February 1st, 2002
Isn't life funny? (Oh no I sound like some kind of nonsense columnist)!! I was halfway through writing an editorial about my final predictions for 'The Taggerung' and I decided to go into town to buy some music. Unfortunately, I didn't bring enough money (I didn't realise the one I wanted was a double CD) so, I couldn't buy it. So, I decided to go and take a glance at the books. I often just go and have a nose at the Redwall section in the hope that there might be a surprise waiting, and guess what? There was!! Sitting there, pretty as you please, were a whole batch of, wait for it, 'The Taggerung'!! Despite the fact that they were in large paperback as opposed to hardback, I bought one (£10, bargain. Though the price is up £1 on last year). I finished it within 5 days (despite the fact it was confiscated for 2 days by my Dad. Tyrant!! Sorry, I mean 'parent'). Now, I haven't written this editorial earlier because I've been at my Dad's house and I've just got back to my Mum's. Now, I'm not going to give away any plot details which haven't already been released in the publicity or interviews, so this is perfectly safe to read. Actually, there is one thing I'll say about the plot is that it is a mold shatterer and it is totally different from how you would expect in the way of storyline. It is currently in my top three Redwall books (along with 'Martin the Warrior' and 'The Long Patrol').
The first thing which makes it different from (and better than) what you expect is that it has more than one major storyline. Though they take place quite a long way away from eachother, they are undeniably linked.
Ok now onto...
The Scene Setting.
Many people were expecting this to be in the time of Abbess Song(breeze) and with Dann(flo[we]r) as Abbey Warrior. This is certainly not true; the only character to have survived is Cregga (my favourite Badger), and even she is very old.
That doesn't mean Abbey life has become mundane, not at all. The Spearbacks are still there, with Drogg (the Cellarhog) and his two grandhogs, Egburt (odd the name has now been used twice) and Floburt (creating the fifth generation of Spearbacks in Redwall). The current head chef comes under the name of Friar Bobb (yes, double 'b) and his assistant Broggle. The queen of the infirmary has a famous icy glare, her name is Sister Alkanet. We have a rather unconventional Foremole, Brull, and she is, as is seen to be, unusual- a female Foremole! The current and aging recorder is Old Hoarg. Skipper and the otters are still around. In this book we learn a good deal about otters. Speaking of otters, there is actually an otter family in residents at Redwall: Rillflag, Filorn, their daughter, Mhera, and their newly born son, Deyna.
If you are wondering what the Juska or tribe of Sawney Rath are, then I will explain. The Juska are different tribes of vermin who, it appears, often live on the coast. Each tribe is lead by a particular vermin, and part of that vermin's name is incorporated into the tribe's name. The tribe which this book concerns is lead by Sawney Rath, so the tribe is know as the Juskarath.
I'm not going to say how the title of 'The Taggerung' is gained, because it is very complex and there is more than one way of gaining it. I think it is best to grow to understand as you read the book.
Well, when I first picked it off the shelf, I looked at the back cover to see what that heralded, as, previously, we had only seen the front. I half expected to see a picture of Nimbalo or something, but actually there was only a tree and a rock!
I then looked inside. The first thing I looked at was the map in the front- it was quite an interesting one, showing some pigmy shrew caves which we never knew of before, as well as the Juska camps. There are mountains mentioned in the book, but, they appear to not be the 'Mountains of the North' (you know, the ones in 'Salamandastron') if you believe the map. If you look at the landmarks which are shown in correlation of the 'stream' (that's what they call it on the map), such as the ford and the path, it is clear that it refers to the 'River Moss'.
When I picked up 'The Taggerung', it felt big so I viewed the page count. It was 437!! The 2nd longest Redwall book ever! We haven't had a new one passing the 400 mark since 'The Pearls of Lutra'. Though, despite this, the page count for 'Book 1' is at a record low.
Now I will give you my...
Ab Fabs (some massive good points which put it above many other Redwall books).
* There was almost as much action on the side of vermin.
* The villains fight as much amongst themselves as they do against Redwall.
* Nimbalo is a nice surprise package, which opens as the book progresses. I won't tell you exactly what happens, as that would spoil it, but let me just say it reminds me a bit of 'Folgrim'.
* Abbey life is shown in quite great detail.
* Cregga returns, along with the Spearbacks.
* We see the pigmy shrews again.
* It passes the 400 mark.
* An entirely new structure of story. It breaks the mold without breaking the contence.
* A musical hare, plenty of comical ditties (but not too many).
* We have a very definite otter hero.
* A surprise guest appearance at the end.
Drib Drabs (some little bad points or missed opportunities).
* Where was the DAB? Oh well, maybe it will be in Triss.
* In some ways, Tagg's experiences in the Juska camp and on the run could have been more detailed, but that might have taken the too much of the focus shadowing the other storyline.
* If you were not practised in reading Redwall books and remembering all the names, this might not be the best way to start. There are so many character who are important to remember.
* Again, if you are new to Redwall, the special appearance at the end might seem very strange.
* If you like a very central villain, it is hard to find one. But, I actually like the way it is a villainous community. I think it makes the book more dynamic, but that is my opinion, so it's probably not everyone's.
So, to conclude, 'The Taggerung' is great, one of the best Redwall books ever. It has all the cream Redwall stuff, but it breaks the mold with its storyline and structure. Even if all new Redwall books were cast in this mold, 'The Taggerung' would be remembered as the first.
If you haven't made the effort to go and buy it, or if you are wondering whether to wait for it to come out in paperback, make no excuses and move yourself down to your local bookstore and play a game of Tagg'- this book is a must have. It's great to have a new Redwall idea instead of filling in the gaps, ('The Legend of Luke' and 'Lord Brocktree' were both great, but, I probably would have enjoyed them more if their release wasn't consecutive. I like a new idea as well as 'histories' of untold characters).
I'm sure when you read it you'll enjoy it.