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A Changing World
-Keyla
April 4th, 2003

(ED Note- This editorial contains spoilers for both The Taggerung and Triss. Read at your own risk.)

I was looking at some reviews of 'Triss' on a bookselling website, which I will not name so as not to indicate the persons whose views I am going to look at, and was pleased to see than many others had enjoyed it as much as I had. However, there were two persons who appeared a little disappointed, one of them saying they felt that since 'Lord Brocktree' the books had gone sharply downhill. I suppose this kind of view is inevitable with each new book that comes out, but I wondered why, as these reviews had not really stated what they felt had happened. I personally feel that '(The) Taggerung' and 'Triss' [are] two of the best tales to date in many ways and I set about thinking what change in style could have resulted in the feelings expressed. After much thought I came to this conclusion: there was far less risk. I do not mean in terms of originality, for both books really break many of the 'moulds', but simply that in the two books the abbey is not at any great risk for any great space of time compared to other books. Not convinced? Let me elaborate.

It has been said of both books that the villains are above your average fare in both originality and individual strength, with which I agree, but to understand what I am saying one must look more deeply at the individual villains:
Sawney Rath- he was a fantastically cold villain with the clever twist of adoptive fatherhood, but he was openly afraid of the abbey and a quarter of the way through the book he had been disposed of by Antigra.

Gruven- he was also a very interesting character, but he was never really a great threat to the abbey or many others for that matter.

Vallug Bowbeast and Eefera- both were very competant villains, but, due to a distinct lack of troops, their seige (if one can call it that) was near farse, which I believe was an intention.

King Agarnu and Prince Bladd- one was shown to be a coward and the other a fool, dying in true vermin fool fashion.

Princess Kurda- initially she appeared quite a threatening villain showing us her fighting prowess, but as the book develops her belittling by Plugg, her accent, her blatent cowardice and her lack of real tactical cunning showed her as unfit to be a leader and a spoilt coward.

Plugg Firetail- again to begin with he looked like a very strong adversary with a crew naturally loyal to him, but, sublimely funny as it is, the insident with the tail made him look like a fool. He never had a chance to face Redwall as he was dispatched of very quickly by the next.

The three adders- the snake siblings were very original and very formidable. I thought the scenes of them were well written and did really build tension. However, when it is really considered it is clear that their threat was not really that great. True, they were very dangerous to anybody walking in the woods, but I see it as being very unlikely that they would overthrow the abbey itself.

Ruggan Bor- I have saved him till last as he was the one villain out of these who really was a threat to the abbey. When he turned up backed by his army, had there been more than a few pages left I would have expected a battle. But, his moment of glory was over quickly, defeated without a fight.
I am not saying that any of these are bad villains; they are not. I am not saying either are bad books; they most certainly are not. It is simply that Redwall is not threatened greatly.

In books coming later chronologically, Salamandastron and Redwall seem near invincible. With the huge numbers of hares, it now seems inconceivable that any warlord except one with a truly massive army would even vaguely contemplate attacking it. Ublaz and Sawney Rath's fear of the abbey is not totally unfounded and for this reason all attacks on the abbey seem doomed before they begin.

Is this shift a good thing or a bad thing? The simple answer is that it is neither really; it is simply an appearant change and one that prevents storylines from becoming monotonous and predictable. However, when before Brian had a world where good was the underdog it seems that the opposite is now true. The world that the series is set in has changed in our minds and on the page; the tales are becomming less dark, actually defying the general will of fantasy stories to cling to dark drama. It really depends on taste as to whether this is to be preferred, but Brian is a very skilled storyteller and can play the world he has created well so there is no need for worry whatever your view.

-Keyla

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