Columns > Published on June 19th, 2019

Every Single Redwall Book—Ranked

Pick up Redwall in any bookstore, and you might be bemused by the scene on its cover. After all, it’s a funny-looking mouse standing in front of a castle, waving a tiny sword in the air. But this is one book you shouldn’t judge by its cover — it’s the first installment in one of the greatest children’s series of all time.

Once you tread deeper into the world of Redwall, you’ll realize that Brian Jacques’ epic series is really a medieval fantasy adventure cavorting in the guise of a story about talking animals. In what other series can you find (for instance) an armed badger launching himself into a boat full of bedraggled rats crying bloody murder? And Redwall is more than just a good time, which is perhaps Jacques’ greatest magic touch. These anthropomorphic animals introduce children to the concepts of good and evil — his mice consistently teaching the virtues of bravery, kindness, and loyalty.

Whether you’re an old fan who’s looking to stroll down nostalgia lane or a new reader who’s curious about this much-beloved series, I put together this ranking of all 22 Redwall books to commemorate Jacques’ 80th birthday this June. I must stress that this is my personal opinion — please feel free to voice any disagreements in the comments!

1. "Mossflower"

First thing’s first: the epic quest in this book can’t be missed: Martin the mouse must save the peaceful woodland creatures from the tyranny of the wildcat Tsarmina.

Beyond that, though, Mossflower is the ideal introduction to the series’ staples: the various species, the dialects, the feasts, the adventures, and the battles. Best of all, it executes all of them perfectly. Not to mention, this book functions as the origin story for so many aspects of the entire Redwall series. From the backstory of Martin’s mythical sword to the very making of Martin the legendary warrior himself — it all stems from Mossflower.

Mice-o-meter: 5 out of 5 mice

2. "Redwall"

Here’s the book that started it all — most readers probably entered the series through this volume. If so, they’ll definitely remember the peaceful Abbey of Redwall and its memorable cast of characters: from Cluny the Scourge to the protagonist, young Matthias, who desperately wants to become a warrior as great as Martin.

Redwall is an interesting one, as all of the series’ core elements are here. But they might be a bit rough around the edges, as Jacques would go on to refine his formula over time (and he had a lot of time — 22 books worth, to be exact). That said, Redwall is undeniably an essential gateway to the rest of Jacques’ world. Without it, the series just wouldn’t be the same, which pushes this to the top of this list.

Mice-o-meter: 5 out of 5 mice

3. "The Long Patrol"

Something you learn pretty fast about the Redwall series is every species has its own stereotype: the vermin are evil, the badgers brave and wise, the mice kind and good — and the hares, who serve the Badger Lords and Ladies in Salamandastron, are fast-talking, loyal, and reliably hilarious.

So you know that any book that centers around the hares will promise a good time — which is exactly what The Long Patrol delivers in legendary fashion. The Long Patrol is an elite fighting unit of hares. And with Lady Cregga Rose Eyes, the Badger Lady of Salamandastron, occupied with other matters, it’s up to these loquacious leporids to do something about the murderous Rapscallion army, who threaten to seize the Abbey of Redwall itself.

Mice-o-meter: 5 out of 5 mice

4. "Martin the Warrior"

A return to Martin the Warrior is never unwelcome. In this book we go back to Martin’s earliest times — when he was a slave to Badrang, the terrible tyrant of Marshank. Thus the stage is set for his escape, as well as his attempt to return a mousemaid named Rose to her family at Noonvale.

As a foundation book in the series that sets up much of Redwall legend, Martin the Warrior delivers the goods on all fronts. Beyond that, though, it might be one of Jacques’ best-written books. It’s got pretty much everything, from drama to revenge to freedom. Oh, and it has possibly the saddest ending in the entire series — ultimately rendering the story as devastating as it is memorable. 

Mice-o-meter: 5 out of 5 mice

5. "Mattimeo"

If you haven’t gotten enough of Matthias the Warrior from Redwall, don’t fret: here’s Jacques’ third book in the series, Mattimeo. For the uninitiated, Mattimeo is Matthias son. Just a babe when we find out about him in Redwall, he’s since grown into a young mouse who’s just a tad willful and struggling to live up to his celebrated father. Needless to say, it’s a mouse-ful of teenage angst.

So you can imagine how matters might escalate when Mattimeo, along with several of his friends, is kidnapped by a vermin army. One thing’s for certain, though: Matthias and company will stop at nothing to rescue them.

I realize that Mattimeo might be a controversial one to put this high in this list, as fans are split on whether or not it “drags” in the middle. But what undeniably shines for me is Mattimeo’s character development over the course of the journey — and his changing dynamic with Matthias, as Jacques drives home the meaning of the family bond.

Mice-o-meter: 5 out of 5 mice

6. "Mariel of Redwall"

After being thrown overboard into the furious sea by pirate rats, a mouse-maid washes ashore. She’s found by the gentle folks of Redwall and nursed back to health — but a life of comfort isn’t what she wants. No, she’s motivated to go back out and avenge her father, whom she believes died at sea at the hands of her assailants.

Thus begins a rousing account of revenge and courage. Mariel of Redwall is notable for its protagonist, who is not only a mouse-maid, but also a warrior! Mariel was Jacques' first female protagonist, and he didn’t pull any punches: she’s one of the best heroes the series has to offer.

Mice-o-meter: 5 out of 5 mice

7. "The Bellmaker"

Two things separate The Bellmaker from the rest of the pack: first, it sharply diverges from Jacques’ characteristic formula, keeping readers guessing right up until the last battle. Second, the searat Blaggut is one of the best villains Jacques has ever written in terms of his complex morality. Both elements combine to make The Bellmaker an exciting and truly thought-provoking read. And being able to return to the adventures of Mariel certainly doesn’t hurt!

Mice-o-meter: 5 out of 5 mice

8. 'Taggerung'

You can always depend on the mice, hedgehogs, otters, badgers, and hares to be the good guys in Redwallwhile the shrews, weasels, rats, and stoats are forever condemned to be the villains. But Jacques puts an interesting twist on this premise in Taggerung. A crew of vermin adopts (i.e. kidnaps) a young otter, hoping to raise him to become “Taggerung”, a warrior who will bring them glory. There aren’t any great battles here, but you’ll find plenty of heart, a thrilling pursuit, and a worthy hero in the young otter, who just wants to find his way back to his family.

Mice-o-meter: 5 out of 5 mice

9. 'Lord Brocktree'

Lord Brocktree gets points for its cover art alone, which features an awesome depiction of a warrior badger. And you can judge this book by its cover since it’s story is just as great! Salamandastron, the great mountain that’s ruled by a Badger Lord or Lady, has been overrun by the wildcat Ungatt Trunn and his Blue Hordes — and it seems like there’s little that anyone can do about it.

Enter the badger Lord Brocktree and a haremaid named Dotti (short for Dorothea Duckfontein Dillworthy, one of Jacques’ best names). She  can sling an arrow as well as any hare and provides a breath of fresh air making, this book is a worthy read for her journey alone — not to mention Lord Brocktree’s!

Mice-o-meter: 4 out of 5 mice

10. 'Legend of Luke'

Legend of Luke returns to the adventures of Martin the Warrior — but with a twist. This time, Martin isn’t the myth-maker. Instead, he’s searching for the truth behind another legend: that of a brave warrior mouse who chased the evil pirate stoat, Vilu Daskar, over the high seas. More far-reachingly, Martin’s hunt might lead him to someone he’d thought that he had lost forever: his father, Luke. 

Compared to the rest of the Martin the Warrior stories, Legend of Luke might pale a bit in terms of sheer excitement, but that doesn’t make it a complete miss. Since the beginning of the series, Luke has cast a huge shadow over the books as someone important to Martin — but, lost to legend, his role has been shrouded in questions. Suffice to say, this book delivers all the answers, and some emotional punch to boot.

Mice-o-meter: 4 out of 5 mice

11. "Rakkety Tam"

A dashing hero in the form of a Scottish squirrel, going by the name of Rakkety Tam MacBurl of the Borderlands.

A completely insane wolverine named Gulo the Savage, and the army of vermin on his trail.

Another completely insane wolverine (hello, Gulo’s brother!) in the mix.

What more could you ask of an adventure book? Jacques proved he hadn’t lost his touch with Rakkety Tam, which is a great balance of fun and suspense. And though the story itself isn’t the series’ most original, it’s a solid one with several memorable moments, particularly during battle.

Mice-o-meter: 4 out of 5 mice

12. "Pearls of Lutra"

If you’ve gotten this far in this list, you’re probably thinking to yourself by now, “But where are the otters?

Don’t worry — here they are. Pearls of Lutra is the story of the Lutra otter clan, who have to protect the Tears of All Oceans — six beautiful saltwater pearls. They’re in danger of being snatched by Ublaz Mad-Eyes, a pine marten with, well, mad eyes, for lack of a better description.

Grath Longfletch is this book’s protagonist, and she’s a great one — a female otter warrior who’s handy with a bow. What’s more, this book heralds the opportune return of Matthias’ family: this time featuring Martin II, Mattimeo’s son. It’s the cherry on the top of an already scrumptious cake.

Mice-o-meter: 4 out of 5 mice

13. "Marlfox"

This one’s plot might sound familiar: quick recap: a villain — surprise! — wants to take over Redwall Abbey. But Marlfox is worth a read for the dastardly entertainment provided by Jacques’ brand-new foe. In short, Marlfoxes are a mystical breed of fox: bigger, smarter, and nastier than the typical member of their species. And they are deliciously malevolent — proving that a story is indeed only as good as its villain.

Mice-o-meter: 3 out of 5 mice

14. "The Sable Quean"

Jacques goes straight for the nerve in The Sable Quean. The little Dibbuns of Redwall Abbey — far and away most readers’ most beloved side-characters in the series — are kidnapped one by one in the night! The perpetrators are Zwilt the Shade and Vilaya the Sable Quean, and the inhabitants of Redwall will not rest until they get their little ones back.

It’s comfortingly predictable and not as momentous as other installments in the series, still, The Sable Quean is told with gusto, and the premise keeps the pages flipping.

Mice-o-meter: 3 out of 5 mice

15. "Salamandastron"

Salamandastron is the dependably epic mountain stronghold of Badger Lords and Ladies. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t quite live up to the promise in that name, as its heroes (Samkim the squirrel and Arula the molemaid) aren’t half as memorable as Jacques’ past creations.

Mice-o-meter: 3 out of 5 mice

16. "Rogue Crew"

Rogue Crew is the 22nd book in the Redwall series, published posthumously after Jacques passed away in 2011. The series goes out with a bang, as it introduces a villain who’s so evil that anyone who comes up against him is destroyed: a situation that causes the famed Long Patrol to team up (!) with the brave sea otters of the Rogue Crew.

Ultimately, Rogue Crew is not Jacque’s best but it’s also not his worst. It is, however, Brian Jacques’ last book — and because of that, getting to the final page will touch the heart of any Redwall fan.

Mice-o-meter: 3 out of 5 mice

17. "Doomwyte"

If you’re still with me at this point, you might have noticed there’s a certain pattern to the Redwall books: there’s an army of vermin that’s threatening a group of good guys, who need to rise up in order to defend their own. Oh, and there’s a quest, a big battle, and more than a couple of feasts.

After a certain amount of time, this blueprint begins to feel rehashed, and this is probably the moment where it really starts to become noticeable. Case in point: Doomwyte tells the story of a young mouse named Bisky and his friends who want to find a fabled treasure. Little do they know, a notorious villain wants that treasure for himself! The whole plot feels a bit been there, done that, and even Jacques’ impressive storytelling skills can’t distract us from that fact.

Mice-o-meter: 2 out of 5 mice

18. "Eulalia!"

For anyone who doesn’t already know, “Eulalia!” is none other than the fearsome war cry of Salamandastron’s badgers and hares — that should clue you into the subject of this book!  Unfortunately, it’s probably the weakest out of all of the Salamandastron tales, so it’s possible to give this one a pass if you’ve already read the others.

Mice-o-meter: 2 out of 5 mice

19. "Loamhedge"

Loamhedge is a deserted Abbey that has been lost to time, and a few warriors (and wannabe warriors) set out from Redwall to learn its secrets. An interesting premise, to be sure, and Jacques should be applauded for finding ways to add to Redwall’s lore and backstory by this point in the series. But Loamhedge loses points because the disabled characters end up healing themselves through the power of positive thinking — definitely a misguided lesson to put in a children’s book.

Mice-o-meter: 2 out of 5 mice

20. "Triss"

A brave squirrelmaid escapes her slaver by sea and comes across Redwall Abbey. There, she discovers she may be the one to answer the call of the Sword of Martin. If that sounds familiar, that’s probably because much of the plot already has been covered in previous installments of the series. Triss has its moments, sure, but they’re not enough to balance out the uneven plot and flat characters.

Mice-o-meter: 2 out of 5 mice

21. "High Rhulian"

Unfortunately, High Rhulian is pretty unmemorable from start to finish. I could tell you about the young ottermaid who’s destined to fight Riggu Fellis the Wildcat and his slave masters, but I’d first recommend you give this one a pass if you’re short on time.

Mice-o-meter: 2 out of 5 mice

22. "Outcast of Redwall"

Jacques tried to do something different with Outcast of Redwall, which is admirable. But he failed miserably, which puts this installment at the end of this list.

In summary: Outcast of Redwall centers around Bryony (a mouse, so she's obviously good) and Veil (a ferret, so he's obviously bad). Veil is brought into Redwall as a babe and adopted, but Veil’s “true nature” gets the better of him as he grows up and runs away from the Abbey to find his warlord father.

In The Outcast of Redwall, Jacques makes it clear that Redwall is strictly black-and-white: the good guys are born good and the bad guys are born bad. Your fate simply depends on your genes, which is a shockingly disappointing message to send to young children. And let’s not even mention the frankly discriminatory way the Abbey inhabitants treat baby Veil in the first place — simply because he’s a ferret. If this had fully explored the nature versus nurture debate with due respect, it could have been something truly special for the Redwall series. Instead, it just comes off as a wasted opportunity.

Mice-o-meter: 1 out of 5 mice

There you have it. Which are your favorite Redwall tales? Least favorite?

About the author

Emmanuel Nataf is a Founder at Reedsy, a marketplace and set of tools that allows authors and publishers to find top editorial, design and marketing talent. Over 3,000 books have been published using Reedsy's services.

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