It may behoove you to read the previous book in this series, Martin the Warrior
The next book in my continuing re-reading of the Redwall series is The Bellmaker. It’s one of the rarer Redwall books that reuses almost an entire cast of characters from a particular snapshot in the history of Redwall Abbey. In this case, it’s Mariel and Dandin, as well as Joseph the Bellmaker, who originally appeared in Mariel of Redwall.
The Bellmaker, to me, feels a bit too fragmented: too many underdeveloped storylines and intersecting narratives that don’t meet in any particular interesting ways. I will note that Jacques appeared to experiment with character types much more in this book than he ever did before. For instance, he introduces Blaggut, the first (and possibly only?) sympathetic searat you’ll find in the series. Jacques, criticized for so heavily tying innate character to species, appears to have been so taken with this concept that he devoted a whole book to it1.
Also include an otter named Finnbar with all the mannerisms of a swarthy searat; a pair of foxes who are technically mates but can’t stand each other; a berserker badgermum (ok, this isn’t really new), and a mole that speaks with impeccable diction and clarity. The two foxes on question are Silvamord and Urgan Nagru, leaders of a rat horde that overtakes Castle Southsward. Urgan Nagru is possible the dumbest name ever: if you didn’t notice, the second word is simply the first spelled backward. If that wasn’t bad enough, Jacques has this wolf-clawed villain boast about this very fact to some random cowered woodland creature, as though the cleverness required for such mental dexterity is frightening instead compared to, say the iron claws that Urgan wears.
I was unimpressed with this cast of characters when I read the book’s predecessor; I am equally unimpressed this time. For whatever reason, the Mariel/Joseph dynamic falls flat, I care not a whit about the displaced inhabitants of Castle Southsward (Gael Squirrelking and his family, about whom we actually hear very little).
By dint of wrecks and attacks, the cast of characters is split up into small, roaming groups which all converge on Southsward, facing their own entirely unconvincing adventures along the way. Then, a battle happens, and the bad guys are killed. I realize that the Redwall novels are somewhat die-cast, but The Bellmaker reads as though written from rote. There’s so little sense of rising action or engaging plot or character development that it fails to elicit any interesting in me at all. It’s as boring now as it was last time I read it ten years ago.
If you’re reading the series like I am, be warned. If you’re picking and choosing, why not skip over this one.
- the next book in the series, to be precise: The Outcast of Redwall.[↩]