Eulalia! (Redwall) by Brian Jacques

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Eulalia! (Redwall) by Brian Jacques

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A tale of warring creatures with a destiny to fulfil, in what is rather a lumpen and disappointing fantasy. Surely there are better entries to the series?
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 400 Date: June 2008
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 978-0141319612

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From inside the stronghold of Salamandastron comes a prophecy – one that is more than a little unfortunate. The sad, world-changing events it heralds focus on three incredibly unlikely characters. The first is a badger currently tied to the mast of a piratical fox's ship's mast, and trying to still his nature while said fox is trying to turn him into a bloodlust-filled berserker warrior. The second is a squirrel being, at that moment, thrown out of Redwall Abbey on account of his only being reliable for his light-fingered thievery. And the female destined to bring these together, and return them to Salamandastron, is a hare, noted only for her cooking, and her willingness to box all and sundry, with her favourite war-cry, Eulalia!

The way these three find themselves, throughout a world riven by fighting, treachery, skulduggery and everything else unsavoury, and unite to fulfil their fate, is the core of this dense fantasy. One that, to my mind, is unfortunately dense.

On the one hand we have the minutest detail being thought of – the characters use kerchiefs, not handkerchiefs, as they have paws not hands. But while we scale up to see a fully thought-through plot, featuring a large cast, ranging from the vitally main personnel to the sacrificial cameos, we enter a dense realm of disappointment. There are too many characters for certainly the younger reader to keep track of, and if we're too lazy to annotate our own dramatis personae while we go through, the quaintly quirky names give little clue to what species everyone is.

Beyond that there is a fully sustained colloquial accent for all the dialogue, but apart from the singular voice of the rabbit, and the pirates seeming to be Irish, I have no idea what everyone is supposed to sound like. This one instance of things being under-written only adds to the feel that the book is sustained for 400 dense pages on one note, with one voice, one stress, and with no change in energy and rhythm.

The plot does have some bright moments, but the bigger picture is far too boggy for my liking. Even a siege scene that might have altered things is abandoned quickly for a ruck, and that after every character around has said how sensible a long siege would be for the assailers. So while there is a wealth of comeuppance to be had for a lot of people, and a satisfying way the main characters live out their destiny (as far as they can) there is a plodding nature to the read I found to be quite uninteresting.

I didn't think this book would be twee, with what I know of the series and Jacques' output, but this seemed quite charmless. Beyond the bevy of recipes the animals divulge at every opportunity, there is little of the character of all the animals, and the whole thing makes it hard for me to say this book is a teen read. Instead it seems to be merely a mediocre fantasy story, dressed in animal skin. A story that goes nowhere great with any pace, and instead has far too many encounters for the main protagonists, plot strands and side-kicks, for its own good.

We could have done with a lot fewer salutations over barbeques, and a whole less in the way of singalongs, which come along with annoying rapidity. Indeed, we could just have done with less – and instead been gifted with a more charming, sprightlier story.

People have enthused to me for years about the Redwall series, and the way they appear with no fixed order to things, and the slightest of links to a greater cycle. This suggests to me an author happily writing what appeals to him most whenever it takes him. However this volume did a lot of damage to the attraction of the series in my eyes, and while I cannot point at anything in particular as wasteful filler, it was all quite woolly, and I have a lot less interest in looking back over past volumes. While strictly speaking not awful, this book really left me feeling let down, and struck me as entirely unnecessary beyond those committed to the series.

I would still like to thank Puffin for sending a review copy to the Bookbag.

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