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The Legend Behind the Legend
Master storyteller Brian Jacques has been holding kids of all ages spellbound for years with his delightful Redwall tales. This anthropomorphic fantasy series follows the adventures of the woodland creatures inhabiting Redwall Abbey and its surrounding lands, a mythical place where the forces of good and evil often battle. Now, for the 12th book in the series, Jacques takes his readers back in time to the very beginnings of Redwall. The Legend of Luke is the prequel, the story that precedes all the others and details the exploits of the first and most noble of all the Redwall warriors -- Luke, the father of that heroic and plucky warrior mouse, Martin.
The story opens with Martin deciding to make a journey to the dangerous northland. It was here that Martin was born and his mother slain. Martin's father, Luke, survived that long-ago attack, but shortly thereafter he left his young son and took off for the high seas. Martin never saw his father again, though he occasionally heard stories about him. He travels now to search for answers, hoping to uncover the man behind the myth.
Martin's journey is fraught with peril but also provides him with a ragtag group of fellow travelers he meets along the way. Eventually the group takes to the sea, and when they reach the shores of the northland, they come across an odd sight: the remains of a broken ship wedged high in the air between two towering monoliths of rock that rise from the sea. Inside this ship, the travelers discover an elderly rabbit named Beau, who knew Martin's father well.
From this point on, the book is devoted to Luke's story. Martin learns how his father made the difficult decision to leave his young son behind and seek revenge against the evil pirate stoat, Vilu Daskar. It was Daskar who slew Martin's mother and a host of others camped out along the northland coast. It was through a mere quirk of circumstance that both Luke and Martin survived. But the cold-blooded killings and the death of his wife left Luke embittered and angry, enough so that he left Martin behind so he could hunt down the evil Vilu and seek retribution.
The story of how Luke finds the evil pirate and ultimately seeks his revenge is laden with heroic gestures and touching bonds of friendship. The bad guys are so blatantly bad they are easy to loathe, so even the small victories achieved by Luke and his band of warriors are occasions for cheering. The good guys, in standard Redwall fashion, prove to be a colorful and eclectic bunch, their dedication and valor unimpeachable. There are standout heroes, to be sure, but the story makes it clear that each of the good characters is a hero in his or her own right.
Jacques's language and dialects can make the reading difficult at times, which tends to make the ideal audience ages nine and up. But the story itself will appeal to anyone with a sense of adventure and a vivid imagination. There's violence to be had and a goodly share of shed blood and gore, but there is also an abundance of good humor and a strong sense of camaraderie. For longtime Redwall fans, The Legend of Luke adds a fascinating layer to the overall mythology. For those who haven't yet had the pleasure of the Redwall experience, this 12th book in the series is a great place to start.