Book Review: “War Bunny” by Christopher St. John

This is an amazing book, I’ll just say it right up front. It’s a clever blend; part fable, part post-apocalypse, part fantasy, it tells the story of Anastasia, a rabbit who is un-warrened–that is exiled from her home–and left to be “Glorified” by the “Blessed Ones”. Which is the way the rabbit religion describes being killed by predators. The rabbit religion is a pacifistic one, which views a rabbit’s purpose in the world as food for larger animals.

But Anastasia decides to fight back. After a chance encounter with a fox ends with her stabbing it with a sharp stick, she realizes that perhaps rabbits need not be helpless prey animals. And as her legend begins to grow, more rabbits, mice, and other animals flock to her side, slowly building a coalition that fights back against the foxes, coyotes, and wolves.

The world-building is phenomenal. The reason why there are no humans in this world is explained gradually, through little hints glimpsed once in a while through the eyes of animals. The rabbits study the writings of the “Dead Gods,” as a way of understanding the world, largely through scholars known as Readers and Rememberers. They also interpret the meaning of the rabbit scriptures, which include the word of the supreme being “Dah,” and indeed, one part of the plot hinges on the interpretation of a particular passage.

This is what I loved best about the book: the philosophical issues it explores. Nature vs. technology, the right of self-defense, and the ethics of killing are all explored in great detail here, and don’t think for a moment that because the characters are woodland creatures the philosophy loses any of its punch. In the grand tradition of Aesop, St. John has used non-human characters to explore big questions of meaning and morality.

But at the same time, the characters never feel like mere puppets. They are all carefully crafted and engaging. I especially enjoyed Wendy, the floppy-eared and savage rabbit heretic, and Bricabrac, the cunning rat who helps the bunnies forge their arsenal.

I know, some of you are like, “A book about talking animals? Heck no!” But… I encourage you to give it a chance. As of this writing, it’s free, so you’ve got nothing to lose. And what awaits you is a book that makes you think about old ideas in new ways.

Finally, I rarely do this, but I’m just gonna say it: I got this book after I saw an ad on Goodreads and thought “That looks like something Lydia Schoch might like.” But of course, I had to read it first to make sure, before I recommended it to her. Having read it, I feel even more strongly she’d like it.


  1. I just downloaded it from Smashwords. Some of the details you mention reminded me of parts of Watership Down, as well as the intelligent termites in Lorinda Taylor’s Kishtoba books.

      1. The British author Edin Blyton famed for children’s stories wrote a book ‘ The Hedgerow Tales’ back in the 1930s concerning a patch of countryside and the animals therein. Although a children’s book, and the animals talked to each other, it was a series of short stories about nature in the raw and very unsentimental. Compelling reading.
        Giving animals in their natural habitat always works well.
        I found a copy in my grandparents house when I was about 10 and hung onto it. Never grows old.

  2. Like Audrey, I just went and downloaded it (from Amazon). I absolutely loved Watership Down and consider it part of my inspiration for my termite culture. After all, we have a rabbit hero there who made a trip into the Underworld! A requisite for any book about heroes! Now if I could only get Berthold to read the Ki’shto’ba series! “Philosophic issues” are explored there as well, to say nothing of lots of heroic adventure.

    1. I promise I will read the Ki’shto’ba series soon. I have downloaded the first one, I need to get to it. So many books, so little time…

  3. Like Audrey, I just downloaded this book (from Amazon). I loved Watership Down and consider it part of my inspiration for the termite books. Who wouldn’t love a rabbit hero who visits the Underworld?

  4. You’ve convinced me. I just downloaded it (for free) at Smashwords, and I’ll see what I think. If I end up blogging about it, I’ll give you a shoutout in my post. 🙂

    Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. Thanks for the very thoughtful review, Berthold! I’m going to put this on my blog at and link back to you. It will also show up on my Goodreads page. Thanks again!

  6. Downloaded it, if its free I’ll get it. Don’t know when I’ll get to it, but I’m looking forward to it.

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