“An entertaining, imaginative post-apocalyptic scenario” – Kirkus Reviews

The review of War Bunny by Kirkus Reviews just came out, and I’m happy to say they loved it, especially as they have the reputation for being very tough reviewers. Hurray!

“A rebel rabbit turns the world of predators and prey on its head in this debut fantasy.

Some centuries in the future, humans—now called the Dead Gods —and many animals are extinct. According to History of the Known World by Thimble Thimbalian, “Only six kinds of creatures were left in the Million Acre Wood for the canids to hunt: Deer, raccoon, rabbit, squirrel, rat, mouse.” Rabbits believe Yah has decreed they must be Glorified by a Blessed One, or, in other words, become a predator’s meal, accepting their fate in a surrender called the Giving. It’s a dictum unquestioned by all but Anastasia, a brown yearling rabbit living in Bloody Thorn Warren. When she’s injured escaping from a Blessed One, she returns to the warren, endangering it; maybe worse, she publicly questions the mercy of Yah. Since the barren Anastasia is already something of a problem doe, this is the last straw for Olympia, the Warren Mother, who orders exile. Now, without a warren, Anastasia is enormously vulnerable, but she accidentally stabs an attacking fox with a sharpened stick, driving it off. What if next time, she could do it on purpose? As she works out strategies, stragglers from other warrens join Anastasia, who trains them and makes alliances with other prey. In exchange for nut storage, squirrels serve as sentries, and mice lend their tiny hands to making weaponry from supplies bought from Bricabrac, a water rat tinker. Meanwhile, disbelieving predators encounter fierce resistance when they target the Warren Sans Gloire, as Anastasia’s settlement is dubbed. Wolves are the landlords of the Million Acre Wood and coyotes have always collected the rent for them successfully, but now the predators are getting very hungry. This means war—and the rabbits are ready.

In his series opener, St. John presents a world similar in some ways to Richard Adams’ Watership Down (1972), where rabbits (and other animals) have language, culture, myths, and games. That said, the post-apocalyptic, apparently North American setting is far different; the points of view and abilities are more varied (a few animals are somehow able to read, piecing together what they can from texts left by the Dead Gods); and dialogue reflects human culture. A flirtatious buck named Love Bug, for example, employs rabbit-inflected pickup lines (“Did you thump just now, or was that the earth moving under my feet?”); Bricabrac calls himself “a businessrat.” Naming conventions are varied and often amusing, especially the tiny mice with names like Throat Punch, Death Rage, and Moody Loner. The premise of prey learning to fight back is intriguing but puzzling. How can carnivorous animals like wolves and foxes survive without prey? Able to reproduce without check, wouldn’t creatures like rabbits soon eat everything in sight? Perhaps the balance-of-nature question will be answered in future installments; readers are likely to want to stay tuned.An entertaining, imaginative post-apocalyptic scenario with special appeal for animal lovers. (Fantasy, 12+.” – Kirkus Reviews

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