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Salamandastron by Brian Jacques
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Salamandastron (1992)

by Brian Jacques

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(I finished this a month ago and should have reviewed it back then, but I was more interested in diving into my next book than writing a review.)

Salamandastron follows multiple groups of characters whose paths eventually converge. The primary storyline starts at Salamandastron. Ferahgo, a blue-eyed assassin weasel, has set his sights on that place and is convinced that there is great treasure to be found there. He knows it’ll all belong to him if he and his band can manage to defeat Urthstripe, the great badger Lord, and his skilled warrior hares. Urthstripe, meanwhile, is distracted by family problems: Mara, his adopted daughter, has been growing increasingly rebellious and restless.

The secondary storyline starts at Redwall Abbey. Everything there is good food and celebrations, with occasional light punishments for scamps like Samkim the squirrel and his best friend Arula the molemaid, until a couple stoats accidentally do something horrible. Suddenly Samkim finds himself suspected of killing someone. As if that wasn’t bad enough, many of Redwall Abbey’s residents then fall ill with the dreaded Dryditch Fever.

This is the first Redwall book I’ve ever read. I had planned to start with Redwall, the very first book in the series, but my copy was used and fell apart in my hands when I opened it up. After a little searching online, I determined that I should be able to start with Salamandastron, the one other Redwall book I owned, without becoming too confused.

Salamandastron was given to me by a friend back when I was, I think, in middle school. If I had read it back then, I might have liked it more. Despite its copious amounts of (not explicitly described) violence and death, Salamandastron definitely read like it was meant for a younger audience - I’m guessing either the high end of the Middle Grade age range or the low end of the Young Adult.

Then again, who knows? Maybe the various accents in Salamandastron would have annoyed Younger Me too. The moles were definitely the worst, although the falcons and eagle occasionally gave me trouble too. Here’s an example that made me laugh bitterly - a mole saying he had trouble understanding an eagle:
“‘Och, these vittles are braw eatin’, Dumble. Ha’ ye nae mair o’ these wee veggible pasties the guid hedgepig lady made?’

Droony squinched his eyes until they nearly disappeared into his small velvety face. ‘Bohurr, you’m heagle do be a-talken funny loik. Oi carn’t unnerstan’ a wurd ‘ee be sayen, Dumble.’” (290)
Oh really. And how do you think I felt every time one of the moles opened their mouths? There were times I just gave up and skimmed certain characters’ dialogue. Why did Samkim’s best friend have to be a mole? ::sob::

I can totally see younger readers being drawn in by the anthropomorphized animals and action scenes. And food descriptions! This book was chock full of delicious-sounding food. Unfortunately, sometimes all that food and eating detracted from the story. For example, at one point Mara’s friend Pikkle took part in an eating contest. This was after he and Mara had nearly been eaten by carnivorous toads. Not to mention, Mara and Pikkle should still have been worried sick about what Ferahgo and his band might be doing to their friends and family back at Salamandastron. But no, figuring out who could eat the most hot spiced apple pudding was suddenly the most important thing.

This was part of the reason why the book read so young: serious stuff happened, but it didn’t seem to have as much emotional impact as it should. Several good characters died! At least one of them senselessly! And one villain’s fate was saved from being gruesome only because most of it happened off-page and none of it was described in detail. If the other Redwall books have body counts similar to this one, I don’t think it’d be too out of line to say that Brian Jacques is the George R.R. Martin of Middle Grade fantasy.

But, again, those deaths didn’t have much emotional impact. Beloved friends and family died, and characters moved on within a page or two and were soon back to happily gorging themselves on delicious festival foods.

Meh. I had hoped to fall in love with this series, but Salamandastron has left me with no desire to try more.

Additional Comments:

I couldn’t figure out how to fit it into the body of my review, but I wanted to mention it anyway: I have never seen so many characters practice such terrible weapons safety in a single book. Samkim liked to shoot arrows wherever, just for fun, and all the adults around him did was ground him and then worry they were being too harsh. And one character, an adult who should have known better, straight up stabbed himself (not fatally, but still) because he’d been playing around with a sword like it was a toy.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
1 vote Familiar_Diversions | May 18, 2017 |
One of my all time favorite series! I love each and every one! A great book for young adults, and adults alike! I'm in college, and still read these, and enjoy them each! Good for animal lovers, adventures, and those who just like a good tale of good over evil! ( )
  Shadow494 | Jun 20, 2016 |
In the prologue to this fifth novel of Redwall, Ferahgo the Assassin, a weasel, has killed the badger lord Urthound and his wife Urthrun, leaving their two babies, one striped and the other white, to die of starvation. But do they die? Chapter one opens after many long seasons. Ferahgo and his Corpsemakers have slowly moved northward and are determined to capture Salamandastron, ruled by the badger lord Urthstripe and protected by the hares of the Long Patrol. However, Urthstripe’s daughter Mara runs away with one of the hares named Pikkle Ffloger. Ferahgo’s son Klitch tricks the two, and they are almost captured by the horde, but they escape, only to be deceived by a lizard named Slinkee who leads them to a group of cannibal toads under King Glagweb. However, they are rescued by Log-a-Log and his shrews, and together they set out to find the Blackstone, symbol of leadership among the shrews, which is now in the possession of the white “ghost badger” who lives on a mysterious island in the middle of a large lake. Their plan is then to head for Salamandastron and help in the fight against Ferahgo.
Meanwhile, at Redwall, two deserters from Ferahgo’s army, Thura and Dingeye, are taken in, but after they accidentally kill Brother Hal they escape with the sword of Martin the Warrior, intending to return to Ferahgo. A young squirrel named Samkim and a molemaid named Arula set out after them. Shortly afterwards, however, the abbey is plagued with Dryditch Fever, so the otter Thrugg and his little friend Dumble, a dormouse babe, set off for the Mountains of the North, ruled over by the golden eagle Wild King McPhearsome, to find Icetor Flowers which are said to cure the fever. After Thura dies of Dryditch fever and Dingeye is killed by the fox Dethbrush, whom Ferahgo had sent out to find them, Samkim and Arula, along with another group of shrews under the leadership of Alfoh, chase after Dethbrush, who now has the sword and is trying to escape in a boat through the same lake where Mara, Pikkle, and Log-a-Log have gone searching for the Blackstone. Will Samkim and Arula recover the sword of Martin the Warrior? Will Mara and Pikkle get the Blackstone back for Log-a-Log? Will Thrugg and Dumble return fever cure in time to save Redwall? And what will happen in the battle for Salamandastron?
Some people may find the plot a little confusing, because the chapters go back and forth describing the activities of Urthstripe and Ferahgo at Salamandastron, of Mara and Pikkle on their journey as they look for the Blackstone, of Samkim and Arula in their search for the sword, of the Redwallers as they deal with the Dryditch Fever, and of Thrugg and Dumble seeking the Icetor Flowers. However, the story is told so well, in Jacques’ inimitable style, that this should not be too much of a problem for most readers. The “veiled curse du jour” of this particular Redwall book is “hellsteeth.” There are also a few common euphemisms and childish slang terms, such as gosh, darn, and “frogsbum.” Otherwise, it has the usual strong sense of good versus evil, with no lack of villains to overcome and a host of quaint characters, such as Furgle, Tubgutt, Nordo, Spriggat, and Rocangus, to work together in overcoming them—and a few surprises along the way. I especially liked the way that Mara eventually comes to understand the truth, even though in the end it is a little late to do anything about it. That happens in real life sometimes. I have never read a Redwall book that I did not thoroughly enjoy. ( )
  Homeschoolbookreview | Feb 17, 2012 |
I enjoyed it. Had some issues with it though. The book runs about 4 different plotlines I believe which makes it hard to keep track of whats going on. Lots of characters too which makes it hard to figure out who is who. At least with me. Mr. Jacques also seems to enjoy writing in the accent of his characters which also makes it hard to understand. I found that I had to read sentences a couple of different times to understand what they were saying. ( )
  theapparatus | Jul 14, 2011 |
Another great book in the series. The plots are always interesting and the characters are fantastic. ( )
  Nikkles | Aug 23, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brian Jacquesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Canty, ThomasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chalk, GaryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Many and many a long season had come and gone since that fateful midwinter day in the Southwest Lands.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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AR 5.7, Pts 16
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142501522, Paperback)

As the inhabitants of Redwall relax in the haze of the long, hot summer, they are unaware that the neighboring stronghold of Salamandastron lies besieged by the evil weasel army of Ferhago the Assassin. Nor do they realize that Mara, beloved daughter of Urthsipe, Badger Lord of the Fire Mountain, is in terrible danger. But when a lightening bolt uncovers the sword of Martin the Warrior, young Samkin embarks on adventure that leads him to Mara, and their lives become inextricably entwined.

Brian Jacques once again strikes to the heart in this stunningly executed adventure, another in the best-selling Redwall series, proving, if indeed proof was needed, that he ranks high among the best children's authors in the world. His genius lies in his ability to capture character and atmosphere with a stroke of a pen, drawing the reader in until the only way to start breathing again is to finish the book. --Susan Harrison

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:08 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Urthstripe the Strong, a wise old badger, leads the animals of the great fortress of Salamandastron and Redwall Abbey against the weasel Ferahgo the Assassin and his corps of vermin.

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