© 1986 Brian Jacques
At the edge of a great wood there stands a tall, red-brick abbey that offers peace, medicine, food, and sanctuary to call creatures in need. Its name is Redwall...and it is run by a quasi-religious order of mice.
Many years ago my home librarian brought this book to me and reccommended that I read it. I found it utterly captivating. I'd never read fantasy before, never developing a taste for magic and strange creatures -- but this was a different kind of fantasy, one in which real creatures simply took the place of human characters in a story that seemed positively epic to a younger reader such as myself. I'd only ever read books with simple plots before, but Redwall sported multiple stories: while the central conflict is one of good versus evil, with a great army of vermin (literal vermin -- rats, stoats, and weasels) arriving in hopes of conquering Mossflower, the lead character Matthias is sent on a hero's quest, to find the lost sword of a legendary figure from Redwall's past so that he might destroy Cluny the Scourge. His quest involves many dangers and distractions, comprising a series of perilous adventures, and Jacques tells that story while at the same time reporting on the siege of the abbey -- a siege fought with quasi-medieval weaponry, which should seem silly but works surprisingly well. It's as though this is set in the medieval-fantasy world of the Lord of the Rings, but using animal characters like moles who can dig tunnels in addition to wielding spears. Redwall inspired an entire series of novels set in this world and has a highly loyal fanbase who have taken to Jacques' characters with such gusto that they can have entire conversations in the dialects of his characters. I err, know from personal experience.
Redwall is an interesting literary experience, a mix of the mundane and fantastic, with lots of fun characters and an easy-to-loathe villain. Although some of the magic has worn off since my childhood, I enjoyed my little return to Redwall Abby this Christmas season.
Related: XKCD did a comic entitled "Notes on Rereading Redwall Books for the First Time Since Childhood" I rather like.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NiMH, Robert C. O'Brien