It may behoove you to read the previous book in this series, Salamandastron
Martin the Warrior marks something of a turning point for the Redwall series: Jacques, for the first time, seems mindful that he is really and truly working with canon and not simply a series of novels tenuously connected by a shared world of anthropomorphic rodents. It’s also the first novel that mentions Redwall the abbey only as an unimportant frame narrative.
Martin the Warrior has maintained a literally revered position in the Redwall canon. Already a dead saint in the first eponymous novel, his story (and the story of the abbey) is given print in the series’ second novel, Mossflower, which is one of the more famous and, if I may say so, still one of the best, Redwall novels. This latest offering in the series seeks to tell the backstory of Martin, whose past was previously shrouded in mystery as a battle-hardened warrior mouse from the hardscrabble northland.
I think Jacques ended up a bit constrained, however; Martin’s notable lack of a love interest in both Mossflower and all the historical narratives means that any love interest for the dashing young mouse warrior must necessarily come to naught or else risk breaking series continuity. Then, too, when working with the cultural centerpiece of the entire series, one can’t simply churn out a slap-dash novel and call it a day….. right?
In all fairness to Jacques, he gives the novel a fair treatment, though he still falls prey to his overblown tendencies in Salamandastron, cramming a few too many perfunctory plot points into the book: a land-based stoat tyrant, a corsair stoat, a pygmy shrew tribe, a heron, a wandering minstrel company of a badger, hares, and mice; wild squirrels, cannibal lizards, fearsome warrior otters, and a brief and understated appearance by quarrelsome shrews; all these characters, in a number of both serious and comedic enterprises, fill Martin the Warrior, though to be sure it raises as many further questions about Martin’s past as it answers—so much so that Jacques would eventual pen Luke the Warrior in order to further flesh out the mouse warrior’s troubled and heroic past.
Martin the Warrior finds our famous hero enslaved in the sea-side fort of Marshank, overseen by the cruel stoat Badrang. This particular tyrant is noticeably less malicious than previous Redwall villains, though perhaps Jacques simply had less space in which to develop his character. He commands the usual motley array of rats, ferrets, and foxes, as well as a contingent of woodland slaves who are in the process of building the huge stone fort—reminiscent of the similar imposing edifice in Mariel of Redwall.
Needless to say, there are number of small skirmishes, capped in the end by a feverish pitched battle for the lives of all involved; the Good Guys™ win, ultimately, but that’s no secret; neither is the fact that Martin lives to play his vital role in Mossflower; more important here, really, are the rest of the characters, who are as lively and interesting as any Jacques has so far written. Time will tell how Martin the Warrior stacks upon, novel-to-novel, against its successors, but I think it remains important in its own right, as well as a bloody good story, regardless.