Book Review: Rakkety Tam by Brian Jacques

You sick of book reviews yet? Well, don’t worry, because this one will be the last review following BookTubeAThon, as I never did end up finishing my final book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty (though I will finish it eventually, I promise).

Anyway, this series (a.ka., the Redwall series) has been on my radar for over a decade. Both my mother and sister enjoy the series, though they like fantasy much more than I do. This book is my sister’s favorite in the series and she assured me that, even though this is book 17, the series does not need to be read in order. Honestly, this book gave me a lot of mixed feelings, so let’s get right into it.

Release: 2004

Synopsis: A dark evil is coming to Mossflower Country in the form of the vicious wolverine Gulo the Savage. After murdering his father, he heads to track down his brother, who has stolen the legendary Walking Stone. Only two things stand in his way: the Abbey of Redwall and mercenary warrior Rakkety Tam MacBurl. Follow along in a fun adventure in a world where animals talk, wear clothing, and even become knights!

Review

Many books I critique for their failing; however, with this book I think it depends entirely on what kind of reader you are. If you love interesting worlds, quirky humor, and complex dialogue, this book would be fantastic. However, for me, the two things I appreciate most is understandability and deep characters, neither of which this book seems to value. The dialogue is impossible to read at times because of the thick accents, the characters all blend together between two categories of the good and the bad, and even the plot is simplistic as the focus is given to exploring the world.

For once, I concede that this book is a great book; it just is not my style of reading.

However, there is a lot to love about this book.

The world is extremely lush and imaginative. It could be compared to medieval Europe (probably Scotland by the accents of the characters) and we spend a lot of time immersed into the lives of the animals, who act entirely human but for a few animalistic traits (like growling, which technically people can do anyway).

The plot is slow-moving, but never is it boring. It is realistic to war of the era, which would often continue for months with many tactics employed.

The characters were basic, but understandable. Rakkety Tam, the hero of the story, reminds me a lot of Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood, being both cheeky and courageous. While he certainly wasn’t a highly developed character, he was fun. Gulo, the villain, is villainous. He’s truly a horrible person (or wolverine, in this case), presented more as a cookie-cut out of an antagonist instead of a flawed, misled character. Most of the characters followed in this vein, they are clear but not thought-provoking.

The dialogue was the one thing that drove me absolutely crazy. Let me give you an example of the dialogue: “Aye, marm, we kept ‘em well away from the vittles. Go on in now, the bairns will be wantin’ tae eat yore fine cookin’.” (page 272). And this was the average accent, some was better, like some educated people speaking completely normal—“Watch the ditch on your right side, Brooky.” (page 126)—to people speaking completely indecipherable—“Burr aye, let oi toast moi paws boi ee stove an’ git sum brekkist in ee ole stummick” (page 12).”

What I’m saying is that the dialogue was often so hard to read that I would have to pause in the story, read it out loud a few times just to give what they said. It wasn’t in every sentence of dialogue, but it was enough that I grew frustrated trying to decipher something that was supposed to be written in English. This is, of course, my own problem. Some people might love this about the book, especially if they read it out loud and try to butcher the Scottish accent.

My overall thoughts are that this book is well-written, but it is not my type of book. I prefer character-driven books and understandable character accents. I loved the world and I loved the adventure, but reading it was quite a challenge. Thus why on Goodreads I gave it a solid three stars, because I liked it but I didn’t love it.

Have you heard of the Redwall series? Read any of the books? What is your opinion of heavy accents employed in dialogue in novels? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Rakkety Tam by Brian Jacques

        1. It means something which is mass produced or lacks individuality. It’s origin comes from the idea that all the cookies on one pan look exactly the same. I was referring to the villain that way by saying he isn’t unique in any way, but instead similar to most other villains.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Never read the series and I’m not a fan writers trying to capture dialect. A word here and there and/or an occasional expression for the sake of local color is okay, but long stretches of dialogue in dialect will have me tossing the book aside in a NY minute.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read a great many of the Redwall books, and “Rakkety Tam” is among my favorites. I admit that I enjoyed the use of dialect to differentiate the different types of animals (“boi ee stove” was the kind of thing you’d hear from a mole, as I recall).

    One of the things I enjoy is reading other people’s reviews of books I’ve enjoyed. It is interesting to see where we differ.

    I think it’s also worth remembering that Jacques’ intended audience for these books was mid-grade British kids, so all of it would seem age appropriate and understandable for them … without the depth of character that one generally prefers as an adult.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I said in my review, I can see why anyone would love this book. It’s well written with an amazing world. It just wasn’t my kind of book. For once, I admit it’s entirely just me. Like you, most of the people I know love this series, and I can see why. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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