Tag Archives: Fable

A Review of Darkest Dean: Animal Short Stories

Book cover for Darkest Dean - Animal Short Stories by Dean Jarvis. Image on cover is a black and white sketch of a lion who is wearing an ornate crown that has a tiny cross at the top of it. The background of the cover is a very light yellow. Title: Darkest Dean – Animal Short Stories

Author: Dean Jarvis

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 16, 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 96 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars


A collection of beautiful handcrafted stories with animals set as their themes.

Contains a mixture of Fantasy, fable, and personal stories. Humor, twists, and strange storytelling within.


Content Warning: animal abuse.

Once Upon a Time is a lovely place to begin.

Some of my favorite stories were the ones that written as fables. I’m specifically thinking of red-breasted robins here and how Mr. Jarvis imagined they might have ended up with such bright chests. Other readers should have the opportunity to be delighted by that turn of events just like I was, so I won’t share any further details about how it might have worked. All I ask is that you keep an eye out for this reference and enjoy it as much as I did once you find it.

While I normally love seeing a wide variety of genres being mixed together, I found some of the combinations to be a little jarring in this particular case. The tone of one tale might be somber and realistic while the next one could be lighthearted and obviously set in a fantasy universe. It was hard for me as a reader to leap around like that so often, especially since certain portions were written from a first-person perspective about characters who had concerning personality flaws that neither they nor the people around them ever acknowledged. It would have been easier for me to adjust if the writing style had remained more consistent throughout this collection.

With that being said, it was interesting to see how the characters thought about the world. Most of the human ones lived in rural communities or in otherwise rather quiet and isolated circumstances. It takes a specific sort of personality to thrive in such places, and the author did a good job of exploring what sort of person is often drawn to either spending a lot of time on their own or only seeing the same small number of folks over and over again.

I’d recommend Darkest Dean – Animal Short Stories to anyone who wants a little of everything in their next read.

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Bunny Business: A Review of War Bunny

 Thank you to Berthold Gambrel for reviewing this book and recommending it to me. You were right, Berthold. This is my sort of book for sure.

Book cover for War Bunny by Christopher St. John. Image on cover shows a drawing of a rabbit looking over its left shoulder. The rabbit’s body is comprised of a pink and green floral pattern that looks like wallpaper. Title: War Bunny

Author: Christopher St. John

Publisher: Harvest Oak Press

Publication Date: June 3, 2021

Genres: Fantasy

Length: 422 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars



In a post-apocalyptic world where humans are extinct and animals thrive, a young rabbit starts to wonder why rabbits must accept their status as prey animals. She asks pointed questions of the warren elders, and gets exiled for it.

Without a warren, she’s enormously vulnerable, but she reaches out to others in desperate straits. Soon, she’s locked in a ferocious battle for survival—and maybe even freedom.

Part naturalistic adventure, part modern-day fable, War Bunny is a fast-paced story about friendship, honor, standing up for yourself, and coming of age.


Content Warning: Blood, death, an infertile rabbit, pregnant rabbits, religious themes (from a rabbit religion that is vaguely similar to Christianity but heavily filtered through the perspective of a prey species).

Fables are for everyone.

This book had a large cast of characters that were well developed and memorable. I kept a list of who was who because I do that with every novel I read, but there were plenty of context clues included in the scenes to jog my memory as well. It’s difficult to strike the right balance between helping readers remember how characters are connected and pushing the storyline forward, so I commend Mr. St. John for his hard work here. He did an excellent job of differentiating everyone and making it easy for me as a reader to connect with all of the characters.

Some of my favourite portions were the ones that explored philosophical questions about the tension between nature and technology, the ethics of self-defence, how religious texts can be used and misused depending on the intentions of the rabbit reading them, and more. This is something I’m saying as someone who generally shies away from philosophical discussions, but they were appealing to me when wrapped up in an exciting and unique storyline that allowed readers to come to our own conclusions about what the right decision might be in each scenario.

The world building was as complex as it was creative. I should note that it did take me a couple of chapters to fully settle into the plot because of how much was happening and how the narrative perspective kept shifting from one character to the next. There were perfectly understandable reasons why the author wrote it this way, though, so I’d encourage other readers to stick with it for at least a few chapters before deciding if this is the right book for you. There was still a lot to enjoy in the beginning, and everything gelled together beautifully once I’d gotten to know the main characters and had the chance to use context clues and footnotes to figure out what certain terms mean in the rabbit’s language and how their society was structured. Think of this like enjoying multiple courses of food at a fancy dinner party. Each one is unique, but they all pull together to reinforce the same themes by the time dessert arrives (or, in this case, the grand finale).

I also loved the subplot about what happened to humanity. Rabbits are aware that people used to exist in this universe, but the reasons why we disappeared weren’t so clear to them. Clues about this topic were gradually shared as the storyline intensified, and I was intrigued by how the characters interpreted the ones that were well outside the experience of  anything rabbits have known before. The more I learned, the deeper I wanted to wade into both the truth and how the animals who inherited Earth would interpret that data based on their own experiences.

War Bunny was a breath of fresh air.


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Big Dreams to Achieve: A Review of Oli the Old Owl

Oli the Old Owl by Lee Keene book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of a young boy standing in a forest behind two houses. He’s looking at an owl that’s sitting in a tree whose leaves are gone. It’s winter and snow covers the ground. Title: Oli the Old Owl

Author: Lee Keene

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 29, 2021

Genres: Children’s, Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 10 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars


A story of loneliness and fantasy.

Imagination transmogrifying into Reality!

A secret memory that only the little boy will know!

A quaint memory that will stay with the little Sanford.

The Winter of 1998.


Manchester, Tennessee.

7-year old Sanford ambles about….

An active imagination that takes him far and wide!

Questions for which physically, he will probably never get answers to……probably.

Could Sanford encounter a woeful creature with thoughts and abilities to share?

His imagination leads him amongst the bucolic grounds of Coffee County…..

Stories of the Old Owl, who woefully wasted his life, while wishing and thinking.

This Old Owl named Oli.

Oli hides high amongst the trees.

His fears have bedeviled him, and crushed his vim and vigor.

Oli wanted something that very few will achieve, but refused to change.

His insecurity enwreathed him mentally, and would not leave him!

How long can Oli hide?

If Sanford and Oli were to meet, what thoughts might transmogrify?


Winter is the perfect time to reflect on the past.

I admired the author’s willingness to experiment with children’s fiction. Just about every other book I’ve ever seen that was written for this age groups was a picture book, but this one contained no pictures at all other than the one illustrating the cover. It was also fascinating to meet a character who had not achieved the goal he set so many years before. Stories written for this age groups usually show characters succeeding at whatever they put their minds to do even if they have to fail a few times in the process. These were only two of the ways in which the author purposefully broke the rules, and I found his choices intriguing and refreshing. There is definitely something to be said for modelling emotionally healthy ways to fail to such a young audience.

There wasn’t a great deal of plot development or conflict in this tale. Sanford and Oli spent a great deal of time talking about their feelings and comparing Sanford’s plans for his life with Oli’s disappointment at how things had turned out in his own life. As much as I appreciated seeing male characters talk about their feelings so openly and freely, I did find myself feeling restless with how slowly everything was turning out. It would have been helpful if these two characters had faced an obstacle either together or separately that reinforced their earlier conversations. When combined with the lack of pictures, the slow pace would make me reluctant to read this to young children who haven’t recently dealt with a failure of some kind.

The fantasy elements of the plot were subtle and gentle. They made it all feel like a fable at times, although it didn’t actually seem to be based on any pre-existing fables or legends so far as I could tell. This pattern repeated itself with the handful of Christmas references that were thrown into the storyline but never expounded upon. While this wasn’t a Christmas story per se, it also reminded me of the many different types of tales that are told during and about that season. There is definitely something to be said for leaving so much room up for interpretation as this was something I could see myself recommending to people who don’t celebrate Christmas or generally read the fantasy genre. The little hints of those elements were enough to appeal to those of us who enjoy reading about such topics  but not so much as to dissuade other audiences from giving it a try in my opinion.

Oli the Old Owl was a thought-provoking read.


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