Redwall: Redwall, Book 1

Book review by
Jennifer Docherty, Common Sense Media
Redwall: Redwall, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Exciting tale promotes peace in the face of war.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 31 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value
Positive Messages

Courage, bravery, and heroism are big here. The mice of the abbey also value peace above all else. Plus, there's a one-world message as Matthias finds help from sparrows, shrews, an owl, and a cat; they couldn't have defeated the rats without all working together. A direct contrast is made between Cluny's way of leading through force and coercion and the way the creatures at the abbey band together.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Matthias the mouse starts as a small abbey apprentice and becomes a hero, making friends out of other woodland creatures in the process.


War is waged in defense of the Abbey. The deaths are sometimes inflicted by gruesome methods: impalement, falling from great heights, stabbings, bludgeoning, bee stings, scalding, beheading, etc., and there are a few rather sad deaths of secondary characters. A scary, monstrous adder stalks characters throughout the story. Characters are kidnapped, beaten, and starved by the evil rats.


A mild flirtation.


Many phrases that contain "hell," usually uttered by Cluny the Scourge. Plus the word "hussy" uttered once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many references to the partiality of some animals to the ale at the abbey and a mention of an animal being "tipsy."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is an exciting and well-told tale, but sophisticated language might deter younger or less experienced readers. Challenging vocabulary and rich, descriptive passages will help readers to improve their language skills. Though characters go to war, and there are plenty of deaths, including sad ones of secondary characters, the inherent value of a peaceful existence is promoted.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byPatricia M. January 28, 2018

Imagination, wonder quality read

The Redwall series are enduring classics. Years ago, my oldest son (now 23) devoured them.... and now my younger son (10) is doing the same- and I am thankful... Continue reading
Parent of a 5-year-old Written byJoel C. February 16, 2017

Continuing your child's love of reading.

This book was recommended to me by my grade school librarian. Brian Jacques books were an essential part of my reading. As an adult I still read every day and i... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byLvl100uberpidgey January 7, 2010

Great book!

Most teens will likely say "Talking animals who go on adventures? How incredibly stupid!" I was a bit skeptical at first, but this series of books i... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 13, 2019

Action and Humor

I think Redwall is one of the books that you MUST read. It was well written and had good characters. With "good" characters that you root for and the... Continue reading

What's the story?

The Abbey of Redwall, a haven of peace, is under attack from a band of barbarous rats. How will a kingdom of innocent woodland creatures fend off such experienced villains? The answer lies in an ancient tapestry, a long-forgotten sword, and a young mouse who must rise to his destiny. Rich prose draws readers into an enchanting and humorous fantasy.

The legend of Redwall begins as Abbot Mortimer, leader of a monastery of mice, celebrates his Golden Jubilee, and a clumsy young novice, Matthias, struggles to find his place within Redwall Abbey. While escorting some woodland creatures home after the celebrations, Matthias and his companions are forced off the road by a rabble of rats whose leader, they later discover, is none other than the infamous Cluny the Scourge. \

\ This legendary rat, whose reputation for cruelty terrifies the inhabitants of Redwall and the surrounding countryside, declares war on the Abbey when the animals refuse to surrender to him. As the woodland creatures prepare for war, Matthias and his old friend, Methusaleh, begin a desperate quest for the magical sword of Martin the Warrior, the famed defender of Redwall. The sword is their only hope in fending off Cluny the Scourge, but they must find it before time runs out!

Is it any good?

Preteens, teens, and adults with a penchant for fantasy and legends are drawn into this magical animal kingdom where unlikely heroes face seemingly insurmountable odds. In fact, those audiences have made this series a runaway hit. Opening passages rich in poetry bring the Abbey of Redwall vividly to life. In the opening chapter an atmosphere of calm and comfort seems to pervade the rustic town. Within the very next chapter, however, the mood quickly changes, and the pace of the novel quickens as Cluny the Scourge and his army of rats march menacingly toward the Abbey. Though a war is at the center of the novel, the characters are fighting in self-defense and it is clear that their lives are at stake. As the mice and their friends struggle to defend the Abbey, they see the importance of cooperation and of respecting others.

Matthias, in his quest for the sword, must face traditional enemies of mice -- sparrows, a cat, and an owl. Only by treating these creatures with respect can he gain the aid he and his friends so desperately need. Adding to readers' enjoyment are the escapades of comical characters like the whimsical military hare or the quarrelling band of shrews, which often punctuate the suspense.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the book's unique use of language and how it serves to set the tone of the story.

  • Is this book set in a fantastical place, or a realistic one that could actually exist?

  • Were there any new vocabulary words that you learned while reading the book? What were they -- and do you remember what they mean?

  • What other books have you read that have small but mighty heroes?

Book details

  • Author: Brian Jacques
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Penguin Group
  • Publication date: January 1, 1986
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
  • Number of pages: 333
  • Last updated: July 12, 2017

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