(originally reported on September 30th, 2002)

The fifteenth book in the Redwall Series hits shelves today and the fans rejoice.

Having flipped through the book, examined the artwork, and read the first batch of chapters, here are my initial thoughts on it. We'll start with the new illustrator, David Elliot. The one area where Elliot really impressed me was with the map. Right off the bat, he shrugged off the conventional approach to this series standard and instead went for an almost three-dimensional approach. The map is drawn at an angle, as if this were an actual model of Mossflower set on a table top and you were filming it diagonally with a camera. You can actually see Salamandastron towering over the sea, which is a very nice effect. The downside to this map is that it makes Redwall seem like it's right across the street from the mountain, rather than the lengthy journey away it is. Still, it's impressive. Now, the art itself isn't as impressive. It's good, but not great. It looks like a cross between Fangorn's style and Gary Chalk's. It falls just shy of Fangorn's realism and has a hint of the abstract quality that graced Chalk's work. Needless to say, it will take some getting used to. But, it's not "bad" and I'm anxious to see what Elliot has in store for us.

Now, the story, so far, is still unfolding. The albino ferrets (known as "Pure Ferrets" in the book) have quickly been established on Riftguard, as has Triss and her fellow slaves. Interestingly enough, Triss has not been shown to be a Mariel/Martin/Felldoh/Mattimeo type slave-- she desires her freedom, but as of yet has not vowed vengeance upon Kurda or the others at Riftguard and, likewise, has yet to show defiance towards them. She's not without spine, but I'd equate it with the way Keyla got by in Marshank, using her wits to navigate her way around the ferret's moods rather than earning their wrath with cheek. Having a heroine not obsessed with revenge is refreshing and I'm hoping that won't change.

In the months leading up to Triss, it has been theorized that the two "former dibbuns" mentioned in the Loamhedge note would be Sarobando and Bragoon (also mentioned in the note), making them dibbuns in Triss. Many expected Sarobando and Bragoon would be the "pair of wandering Dibbuns" who "accidentally discovers the long lost entrance to Brockhall", as the dustjacket puts it. Well, it turns out that those two Dibbuns are named "Bikkle" and "Ruggum". A speedy flip through revealed no mention of either "Sarobando" or "Bragoon". So, on this issue, we're left with two possibilities: 1) Sarobando and Bragoon are not the Dibbuns mentioned in the letter; or 2) Despite the wording, we won't meet these Dibbuns "now growing old" prior to Loamhedge. As a point of interest, the DAB appears on page 14 in Chapter 2 of the book. It has yet to resurface, but even so, it was an amusing scene to read and my congratulations go out to DAB for their immortalization in the world of Redwall.

As has been reported, Triss takes place after The Taggerung. "How long after?" is a question I'm sure is on many of your minds. The answer is actually given, in the form of the young badger Sagaxus imitating his father, Lord Hightor: "Why your mother even named you Sagaxus I'll never know. She said you were supposed to be like that old Badger Lord she'd read of, Russano the Wise, her fifth great-grandsire." So, this is set (going by Sagaxus) eight badger generations later. Quite a length of time, even longer than the gap between Salamandastron and Redwall, I'd wager.

What makes this book refreshing, though, is that it's really the first Redwall book to feature a completely new cast of characters since Salamandastron. Having characters carry-over, showing a progression in the world of Redwall, is all well and good, but one could argue that one of Brian's strengths was that he could make each generation as unique as the rest. Having no established characters is a nice change of pace, taking me back to my first days of reading Redwall when everyone was new.

So, there you have my initial impressions. A full review should be up within two weeks after I finish the book.