I ADORE the Redwall series. Far better written than Harry Potter, with better descriptions and pace, I've been a long-time fan of Jacques'. Therefore I was hoping for another cracking tale with this novel.
It's not bad. The opening section is truly brilliant: terrifying, emotional and adventurous. If the whole novel had continued in this vein, I couldn't have praised it highly enough. Unfortunately, the story does go downhill after the two main characters leave Luis the shepherd.
As I said, it isn't bad. It's just after the opening section, the loss of the high-seas drama, the school-age heroism falls very flat. The characters aren't unlikeable, the dog Ned in particular is loveable and as a moral, fun, pleasing story for younger readers, it does work well. Older readers will feel disappointed after the wonderful tension of the opening section, however.
It is similar to Redwall, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but lacks Redwall's sword-and-adventure heroism, most of the action being closed into one village. The villains change from wicked cursed pirates, truly terrifying figures, to rather more petty figures and a gang of unpleasant schoolchildren; a definate comedown.
On a personal level I think the inclusion of so much religiosity just doesn't sit with the genre - one of BJ's wisest decisions was making Redwall a largely secular series, with vague religious symbolism taking a definate backseat to moral and personal developments. In Castaways, there is no escaping the fact that angels and God play a large definitive role in the story.
It is still well-written, lively and filled with all BJ's usual beautiful descriptive work, and the bittersweet realisation that immortality has its downside is a nice touch.
Not a bad read, worth looking at for the wonderful opening section if nothing else.