Mattimeo

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

Redwall | Mossflower

It seems fitting for my first review of a new year to take another nostalgic look back at one of my childhood favourites. Redwall was an epic fantasy series set in a Medieval society of anthropomorphic woodland creatures. It was first published between 1986 and 2011 and ran for twenty-one novels, only ending because of Brian Jacques’s death. For the purpose of this review I will be looking at the third instalment – Mattimeo – only.

Eight seasons have passed since the defeat of Cluny the Scourge, and Redwall Abbey has enjoyed peace under the watchful eye of Matthias the Warrior. However, this cannot last. As the Abbey dwellers prepare a great feast, Slagar the Cruel approaches. The masked fox has a personal vendetta against Matthias and is determined to make the brave mouse suffer.

Posing as entertainers, Slagar and his followers infiltrate the feast and make off into the night with a group of children. This includes Matthias’s beloved son, Mattimeo. His goal is to have the double glory of both selling Mattimeo into slavery and killing Matthias when he inevitably comes to free him. What follows is a dangerous trek across unknown lands as Mattimeo and his friends try to get away, and Matthias and group of scouts try their hardest to follow Slagar’s trail.

Yet things are also not restful at Redwall Abbey. Taking advantage of Matthias’s absence, a flock of birds descends on the peaceful creatures. They are led a wicked raven named General Ironbeak who has decided that the Abbey would make a perfect castle. How can the abbey dwellers possibly defend themselves when their warrior is too far away to protect them?

After being underwhelmed by the previous two instalments, I was really starting to regret rereading this series. However, I am very pleased to say that Mattimeo was breath of fresh air. While Mossflower was a prequel (of sorts) to Redwall, telling the backstory of how Redwall Abbey was founded, Mattimeo is a direct sequel to the first book as it follows the same characters “eight seasons” after their first adventure. Due to this, I would probably recommend that you at least read Redwall first if you want to fully appreciate this story.

The narrative of Mattimeo is split into three distinct parts. One of these follows Mattimeo as he and the other younglings travel with Slagar and his slavers. One follows Matthias and a select group of parents as they follow Mattimeo’s trail. The third focuses on the siege of Redwall, as those who have been left behind try to scare off General Ironbeak’s army.

While the previous instalments showed different perspectives through alternating chapters, this time the action flitted between the different parties with a lot more frequency. While this did mean that the perspective jumped around a lot more – sometimes multiple times in the space of a single chapter – I did find that I preferred this. While previous instalments tended to drag in places, Mattimeo had a much faster pace that really made it a breeze to read.

The setting of the novel this time also felt a lot more personal. While the plot of the previous books centred on large scale assaults, this time the action mainly followed a father trying to rescue his son. For me, this really was the heart of the story. While I was never overly invested in General Ironbeak’s attack on Redwall, Matthias and Mattimeo’s story was very emotional. It focused on the importance of hope in dark times and the depth of love that parents have for their children.

While a majority of the story is given over to the quest, the action culminates in a tense and brilliantly paced battle within the eerie temple / ruins of Loamhedge. This gave the novel an almost supernatural feel, featuring a cult of robed rats and the terrifying polecat “statue” that they worshipped. While this half of the climax was suitably exciting, I was unfortunately less impressed by the overly convenient way in which General Ironbeak was defeated. While I won’t spoil this for you here, I will just note that it felt like it was more coincidental than due to any ingenuity from the abbey dwellers.

I also felt that there did not really seem to be any kind of grand final battle with any of the villains this time around. On the whole this time, the characterisation of the villains was a lot stronger than in previous instalments. Slagar had legitimate motivation for wanting revenge against Matthias, Malkariss was pretty terrifying, and General Ironbeak felt like a realistic threat for the largely peaceful abbey dwellers to face. However, none of them were actually defeated by a major character. This was a bit disappointing, as the showdowns with Cluny and Lady Tsarmina were some of the most dramatic scenes in Redwall and Mossflower.

The protagonists also still felt a little bit shallow. With some notable exceptions (including the always wonderful Basil Stag Hare), the large principal cast of Mattimeo still did not feel fleshed out. As with previous instalments, the characters are largely divided into the “Good” creatures (mice, hares, otters, badgers etc.) and the “Bad” creatures (foxes, weasels, rats, ferrets etc.). You can generally instantly tell whether or not a character is a villain due to the way that they speak, and the good characters always just seem to blend into the background.

Yet it was nice to see that the female characters did get more to do in this novel. While only one female character – Jess Squirrel – actively accompanies Matthias, the ones left behind at the Abbey have to take the centre sage when Ironbeak attacks. Constance and Cornflower are largely responsible for the defence of Redwall and it is wonderful to see the two of them get some time in the spotlight.

Anyhow, I think that more than covers everything. On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed Mattimeo and felt that it was a lot more engaging than both of the previous instalments. I am certainly looking forward to seeing where Jacques will take the story next in Mariel of Redwall.

Mattimeo can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook or Audio Book from Amazon.co.uk

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sean Hagins
    Jan 02, 2020 @ 23:24:49

    I too liked this one a lot. But I wasn’t as unimpressed with the first two as you were. I didn’t like Warbeak dying (I’m surprised you didn’t mention that) I also kind of wondered what 8 seasons mean. It can’t be human years because Mattimeo is definitely more than 7 *(assuming his parents married right away and he came along a year or so later). And it can’t be 7 years to a mouse because most mice don’t live more than a couple years. Even eight literal seasons wouldn’t fit because Mattias would be quite old by then. Oh well-I overthink things like this.

    I do agree that Jacques’ weakest point is making certain animals always good and others bad. By a few more novels in, it makes things kind of repetitive

    Reply

    • Arkham Reviews
      Jan 05, 2020 @ 13:01:04

      I assumed that eight seasons would be two years, which does make these mice a bit long-lived but I suppose it is a fantasy setting!
      I also agree that Warbeak’s death is pointless – I didn’t mention this in the review as it’s a bit of a spoiler, but it is virtually off-page and so unnecessary.
      The balance of good and evil is frustrating, but my personal annoyance is actually starting to be the feasts. The lavish descriptions of food just bog everything down!

      Reply

      • Sean J Hagins
        Jan 05, 2020 @ 13:05:10

        Haha-I can see that about the feasts. I actually don’t mind that, but I don’t like the gluttony of the hares (another stereotype-and besides it’s disgusting!), as well as the basic antics of the “dibbuns” Like I said, it becomes formulaic and repetitive

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