This isn't a conventional review. No one needs to be told that Brian Jacques' Redwall books are fantastic for older children, especially those who like adventures, battles, and all the other trappings of high fantasy (including death-or-glory charges and the loss of some good beasts, thus the "older children" label). But I hadn't done the audio books until recently. We tried once on a car trip, and the road noise made it too hard to understand some of the undeniably challenging (for this west-coast US sort, anyway) accents some of the animals use.
[Okay, a note just in case someone is unfamiliar with these great books. The world of Redwall is something like Narnia, in that it is full of anthropomorphic animals, though without the pesky humans than show up in Narnia. These mice, hares, hedgehogs and other good British animals (and make no mistake; the good animals ARE British) are frequently under attack by hordes of evil and violent weasels, stoats, and above all rats--you see how we get an easy good and evil divide, though I could go on a bit about vilifying predators! Each type of animal speaks with a different accent, some very thick.]
Recently the topic of audio books for road trips came up in a Goodreads.com discussion Forum in which I participate, and I remembered our difficulty listening to Redwall, as well as how much we enjoyed reading the books aloud with our boys (I'm sure our attempts at rendering the accents--which Jacques indicates very clearly with spelling, etc.--would have had any British listener rolling on the floor). I thought I should give them another try, without road noise--and got hooked! I've now listened to three of the books, which are done with a full cast (though in many, including Redwall, Jacques himself is the main narrator). A fourth somehow got started this week...
These audio productions are wonderful! The accents do cause some issues, but the majority of voices use more standard speech (what we recognize from British TV shows and the BBC), and the reading is excellent. Music adds a nice touch, though the songs (the books are full of songs sung by the beasts) don't quite fit my mental image (what is the word for an auditory image?) of them. It can be very hard to stop listening once begun! That is of course a tribute to both the writing and the performance, and I have to say that both are fantastic.
One note about the series: I felt when we first read them, and that feeling was confirmed this go-around, that the first book, Redwall, is the weakest and one in which Jacques was feeling about for just how the world would look and feel. Even by the end of that book I think he had it down better than at the start, and the other books in the series have a much more consistent and convincing world. Although by the last book in the series there is a certain feel of sameness--the general structure of each, with its dreadful threat to goodbeasts from an evil Horde, is predictable--the adventures and characters are so compelling that you really don't care!
A second note on the series: as mentioned, these are not for young children. The fighting is not precisely graphically depicted, but it's pretty violent. There is a lot of death and not just of the evil creatures. There is no sexuality, however (maybe an occasional bit of falling in love, but it's pretty much passed over, and animals seem to largely appear as dibbuns--youngsters--without any process for getting there).
I give this series a hearty two thumbs up whatever form you take it. I'm a bit dubious about the video and graphic novels, but I've seen some testimonials that those made people start reading, so I won't judge. But if you like listening to books and want some rousing adventures, check them out on audio! Just don't try it in a noisy car :)
Full Disclosure: I checked the Redwall books out of my (digital) library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
©Rebecca M. Douglass