As soon as I finished this captivating tale I wanted to run out and join a clan of brave warrior rabbits to go on adventures with. Horses were never my thing as a kid – I was hopping mad for bunnies, Bugs, Buster, Babs or otherwise – so this book spoke right to my I-once-unwittingly-hired-Watership-Down-from-the-video-store-as-a-child-and-still-maintained-my-unabiding-love-for-rabbits soul.
Podkin One-Ear is the son of a warrior chieftain. Podkin’s life is thrown into chaos when his home is attacked by The Gorm (a group of mutated, iron-clad rabbits who have messed with dark magic). He escapes with his siblings – older sister, Paz, and baby brother, Pook – but the young trio are in for a dangerous journey as they try and find a way to rescue their family and defeat the evil creatures that have descended upon them.
The novel is interesting in that it alternates between a rabbit bard, narrating the story of Podkin to a group of wide-eyed bunnies on Bramblemas Eve, and then delving into Podkin’s adventures as they played out.
The bard can be cantankerous at times but you can tell he has an affinity for storytelling and appreciates inquisitive minds. There were also a couple of nice moments which commented on the storyteller/listener relationship:
‘Stories belong to the teller,’ says the bard. ‘At least half of them do. The other part belongs to the listeners. When a good story is told to a good listener, the pair of them own it together.’ (pg. 80)
You also discover that Podkin is a reluctant hero in the beginning. He doesn’t commit to his lessons like Paz, even though he’s next in line to take the throne, and he doesn’t see himself as a leader. But over the course of the story Podkin is forced to step up and take responsibility, while also accepting help from his family and newfound friends along his journey.
The writing style of the novel is incredibly endearing and invokes a sense of old-school charm. The adventure elements do have their darker, scarier moments, especially when the Gorm are involved. But you can’t help but immerse yourself in the delightful, magical world author Kieran Larwood has created. I don’t know if anyone else watched episodes of Sylvanian Families on VHS in the late 80s (narrated by Bernard Cribbins – Wilf from Doctor Who!), but the whimsical animal stories in that reminded me of Podkin and his crew going on adventures that are lively but also heartfelt.
And speaking of Podkin’s clan, there is such a wonderful array of characters in the novel. Podkin himself is great because you can see the little dude has his flaws, but he’s still so young and has plenty of room to grow and learn. Older sister, Paz, has a great tenacity to her and is empathetic to others. The older rabbits they encounter – Brigid and Crom – have very interesting backstories too. Illustrator David Wyatt really brings the characters to life in his drawings, which are a lovely complement to the story.
I adored this MG novel and I can’t wait to read the next two in the series – ‘The Gift of Dark Hollow’ and ‘The Beasts of Grimheart’ – which are available right now. Hop to it!