'Redwall' is a series that will always be dear to my heart as I read each book several times. So when I decided to reread 'The Outcast of Redwall', I'Redwall' is a series that will always be dear to my heart as I read each book several times. So when I decided to reread 'The Outcast of Redwall', I already knew of the plot and the characters so I didn't expect to be mind-blown – however, I did expect to enjoy the experience. But as I began my reread, I realized that I had difficulty getting into the book and the story wasn't as engaging as I remembered it to be. Sunflash the Mace was courageous, his journey was perilous, his enemies vicious and his companions hilarious, but my heart wasn't in the story. So while it’s not easy for me to give a Redwall book 3 stars, the captivating final of the story wasn’t enough to make up for the tedious beginning and middle and warrant higher rating.
At the end, I think there are several reasons for that. Firstly, while the story is built on the opposition of Sunflash and Swartt Sixclaw, it's a very long time till they clash in battle. For about 2/3 of the book, the story has a very episodic nature - basically, it’s just Sunflash journeying through the country, meeting new friends and enemies, with Swartt just looming in the background. ‘Taggerung’ also had such structure and I enjoyed it very much, but ‘Taggerung’ had much stronger and engaging characters and a mystery behind Redwall’s plotline. And if I'm to be honest, Sunflash is a rather bland character to follow, being a typical noble warrior with almost no personal struggles. However, Sunflash does have unusual qualities for a badger, such as his love for children and his penchant for gardening, and the bond of friendship and brotherhood Sunflash forms with Scarlath is definitely a strong point.
Overall, I found Swartt’s rise to power as he went from a small gang leader to the mighty warlord to be a more engaging storyline. Swartt's story is full of ups and downs, and this villain certainly doesn't just sit back while the hero searches for his destiny – he plots and fights and eliminates his enemies by all means possible. What's especially fascinating is a relationship between Swartt and his seer Nightshade, since it's not always clear who really rules the horde. Nightshade is certainly an influence in Swartt's horde – she (view spoiler)[helped him to take over Bowfleg's army and undermined all of the possible rebels and threats to Swartt's rule (hide spoiler)], but while she acted as his weapon, we don't know who came up with the exact plans that guaranteed Swartt's victory, nor do we ever find out how Swartt had gained (view spoiler)[the poisoned chalice (hide spoiler)] that killed so many of his enemies. And yet, who is to say that it's not Nightshade putting ideas in Swartt's head? After all, she prompted Swartt to action so many times, she was the one who (view spoiler)[hired an assassin to go after Sunflash and suggested a plan to trap the badger during Salamandastron’s siege (hide spoiler)]. But alas, Nightshade get practically no respect for her plotting from Swartt, who only shouts at her and rebukes her, and in the end, I even felt a little sorry for her despite her villainies.
Oh, and the chronology of the story was confusing at best. It's set way after 'Mossflower' and 'The Legend of Luke', and Barlom is stated to be Timballisto's grandson, thus placing the book at least 50 seasons after 'Mossflower', so that means that Sunflash should be about 60 or so seasons old himself. That's actually not such a long stretch considering that in the world of Redwall badgers possess a longer lifespan than other animals and can outlive them by generations, so Sunflash would still be in his prime at such age, but what bugs me is that Sunflash is referred to as 'young' way too often for that to be plausible explanation.
Eventually, it's not until halfway into the story when we get into Redwall Abbey itself, and meet the titular character, Veil Sixclaw the Outcast, abandoned son of Swartt Sixclaw, though Veil draws very little sympathy and shows even less character development. However, even though I was bored by the 2/3 mark, my interest for the story suddenly rekindled, though it wasn't due to Veil. Instead, I realized that I was really excited for Bryony and Togget's journey. For me, Bryony is truly an epitome of an ideal mother. She is not perfect in any way and she made mistakes, she spoiled Veil and she was blind to his flaws, but she loves Veil with all her heart as only a mother can. Despite all of Veil's misdeeds, Bryony didn’t give up on him when everybeast else did, and she was ready to go however far she needed to save him. And Togget is a very lovable character – even if he only joined the quest because of Bryony and only tolerated Veil for his friend's sake, he is such a sweet and loyal mole that it's hard not to love him. And as both friends follow Veil through Mossflower Woods, kind-hearted and caring, but sheltered Bryony learns more about the outside world and the beast that she raised as her son, and eventually Bryony returns to the Abbey a much more mature and wise creature than she were when she had left.
About this time, the main plot involving Sunflash and Swartt picks up, and much to my surprise I realized that I actually enjoyed reading about the battle for Salamandastron despite my low expectations. While there was an undeniable case of 'deus ex machine' when (view spoiler)[the losing fight was won due to the Guosim shrews and tribes of squirrels and otters arriving in the nick of time to help Sunflash (hide spoiler)], the battle of Salamandastron was very well-written and engaging. After all, we got to witness the amazing duel between Zigu and Sabretache, Swartt and Nightshade's trap for Sunflash and the badger's following rescue, Wraith's assassination attempt and its unlikely outcome, and then the story comes full circle, with Sunflash (view spoiler)[facing Swartt's band alone – and becoming Swartt's prisoner once more (hide spoiler)].
It's impossible to talk about the book's final without discussing Veil's role in it, and that's probably one of the most controversial topics of Redwall fandom. (view spoiler)[Veil Sixclaw, son of Swartt Sixclaw, was separated from his father soon after his birth and brought up in Redwall Abbey, but turned into a villain regardless, lying, stealing and even attempting murder at one point. Many fans are rightfully indignant at this turn of events, but let us try and see what made Veil the way he is. Many people point out that Veil from the early age had been blamed for everything that was going wrong, but I want to point something else. Firstly, let’s not forget that Veil was actually guilty of theft in those cases that we had seen him accused of. Secondly, were all the Redwallers so cruel to Veil? Abbess Meriam actually reprimands Friar Bunfold for twisting Veil’s ear, and states that Veil is not to be accused of thievery without proof. And while Togget mainly tolerates Veil because of Bryony, he is still friendly to the ferret, and there is an episode where Heartwood and Barlom send Veil to rest in the gatehouse when he doesn't feel well. So even if some of the Redwallers were harsh on Veil, especially Bunfold and Myrtle, there also were those who treated him fairy – and let’s not forget that Bunfold and Myrtle, being the cooks, probably suffered the most from Veil’s shenanigans.
My opinion may be unpopular, but I think that Bryony is also to blame for Veil’s behaviour because she completely spoiled him. She would always defend Veil before everybeast, no matter what he did, and claim that he would change and do better the next time, and so Veil had learned that he can get away with everything if he plays the victim and gets Bryony on his side – and he does just that when he gets accused of stealing Friar Bunfold’s honey pot, calls for Bryony and hides behind her back. Was it possible for Veil not to grow up as a villain? I think yes, but only if somebeast else stepped forward to aid Bryony, balancing her motherly kindness and compassion with firm but just fatherly sternness. And no matter what were Veil's reasons for his behaviour and whether he was stealing because he were always blamed for it or he was blamed for it because he was stealing, Veil still attempted murder for the sole reason that Friar Bunfold was mean to him and twisted his ear. And never once afterwards Veil showed regret or remorse for that act – truly, the only thing he appeared to be sorry for was that his victim survived.
Another argument I have often seen arise in similar discussions is that Veil only acted with anger and malice toward Redwallers because they mistreated him and never trusted him, so he decided that he as well can be bad if he was going to be blamed regardless. Personally, I think that we saw too little of Veil’s life in Redwall to make a correct judgement, since we jumped from him being a wee baby immediately to him being a grown beast and a notorious thief. However, let’s not forget Veil's encounter with Old Hofy, a poor wanderer who shared his food and drink with Veil and gave him blankets to sleep under and asked nothing in return, and Veil thanked him by robbing him and his grandchildren. That’s not an act of a beast who pays evil with evil – instead, he pays with evil in return for the kindness shown to him.
Now, let’s get to the final confrontation between Veil and Swartt. Bryony herself asks whether or not Veil would’ve sacrificed himself if he knew that Swartt’s blow would be lethal, but I don’t think that’s the right question. Veil attacked his father without hesitation just to allow Bryony to escape, he fought for her despite all the harsh words thrown in her face and all the times he told her to stop following her. In my eyes, there is no doubt that despite all that, deep down Veil loved Bryony as a mother, and that’s why he defended her - moreover, I think that his love for her was his only redeeming trait. Instead, there is another question that should be asked: can one display of goodness, one noble need, atone for a lifetime of evil? Eventually, I don’t think that Veil's love for Bryony makes him a truly good beast. The love for one’s family is not a merit of one’s goodness, because it’s possible for a villain to love their family and still remain evil: Vizka Longtooth seemed to sincerely grieve for his brother’s death, Barranca started a war over his brother, and Antigra loved her son blindly. This doesn’t make them good – however, it does make them more complex. Same with Veil – in my opinion, his final sacrifice can’t compensate for all the harm he had caused, but it did show that there was more than evil to him. In the end, I don’t think it was possible for Veil’s story to have a happy final, because even if he survived the javelin throw, I doubt he would’ve found peace. He certainly wouldn’t have wanted to return to Redwall and he wouldn’t have been content living alone in the woods as Blaggut did. In a way, sacrifice through death was truly the only way he could redeem himself… (hide spoiler)]...more