In a prequel to Redwall (1987), the peace-loving woodland animals--mice, rabbits, moles, otters, badgers, squirrels--defeat the evil rats, stoats, and weasels and their wildcat queen, destroying their grim fortress and planning an abbey refuge in its place. Like its predecessor, this installment is packed with action and imbued with warmth by its well-individualized characters and the homely details of their lives, including a delectable-sounding array of vegetarian fare. Jacques' narrative is more skillful here; switching adroitly from one plot strand to another (sometimes only a sentence here, a paragraph there), he keeps them all spinning swiftly and without confusion, an astonishing feat considering the number of his characters and the complexity of the story. He doesn't always fred the mot juste--it's hard to imagine a cat ""slumped moodily,"" for example--but readers enthralled by the richly inventive story aren't likely to notice. Philosophically, Jacques' work remains firmly in that conventional, simplistic world where the enemies are not only totally evil but stupid, while the clever heroes are models of valor and selfless cooperation; where peace may be an honorable goal, but war provides the intense and exciting experiences. For fantasy with more complexity and depth, see Lloyd Alexander's Westmark books.