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Mariel Of Redwall

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A female protagonist, Mariel the mousemaid, lends a contemporary touch to the fourth installment in Jacques's Redwall series, which narrates epic events among the animals in the manner of Watership Down. (Mar.)

Gr 4-8-- Redwall Abbey is once again the center of a multistranded adventure. Independent of its predecessors, Redwall (1987), Mossflower (1988), and Mattimeo (1990, all Philomel), it follows the mousemaid Mariel in her quest for vengeance against the searat Gabool the Wild and his Rodent Corsairs, who imprisoned her father and left her to drown during a storm at sea. Tough and resiliant, she makes her way to Redwall, where she finds stalwart companions who will accompany her through the Mossflower woods back to Gabool's stronghold, where he is descending into madness. Meanwhile, the good creatures of Redwall are besieged by a renegade band of searats. Intrepid readers willing to tackle a book this long will be further impeded by the sections of dialect used to delineate class structure. Since the writing style is cliched, much of the action contrived to be cute, the characters one-dimensional, and the villains predictable vermin, readers may wonder ``why bother?'' Nor will they find illumination of human-animal kinship. Clever substitutions like ``anybeast,'' ``foremole,'' and ``every ratjack of ye'' serve only to remind that these animals are almost entirely human surrogates. Even the frequent references to woodland cuisine are tedious enough to become unappetizing. A book that's somewhat pretentious, and one that will appeal mainly to fans of Jacques's earlier medieval fantasies. --Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA

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