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.
Title: War Bunny
Author: Christopher St. John
Publisher: Harvest Oak Press
Publication Date: June 3, 2021
Length: 422 pages
Source: I received a free copy from the author.
Rating: 5 Stars
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A BUNNY FIGHTS BACK?
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.