With The Legend of Luke, I'm approaching the limits of my childhood reading of the Redwall series. It was either with this book or partway through the next that I finally gave up on the new ones and returned to endlessly rereading my favorites of the early books. By this point in the series, Jacques seems to have fallen into a comfortable pattern: a group of three or four creatures of various species head off on an adventure - find the thing or kill the villain - and return in the end to Redwall Abbey for a feast. This quest narrative got predictable and unexciting, and I missed the wider variety of plots found in the early books (a siege, a rebellion against tyrannical government, a kidnap, and only then one of what would become Jacques' standard quests...).
The Legend of Luke failed me for a few reasons. It is poorly paced and poorly characterized. Jacques relies too heavily on previous books to establish the main characters' personalities, and even relies on enemies from earlier books as well, so this novel feels significantly less creative than his others. My biggest issue, however, is that it is a revenge story rather than one of self-defense. Previously, Jacques largely held to the idea of peaceful abbey mice who would nonetheless take up arms to defend themselves. In this book, however, Martin's father leaves his son behind and leads most of his tribe to inevitable death in an attempt to kill the pirate who murdered his wife. Luke succeeds, but at what cost? Jacques really disappointed me because so much pain and death in this book was unnecessary and due only to a lust for revenge, and Luke's actions were glamorized without any questioning of their repercussions or his motives.
On a happier note, I'd forgotten that I'd once
met Jacques until I saw that my copy of Luke is autographed! I don't much
remember the event, but I'm pretty sure we bought this hardcover new for him to
sign at the bookstore, and that I also got to show him my beloved and battered
paperback copy of Mariel of Redwall, still my absolute favorite of the whole
series. It's a pity that Luke was so disappointing, especially because of the
special autograph, but this time, I'm not going to give up on the series. I own
the next two - Lord Brocktree and Taggerung - and plan to check out library
copies of the rest. The Redwall books were such a huge part of my childhood
that I'm determined now to see how the rest of the series plays out. Maybe the
quests get less interchangeable - I'm hopeful!