Jacques, Brian 1939-
Jacques, Brian 1939-
Surname is pronounced "Jakes"; born June 15, 1939, in Liverpool, England; son of James (a truck driver) and Ellen Jacques; children: David, Marc. Education: Attended St. John's School, Liverpool, England. Politics: "Humanitarian/socialist." Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Opera, walking the dog, crossword puzzles.
Home—Liverpool, England. Office—Redwall Abbey Co. Ltd., P.O. Box 57, Liverpool L18 3NZ, England.
Writer and broadcaster. Formerly worked variously as a seaman, 1954-57, railway fireman, 1957-60, longshoreman, 1960-65, long-distance truck driver, 1965-75, docks representative, 1975-80, and logger, bus driver, and policeman. Freelance radio broadcaster, including for BBC-Radio and BBC-Radio 2, 1980—, including programs Jakestown, Saturday with Brian Jacques, Schools Quiz, Flixquiz, We All Went down the Docks, Gangland Anthology, The Eternal Christmas, Centenary of Liverpool, An Eyefool of Easter, A Lifetime Habit, and The Hollywood Musicals, for BBC-Radio Merseyside, retiring 2006; former contributor to Alan Jackson Show. Member, BBC Northwest Television advisory council. Patron of Royal Wavertree School for the Blind. Former stand-up comic; former member of folk-singing group The Liverpool Fisherman; speaker at schools and universities.
National Light Entertainment Award for Radio, Sony Company, 1982, for BBC-Radio Merseyside's Jakestown; Rediffusion Award for Best Light Entertainment Program on Local Radio, 1982, and Commendation, 1983; Parents' Choice Honor Book for Literature and Booklist Editor's Choice designation, both 1987, American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults designation, and School Library Journal Best Book designation, all for Redwall; Children's Book of the Year Award, Lancashire County (England) Library, 1988, for Redwall, 1991, for Mattimeo, and for Moss-flower and Salamandastron; Western Australian Young Readers' Award (Secondary), 1990, for Redwall, 1992, for Mattimeo, and for Mossflower; Carnegie Medal nominations, for Redwall, Mossflower, Mattimeo, and Salamandastron; honorary D.Lit, University of Liverpool, 2005.
"REDWALL" NOVEL SERIES; FOR CHILDREN Redwall (also see below), illustrated by Gary Chalk, Hutchinson (London, England), 1986, Philomel (New York, NY), 1987.
Mossflower (also see below), illustrated by Gary Chalk, Philomel (New York, NY), 1988, collector's edition, 2004.
Mattimeo (also see below), illustrated by Gary Chalk, Avon (New York, NY), 1989, reprinted, Firebird (New York, NY), 2003.
The Redwall Trilogy (contains Redwall, Mossflower, and Mattimeo), three volumes, Red Fox (London, England), 1991.
Mariel of Redwall, illustrated by Gary Chalk, Philomel (New York, NY), 1991.
Salamandastron, illustrated by Gary Chalk, Philomel (New York, NY), 1992.
Martin the Warrior, illustrated by Gary Chalk, Philomel (New York, NY), 1993.
The Bellmaker, illustrated by Allan Curless, Hutchinson (London, England), 1994, Philomel (New York, NY), 1995.
Outcast of Redwall, illustrated by Allan Curless, Philomel (New York, NY), 1995.
The Pearls of Lutra, illustrated by Allan Curless, Philomel (New York, NY), 1996.
The Long Patrol, illustrated by Allan Curless, Philomel (New York, NY), 1997.
Marlfox, Philomel (New York, NY), 1998.
The Legend of Luke, illustrated by Fangorn, Philomel (New York, NY), 1999.
Lord Brocktree, illustrated by Fangorn, Philomel (New York, NY), 2000.
Taggerung, illustrated by Peter Standley, Philomel (New York, NY), 2001.
Triss, illustrated by David Elliot, Philomel (New York, NY), 2002.
Loamhedge, illustrated by David Elliot, Philomel (New York, NY), 2003.
Rakkety Tam, illustrated by David Elliot, Philomel (New York, NY), 2004.
High Rhulain, illustrated by David Elliot, Philomel (New York, NY), 2005.
Eulalia, illustrated by David Elliot, Philomel (New York, NY), 2007.
"TRIBES OF REDWALL" SERIES; PICTURE BOOKS
Badgers, illustrated by Peter Standley, Philomel (New York, NY), 2001.
Otters, illustrated by Peter Standley, Philomel (New York, NY), 2001.
Mice, illustrated by Peter Standley, Red Fox (London, England), 2003.
Squirrels, Red Fox (London, England), 2003.
"CASTAWAYS OF THE FLYING DUTCHMAN" NOVEL SERIES; FOR CHILDREN
Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr, Philomel (New York, NY), 2001.
The Angel's Command, illustrated by David Elliot, Philomel (New York, NY), 2003.
Voyage of Slaves, illustrated by David Elliot, Philomel (New York, NY), 2006.
Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales, Philomel (New York, NY), 1991.
The Great Redwall Feast (picture book), illustrated by Christopher Denise, Philomel (New York, NY), 1995.
Redwall Map and Riddler, illustrated by Chris Baker, Philomel (New York, NY), 1997.
Redwall Friend and Foe, illustrated by Chris Baker, Philomel (New York, NY), 2000.
A Redwall Winter's Tale (picture book), illustrated by Christopher Denise, Philomel (New York, NY), 2001.
The Tale of Urso Bruno: Little Father of All Bears (picture book), illustrated by Alexi Natchev, Philomel (New York, NY), 2003.
The Ribbajack, and Other Curious Yarns, Philomel (New York, NY), 2004.
The Redwall Cookbook, illustrated by Christopher Denise, Philomel (New York, NY), 2005.
Redwall (graphic novel), 2007.
Author of documentaries and plays for television and radio; author of stage play Brown Bitter, Wet Nellies, and Scouse, produced in Liverpool, England. Columnist for Catholic Pictorial.
Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales, was adapted for audiocassette, narrated by Jacques, Listening Library, 1996. The "Redwall" novels were adapted for audiocassette by Recorded Books. Listening Library adapted many of the "Redwall" titles, with narration by Jacques, for audiocassette. An animated television series, Redwall, aired on British television in 2001. The musical Redwall: The Legend of Redwall Abbey, featuring a libretto by Evelyn Swensson and orchestration by Vince Leonard, was published by Dramatic Publishing, 2004.
Known for his multi-volume "Redwall" saga, Brian Jacques is acclaimed as a "master of the animal fantasy genre," according to Booklist critic Sally Estes. In his "Redwall" novels, which include Mossflower, Outcasts of Redwall, Marlfox, and Taggerung, he draws readers into a "world of woodland and meadow … populated with the creatures of the forest, and not a human among them," as an essayist explained in the St. James Guide to Young-Adult Writers. Jacques takes as his heroes the small, gentle animals of nature and pits them against rapacious predators in epic fantasy tales of battle and quest in vivid prose that has made his fantasy world seem almost real to his young fans. As a correspondent for Time magazine noted, "even before J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter [novels], … Jacques … was selling millions of 400-page books to spellbound children and parents." First planned as a trilogy—and initially not intended for publication at all—the "Redwall" books have blossomed into a multi-novel phenomenon with a secure and growing fandom on both sides of the Atlantic.
The plot of the "Redwall" novels, which are set in and around England's Redwall Abbey and feature a cast of anthropomorphized "gentlebeasts," features a good-versus-evil formula that appeals to both young and old. Jacques' heroes and heroines—mice, moles, hares, badgers, otters, squirrels, hawks, and the like—can be counted on to be brave, true, and kind, while villainous rats, foxes, ferrets, snakes, weasels, and stoats are consistently wicked, violent, and depraved. Such villainous creatures are dutifully defeated by the end of each novel, much to the reader's satisfaction. Interestingly, these adventurous yet comforting tales might never have seen print if it had not been for one of Jacques' former teachers.
Both Jacques' parents were Irish-Catholic immigrants to Liverpool, England, and he grew up in humble but loving surroundings, finding boyhood adventure while playing around the ocean docks near his home. Fortu-
nately for the young Jacques, his father, a truck driver, had a healthy appreciation for literature and passed this along to his son. Through his father, Jacques learned to love books by such authors as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Jacques wrote his first story at age ten as a school an assignment, but was immediately discouraged; believing that the tale about a crocodile and the bird who cleaned its teeth was too sophisticated to be the work of a child, Jacques' teacher called the boy a liar when Jacques insisted that he had written the story on his own. Although the event was unfortunate, because of it Jacques realized that he had some talent. Another teacher, Austin Thomas, proved to be a less-severe critic, and encouraged the boy to read Greek literature and poetry. Higher education was not the destiny for most children growing up in Liverpool's working-class families, however. Like his friends, Jacques left school at age fifteen and started working a string of jobs that ranged from longshoreman and logger to policeman and postmaster, to stand-up comic and folk singer in a musical group called The Liverpool Fisherman.
Jacques eventually began a career as a radio personality, playwright, poet, and storyteller, and by the time he reached his early forties he had established a career as an entertainer. His well-known radio show Jakestown, which featured selections from Jacques' favorite operas and aired every Sunday on BBC Radio-Merseyside, was a staple for many years, until Jacques' retirement from broadcasting in the fall of 2006. It was his love of performing and giving humorous talks to children and adults, in fact, that inspired the "Redwall" saga. "I did not write my first novel, Redwall, with publication in mind," the author once commented. "It was mainly written as a story for [the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind in Liverpool,] where I am a patron. Luckily it was picked up by a reputable author and sent to Hutchinson." That author, Alan Durband, was one Jacques' former English teachers. He sent out the manuscript without Jacques' knowledge, and thus the "Redwall" series was born.
Redwall opens at peaceful Redwall Abbey, where a young mouse named Matthias is living as a novice among the abbots and laycreatures in a medieval-esque setting. Life at the abbey involves a lot of work, but the mice and other creatures enjoy a prosperous, comfortable existence, which Jacques describes in detail, beginning with a long description of a splendid and sumptuous feast. However, trouble is soon afoot in the form of an evil rat named Cluny the Scourge who, with his barbarous horde of followers, spends his time wreaking havoc upon the countryside. Cluny's path leads him eventually to Redwall Abbey, clearly a plum of prosperity fit for plunder. Upon hearing of Cluny's imminent approach, the Redwallers at first consider fleeing their abbey, but Matthias convinces them to stay and defend themselves.
Having stumbled upon a mysterious riddle written long ago by Martin the Warrior, the legendary mouse who founded the abbey, Matthias now hopes that by solving the riddle he will be able to locate Martin's legendary sword and defeat Cluny's army. After successfully deciphering the puzzle, the young mouse learns that he is actually Martin's descendant. He also realizes that the sword has been taken by the warlike sparrows who live in the abbey's tower. Risking his life, Matthias manages to retrieve the sword. Meanwhile, Cluny is busy besieging Redwall, where the well-fortified, well-supplied abbey is putting up a strong defense. The dastardly rat devises several plans of attack that are defeated one by one, but ultimately he manages, through trickery, to enter the abbey confines and take the gentlebeasts prisoner. The fight is not over yet, however, and Matthias leads an attack that ends in a final, lethal confrontation between the young hero and Cluny.
Jacques has continued to expand the "Redwall" saga in novels such as Mattimeo, Salamandastron, The Pearls of Lutra, and Loamhedge, which have appeared every few years since Redwall's initial publication in 1986. In these volumes, Jacques goes back and forth in time rather than following the saga's chronological development. The story of Redwall actually begins in Martin the Warrior, which takes place before the abbey is actually built. A mouse named Martin—ancestor of the brave Matthias—has been enslaved by the sinister stoat Badrang, who tortures the poor mouse and forces him to work long hours without rest. Finally, Martin can take no more; he attacks one of Badrang's captains and it takes six stoat soldiers to subdue him. Tying the upstart rodent to a pole atop a hill, Badrang sentences Martin to death by leaving him exposed to roaming birds of prey. Fortunately, a mouse named Rose and Rose's friend Grumm the mole come to his rescue. After his rescue, Rose asks Martin whether he has seen her brother, who was also is imprisoned by Badrang. Martin now has a mission: enlisting the help of other brave animals, he plans an attack against Badrang to defeat the stoat and free all the creature's slaves.
As readers delve into Mossflower, they discover Martin once again in dire circumstances. Having wandered into Mossflower Country, he imprisoned by the wildcat Verdauga, king of Kotir and ruler of the Mossflower woods. The mouse soon becomes a point of dispute between the aging and sickly Verdauga's two potential heirs: his son, Gingivere, and his daughter, Tsarmina. Gingivere is sympathetic to Martin, who insists that he did not intentionally trespass on their land. The willful and ruthless Tsarmina, however, uses the conflict in her bid for power: she manages to have her brother thrown in prison and poisons her father the king. Assuming the throne, Tsarmina then throws Martin into the dungeon, where the mouse meets a thief named Gonff and, with Gonff's talent for getting out of tight fixes, escapes. Not one to forget an injustice, Martin masses an army and causes Tsarmina's downfall. With the tyrant wildcat defeated, Martin founds Redwall Abbey in the heart of Mossflower. In this new order, members are sworn to be kind to their fellow creatures and offer aid to those in need.
Jacques' twelfth "Redwall" novel, The Legend of Luke, is the third book in the timeline: it takes readers from the construction of the abbey and follows Martin's search for Luke, his father. The book also details the heroic deeds of Luke, and concludes Martin's part in the unfolding saga by describing his return to the abbey, where he hides the sword that will later be found by Matthias. Reviewing The Legend of Luke for Booklist, Sally Estes called the novel "another winner for the series' many fans."
In Outcast of Redwall Jacques focuses on a new cast of characters, although this tale also begins with its hero held prisoner by an evil carnivore. Instead of a mouse, though, this time the hero is the badger Sunflash. Sunflash, the son of Bella of Brockhall, is heir to the badgers' mountain stronghold of Salamandastron. Swartt Sixclaw, a ferret who leads a band of outlaws, is his captor until the badger escapes with the help of his friend Skarlath the hawk. Attacking Swartt with a stick, Sunflash cripples the ferret's hand, after which Swartt swears lifelong revenge. Sunflash and Skarlath each raise an army and soon begin skirmishing with the ferrets. Swartt follows his enemies to Redwall Abbey and lays siege to it. During the battle, his own infant son is lost in the confusion, and one of the abbey mice, Byrony, adopts the young ferret. Unfortunately, Veil, as the ferret is later named, is predestined by his blood to wickedness, and, despite the kindness of the Redwall creatures, he unsuccessfully tries to poison the abbey's friar. Chased away, Veil goes off in pursuit of the father who abandoned him. Meanwhile, Sunflash finds himself called to Salamandastron in dreams. At the head of a band of warrior hares and other beasts, the badger now sets off to find his true mountain home, and upon his arrival at Salamandastron, events come to a head in a final battle.
In Mariel of Redwall and The Bellmaker, Jacques introduces a brave mouse named Mariel, whose adventures reveal the history of the great bell hanging in the Redwall Abbey tower. As Mariel of Redwall opens, a young mouse who has been washed ashore from the sea fends off a band of hungry seagulls with a hank of rope. With no memory of her past, the mouse draws on this event in naming herself Storm Gullwhacker. Finding her way to Redwall Abbey, Storm is befriended by another young mouse, Dandin. During a Redwall feast, one of the mice sings an ancient rhyme that sparks Storm's memories. Now knowing her name to be Mariel, she also recalls being thrown off a ship by Gabool the Wild, wicked king of the searats. Realizing her mission, Mariel joins with Dandin (who has Martin the Warrior's sword) and other friends to seek out Gabool and rescue her father. In The Bellmaker Mariel and Dandin unite once again, this time in a mission to defeat Foxwolf Urgan Nagru, who has usurped the throne of Southsward from good Gael Squirrelking. Joining forces with the woodland creatures still loyal to the king, the mice set about their dangerous task. Meanwhile, back at the abbey, Mariel's father has visions that his daughter is in danger and sends out additional Redwallers to help.
Like Outcast of Redwall, Salamandastron combines characters and plotlines involving both Redwallers and the badger lords. Mara, a badger who is Lord Urthstripe's adopted daughter, together with her hare friend Pikkle Ffolger, become friends with Klitch and Goffa, a weasel and his ferret companion respectively. The friendship leads to trouble, however, for unbeknownst to Mara and Pikkle, Klitch is the son of Ferahgo the Assassin, a weasel who is planning to lay siege to Salamandastron. Meanwhile, at Redwall Abbey the resident mice have made a similar error by befriending Dingeye and Thura, two stoats who are Ferahgo's followers. Murdering the abbey's records keeper, Dingeye and Thura steal the sword of Martin the Warrior and flee Redwall, prompting Samkin the squirrel and Arula the mole to set off in pursuit of the stoats. A third plotline involves Thrugg the otter and Dumble the dormouse, who are on a quest to find the Flowers of Icetor, the only cure for the Dryditch Fever currently plaguing Redwall.
Jacques shares more tales of Salamandastron in Lord Brocktree, which introduces the villainous wildcat Ungatt Trunn and the Blue Hordes. The badger Lord Brocktree meets beautiful young haremaid Dotti in the forest, and together they gather an army of moles, otters, squirrels, and hedgehogs to battle Ungatt in response to the wildcat's invasion of Salamandastron. Reviewing Lord Brocktree for Horn Book, Anne St. John lauded the author's talent for "creating memorable characters and weaving several plot strands into one cohesive story," further noting that such talents "are at their best in this exciting adventure." Patricia A. Dollisch, reviewing the novel in School Library Journal, also found that the numerous characters are "easily defined and identified by their accents, a Jacques specialty."
With the events of Redwall as a starting point, both Mattimeo and The Pearls of Lutra focus on the descendants of Matthias. In the first-named novel, the title character is the son of Matthias. Now serving as the abbey's protector, Matthias take charge when Mattimeo and the other Redwall children are kidnaped by the fox Slagar the Cruel, who tricks the Redwallers by posing as a harmless magician during one of the abbey's feasts. Matthias assembles a band of warriors and pursues Slagar across a forbidding desert to the fox's slave kingdom. Matthias must use all his wits and courage to save his son from his wicked captor. In The Pearls of Lutra Martin, son of Mattimeo, son of Matthias, is faced with a challenge: to find the Pearls of Lutra, which were lost after a band of searats slaughtered the otter Lutra and his tribe. The pearls are needed as ransom for the Abbess of Redwall, whom the searats have now taken prisoner. There is one complication in the conflict that neither the searats nor Martin are aware of: Lutra's daughter, the otter Grath Longfletch, is still alive and seeking revenge for her father's death.
Taking place several years after the action in The Pearls of Lutra, The Long Patrol focuses on an adolescent hare named Tammo who desires to join the band of hare soldiers known as the Long Patrol that battles the evil rat Rapscallion in defense of Redwall Abbey. In Booklist Estes praised the manner in which Jacques "masterfully makes his familiar plot fresh, leavening it with both humor and confrontation," while Horn Book contributor Anne Deifendeifer dubbed the author a "master storyteller [who] spins out the plot through dialogue and the characters' interactions."
Marlfox once again finds Redwall Abbey under siege, this time by the villainous Marlfoxes and their vermin partners the river rats. Led by Queen Silth, the Marlfoxes are able to change the color of their fur and blend in with their surroundings, making them a challenging foe. In the midst of battle several valiant youngsters escape from the abbey to try and track down a tapestry that once belonged to Martin the Warrior, a valuable object that has been stolen by the power-hungry Marlfox Mokkan. Thus, they leave their elders behind to defend the abbey, with unfortunate results.
With Taggerung and Triss Jacques again focuses on the younger generation at Redwall Abbey. Kidnaped at youth, the otter Tagg, hero of Taggerung, has been raised by the vermin clan of Juskarath and trained as a warrior. Once he reaches young-adulthood, however, Tagg rebels against his adopted tribe and runs away in search of his true home. During his search for Redwall Abbey, the otter takes up with a plucky mouse named Nimbalo and arrives home just in time to help his sister, Mhera, defeat the vermin who are once again attacking the abbey. Triss finds a young squirrel at the center of the action. One of three slaves to escape from the island of Riftgard, Triss makes her way to Redwall at the same time that members of the Long Patrol take off in search of adventure. Once again, the sword of Martin the Warrior comes into play, as Triss wields it in a face off against the persistent Ratguard army. Writing in Horn Book, St. John found Tagg to be "an appealing hero," while fellow Horn Book reviewer Barbara Scotto deemed Triss "another satisfying read" featuring Jacques' characteristic formula: "contentment, good cheer, plentiful food, and fine companions," all balanced by "adventure, mayhem, and death, but in the end the goodness of the Abbey world."
In Loamhedge the spirit of Martin the Warrior inspires the brash young hare Horty Braebuck, together with two equally impulsive friends, to tail two travelers, Bragoon and Sarobando, as they make their way from Redwall to Loamhedge Abbey. There they discover a cure for Horty's sister Martha Baebuck, who has been unable to walk since childhood. In another plot thread, Lonna, a giant badger and a fierce warrior, sets off after Raga Bol, a pirate who, captaining his evil band of marauding searats, once attacked Lonna and left him for dead. After exacting his revenge, Lonna becomes ruler of Salamandastron.
Like most "Redwall" novels, vermin are a persistent threat in Racketty Tam. Led by Gulo the Savage, a wolverine from the cold northern reaches, a flood of white carnivorous foxes and ermine descends upon the innocent residents of the Mossflower woods. There, Gulo has learned, his traitorous brother, Askor, is hiding, a powerful amulet in his possession. When the hoards overrun the squirrel kingdom on their way south, Racketty Tam and Doogy, two squirrel friends, go in pursuit of the savage wolverine king. After teaming up with the forces of the Long Patrol, Tam is eventually armed with the sword of Martin the Warrior. After finding his quarry, rescuing two damsels in distress, and battling Gulo to the death, Tam returns to Redwall with his new friends, his reward the true love of the beautiful squirrel Sister Armel. A smaller but no less threatening band of vermin confront the otter Tiria Wildlough in High Rhulain, and when she and her friends successfully fight them off, the vermin vow to avenge their disgrace. Tragically, shortly after Tiria leaves Redwall to follow a quest assigned her in a dream, Redwall is overrun by the vermin and Tiria's friend killed. Armed with a special breastplate and sling, Tiria makes her way to the Green Isle, where she helps the enslaved otter clans fight off the wildcat king Riggu Felis and ultimately also finds her destiny. In Horn Book, Anita Burkham praised Jacques' "trademark blend of folksy good humor and high-spirited action," adding that in High Rhulain the series characters exhibit a "joie de vivre that earns them the loyalty of their many fans."
With his first "Redwall" novel, Jacques created a flavorful recipe with all the right ingredients, and his portrayal of admirable heroes and contemptible villains engaged in classic battles between good and evil quickly prompted inevitable comparisons. Redwall was grouped by critics with other English books featuring anthropomorphized animal characters, such as Richard Adams' Watership Down and Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, although one of the few common features is that they each feature animal protagonists exhibiting some degree of human-like behavior. Citing the comparison with Watership Down, however, Margery Fisher perceptively noted in her Growing Point assessment that, for "all the similarities of idiom, alert sophisticated narrative and neat humanisation, Redwall has an intriguing and unusual flavour of its own." Looking deeper into the nature of the first book in the series, School Library Journal contributor Susan M. Harding deemed Redwall more than merely a classic story of good versus evil; it is also a study of the nature of the two sides of this coin. Jacques, Harding continued, does not create characters who are merely "personifications of attributes," for the heroes do have flaws, and even the reprehensible Cluny has his admirable points. The "rich cast of characters, the detailed accounts of medieval warfare, and Jacques' ability to tell a good story and make readers think" each combine to make Redwall an exemplary start to the fantasy series, the critic concluded.
While settings vary and characters are legion in Jacques' series, a number of critics have remarked that readers can enter the series at any point and require little back-story to fully enjoy each novel. One reason for this is that each of the "Redwall" titles conforms, more or less, to a time-honored formula that has been summarized by Voice of Youth Advocates contributor Katharine L. Kan as: "goodbeast sanctuary threatened by nogoodnik vermin and/or natural disaster, young untested heroes to the rescue." While this repeating plotline can be reassuring to fans, who know what to expect when they pick up a "Redwall" fantasy, it also has a downside. As Ruth S. Vose pointed out in her School Library Journal review of Mossflower, "suspense does not arise from the situation itself, for the end is never really in doubt." Marcus Crouch, also writing about Mossflower in Junior Bookshelf, felt that, although Jacques demonstrates narrative skill in the way he weaves different subplots together, he includes too much unnecessary detail, his style is filled with "narrative clichés," and his characters "are mostly stereotypes." Those considerations aside, Mara Alpert reflected the view of most "Redwall" fans when she wrote in her School Library Journal review of Triss that Jacques' "wonderfully imaginative and beautifully realized universe [is] … filled to the brim with amazing and amusing characters."
Viewed from another perspective, readers consistently find much to enjoy about the "Redwall" saga. In addition to the swashbuckling action, accent-filled dialogue, and bounteous feasts Jacques revels in creating, there is the enjoyment of the plotline itself. While admitting that the stories are "formulaic," Katherine Bouton asserted in her New York Times Book Review appraisal that they are also "wonderfully imaginative in their variety of plot and character." Jacques approaches his subject not with a heavy hand in an attempt to suggest some epic struggle, but rather with an eye toward levity. As Andy Sawyer remarked in a School Librarian review of Outcast of Redwall, not only is there much jollity in the regular feasts in which the gentlebeasts partake, but there is also plenty of "hearty japes, slapstick humour and swashbuckling action [that is] pitched perfectly at the intended readership." Much of the humor comes from the antics of the mischievous young dibbuns, but also from Jacques' satirical jibes at English upper-crust military types who in his books take the form of hares.
Another feature of Jacques' books that critics have admired is his complete lack of chauvinism: there are just as many brave and daring heroines in the series as there are heroes; likewise, the villains are often vixens or female wildcats who are just as treacherous as their male counterparts. "The author must be commended for creating a world of equal-opportunity adventuring," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "For once," Carolyn Cushman wrote in her Locus assessment of Mariel of Redwall, "it's not just the boys who get to hear the spirit of Martin the Warrior—the ladies really get their chance this outing. Having a valiant female protagonist is a nice touch." Similarly, Jacques does not discriminate with regard to the age of his characters; as Tash Saecker wrote of High Rhulain in her School Library Journal review, intertwined with the book's "action, poetry, songs, courage, and vivid descriptions," he weaves "characterizations [that] are complex and show multiple sides of both adult and younger personalities."
There is something else in the books that many readers find appealing: the satisfaction of a story about good fighting evil in which both can be easily distinguished and the victor is always in the right. While some critics might see this as a drawback, others cite its benefits, one of which is encouraging young readers to keep reading. As Selma Lanes wrote in the New York Times Book Review, the world of Redwall is "a credible and ingratiating place … to which many young readers will doubtless cheerfully return." "Jacques," Sawyer concluded, "is writing for an audience who want—even need—clearly identifiable labels for their moral sign-posts."
While best known for his "Redwall" saga, Jacques has ventured from his fantasy series with story collections such as Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales and The Ribbajack, and Other Curious Yarns, the latter a story collection in which the author's "sly humor and suspenseful plotting will keep readers' interest engaged," according to a Kirkus Reviews writer. In addition, the author has on occasion also courted a younger audience, penning two "Redwall" picture books as well as The Tale of Urso Brunov: Little Father of All Bears. Featuring illustrations by Alexi Natchev, The Tale of Urso Brunov is an original tale about a miniature bear who must prove his superior strength when four younger bears in his clan are kidnaped and taken to a zoo while attempting to avoid hibernation. Describing the title character, School Library Journal contributor Lisa Dennis praised the repetitive phrases used in the text and characterized Urso Brunov as "a typical folktale hero, plucky, brave, self-confident, and successful." In Booklist, Julie Cummins noted that, in The Tale of Urso Brunov, "Jacques displays his usual flare for animal characters and clever details."
A more substantial break from his "Redwall" universe comes with Jacques' adventure novels featuring a seventeenth-century ghost ship, the Flying Dutchman. In the series opener, Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, Jacques uses the myth of the Flying Dutchman to fashion a tale with a "spirited boy and his dog at the center," as Horn Book critic Peter D. Sieruta noted. In the novel, young Ben, a mute boy, and Ben's Labrador pup Ned are saved by an angel when the ship they are on is condemned to sail for eternity under the captaincy of the brutal Captain Vanderdecken. Because of their innocence, Ben and his dog are granted a different kind of immortality: Ben is given the ability to speak and is now fluent in any language he hears; their physical bodies will never age; they can communicate with each other telepathically; and their task forever more will be to travel the world and help those in need. As they travel backward and forward through time on their mission, Ben and Ned eventually find themselves in a small English village in 1896, where they help residents save the community from a group of rapacious businessmen. GraceAnne A. DeCandido, writing in Booklist, described Castaways of the Flying Dutchman as a literary departure for Jacques, noting that the book's "swash-buckling language brims with color and melodrama." While Sieruta maintained that the different sections of the novel do not "quite mesh," the critic added that the story "remains involving" and that Jacques brings to life the small nineteenth-century English town with "great panache." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly also lauded the author's portrayal of the "bumbling thugs" who threaten the town, noting that fans of Jacques' work "will be tickled by the characters' goofy slapstick regardless of their genus."
Gaining Jacques new fans, Castaways of the Flying Dutchman has also sparked several sequels. In The Angel's Command, Ben and his loyal Labrador Ned go back in time to 1628 and return to the sea when they befriend a French pirate captain and set sail on the Petite Marie. After a series of seagoing adventures ends in the pirate captain's death, the duo go ashore in France, climb the Spanish Pyrenees, and become caught up in the search for a young man kidnaped by a group of black-art practitioners led by Maguda Razan. Voyage of Slaves finds the immortal boy and dog parting company in 1703, when Ben is captured by a slave trader and Ned becomes a performing dog with the Rizzoli troupe, a caravan of traveling entertainers. Reunited when the Rizzolis are also captured by the Barbary slavers, Ben and Ned must now find a way to both save themselves and the innocent actors. Noting the series' appeal to boys, Sieruta wrote in Horn Book that The Angel's Command "delivers nonstop action, pithy dialogue," and a wealth of fascinating but little-known "sea lore." Booklist contributor Todd Morning deemed the book "another page turner" which "readers who enjoyed the first book will find … even more exciting." Jacques' use of "vivid language, larger-than-life characters, and multiple story lines yield a sprawling, epic tale," asserted a Kirkus Reviews writer, while in Publishers
Weekly a contributor wrote that, as with the "Redwall" novels, readers of The Angel's Command "can once again take satisfaction in the fact that virtue is rewarded, evil-doers get their comeuppance and good triumphs over evil in Jacques's universe."
Asked by a Time writer about the future of the "Redwall" series, Jacques was emphatic. "I love Redwall," the author explained. "Redwall is a world that I can retreat to." Speaking with Stephanie Loer in the Writer, Jacques explained that he plans to continue expanding his fantasy series "because there is no place I'd rather be than within the world that I've been lucky enough to create." As he admitted to Heather Frederick for Publishers Weekly, authoring the series has made his own life something of a fantasy. "It's a wonderful life," he explained. "I still wake up and pinch myself sometimes in the morning."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Children's Literature Review, Volume 21, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
St. James Guide to Young-Adult Writers, second edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, March 1, 1996, p. 1182; October 15, 1996, p. 424; February 15, 1997, Sally Estes, review of The Pearls of Lutra, p. 1023; December 15, 1997, Sally Estes, review of The Long Patrol, p. 694; December 15, 1998, Sally Estes, review of Marlfox, p. 750; December 15, 1999, Sally Estes, review of The Legend of Luke, p. 784; September 1, 2000, Sally Estes, review of Lord Brocktree, p. 113; March 1, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, p. 1271; August, 2001, Sally Estes, review of Taggerung, p. 2120; September 1, 2001, Kay Weisman, review of A Redwall Winter's Tale, p. 106; September 1, 2002, Sally Estes, review of Triss, p. 124; February 1, 2003, Todd Morning, review of The Angel's Command, p. 982; September 1, 2003, Julie Cummins, review of The Tale of Urso Brunov: Little Father to All Bears, p. 128; September 15, 2003, Chris Sherman, review of Loamhedge, p. 236; August, 2004, Michael Cart, review of The Ribbajack, and Other Curious Yarns, p. 1935; September 1, 2005, Kay Weisman, review of High Rhulain, p. 134; December 15, 2006, Sally Estes, review of Voyage of Slaves, p. 48.
Books for Your Children, spring, 1988, Jane Inglis, review of Redwall, p. 31.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1994, p. 157; March, 1996, pp. 30-31; June, 2004, Krista Hutley, review of The Ribbajack and Other Curious Yarns, p. 422.
Growing Point, March, 1987, Margery Fisher, review of Redwall, pp. 4756-4757.
Horn Book, May-June, 1992, p. 340; January-February, 1997, pp. 85-89; March-April, 1998, Anne Deifendeifer, review of The Long Patrol, p. 222; May-June, 1998, p. 372; January-February, 1999, Anne St. John, review of Marlfox, p. 65; September-October, 2000, Anne St. John, review of Lord Brocktree, p. 571; March-April, 2001, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, p. 208; November-December, 2001, Anne St. John, review of Taggerung, pp. 750-751; January, 2003, review of Triss, p. 75; March-April, 2003, Peter D. Sieruta, review of The Angel's Command, p. 212; January-February, 2003, Barbara Scotto, review of Triss, p. 75; January-February, 2006, Anita L. Burkam, review of High Rhulain, p. 82.
Junior Bookshelf, December, 1988, Marcus Crouch, review of Mossflower, pp. 304-305.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1994, p. 144; August 1, 2001, review of Taggerung, p. 1125; January 1, 2003, review of The Angel's Command, p. 61; April 15, 2004, review of The Ribbajack, and Other Curious Yarns, p. 395.
Kliatt, May, 2002, Donna L. Scanlon, review of Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, p. 28; September, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of Triss, p. 10; November, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of Taggerung, p. 24; September, 2003, Paula Rohrlick, review of Loamhedge, p. 8; September, 2006, Deirdre Root, review of Voyage of Slaves, p. 13.
Locus, March, 1992, Carolyn Cushman, review of Mariel of Redwall, p. 64.
New York Times Book Review, August 23, 1987, Selma Lanes, review of Redwall, p. 27; February 27, 1994, Katherine Bouton, review of Martin the Warrior, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, August 16, 1991, review of Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales, p. 58; February 20, 1995, review of The Bellmaker, p. 206; January 15, 1996, review of Outcast of Redwall, pp. 462-463; April 15, 1996, p. 34; August 19, 1996; December 30, 1996, p. 67; December 1, 1997, review of The Long Patrol, p. 54; January 8, 2001, review of Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, p. 67; March 26, 2001, Heather Frederick, "Charting a New Course," p. 34. August 27, 2001, review of A Redwall Winter's Tale, p. 86; December 16, 2002, review of The Angel's Command, p. 68; October 6, 2003, review of The Tale of Urso Brunov, p. 83; April 12, 2004, review of The Ribbajack, and Other Curious Yarns, p. 67.
School Librarian, November, 1994, Peter Andrews, review of Redwall, p. 151; February, 1996, Andy Sawyer, review of Outcast of Redwall.
School Library Journal, August, 1987, Susan M. Harding, review of Redwall, p. 96; November, 1988, Ruth S. Vose, review of Mossflower, pp. 125-126; March, 1993, p. 198; May, 1996, p. 113; January, 1998, Bruce Anne Shook, review of The Long Patrol, p. 112; April, 1999, Jennifer A. Fakolt, review of Marlfox, p. 136; February, 2000, Valerie Diamond, review of The Legend of Luke, p. 120; September, 2000, Patricia A. Dollisch, review of Lord Brocktree, p. 232; March, 2001, Eva Mitnick, review of Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, p. 250; September, 2001, Susan L. Rogers, review of A Redwall Winter's Tale, p. 190; October, 2001, Patricia A. Dollisch, review of Taggerung, p. 162; September, 2003, Lisa Dennis, review of The Tale of Urso Brunov, p. 180; October, 2003, Mara Alpert, review of Loamhedge, p. 168; May, 2004, Farida S. Dowler, review of The Ribbajack and Other Curious Yarns, p. 150; August, 2004, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Mattimeo, p. 76; September, 2004, Christine McGinty, review of Rakkety Tam, p. 208; September, 2005, Tasha Saecker, review of High Rhulain, p. 205; December, 2006, Tim Wadham, review of Voyage of Slaves, p. 146.
Time, April 16, 2001, "Riding the Waves," p. F8.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1993, Katharine L. Kan, review of Salamandastron, p. 102.
Writer, April, 2000, Stephanie Loer, "An Interview with Brian Jacques," p. 15; February, 2005, "Brian Jacques on Writing," p. 8.
Official Redwall Web site, http://www.redwall.org (January 15, 2007).
Penguin Putnam Web site, http://www.penguin.co/uk/ (January 27, 2007), "Brian Jacques."