing yet another plot “twist” from yet another fantasy novel. Naughty naughty, Mr Paolini.

“Mossflower” was published in 1988 by Brian Jacques.

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