The Green Ember was first published in 2014 but I only came across it recently when my sister recommended I read it. She thought I’d like a fantasy tale featuring sword-wielding rabbits. I didn’t like it… I loved it! (Apologies, channelling UK Bake Off the professionals!)
Siblings Heather and Picket are two young rabbits approaching adulthood when their home in a remote part of the wood is attacked and destroyed by wolves, their parents and baby brother are abducted (or killed) and the brother and sister must flee for their lives. Fortunately they meet two other rabbits, Wilfred and Smalls, and together the four rabbits escape the wolves and find refuge and temporary safety in Cloud Mountain. Things don’t go well there for Picket and Heather, with no news of their missing family and plenty of suspicion directed at them from the other rabbits.
A quick aside – the rabbits wear clothes, smoke pipes, lives in homes like people, love the arts, farm, story-telling, sculpt, paint, throw clay, and fight. They have doctors, artists, restaurants, soldiers and apprenticeships. They also have a king and aristocracy, lots of political intrigue, and a good share of loyalty, self-sacrifice, suspicion, betrayal, and love.
I won’t say any more about the plot to avoid spoilers, but I really enjoyed the story. Heather is a smart and caring big sister, very protective of Picket almost to the extent of suffocating him, and a great friend to have on your side in a fight. Picket, devastated by the loss of his family and his failure to protect his baby brother, is considered useless and weak and clumsy by the other rabbits. Even Heather doesn’t listen to him. Picket reacts to his sense of his own failure by being angry and sullen, antagonising everyone he meets. He knows he is being foolish, especially regarding his jealousy of Smalls, but that knowledge only makes him angrier. But when Picket is given a chance to be himself, he shines. This character arc is done superbly well, and is my favourite thing about the story.
Apart from Picket’s story, I love the premise of rabbits with swords, and the tales of olden times that are dotted throughout the book. The characters are well drawn (I particularly loved Helmer), the plot of a traitor in their midst, the missing heir to the throne, and the epic battle between good (as in the rabbits) and evil (as in the wolves and birds of prey) is hugely enjoyable. Enough ends are tied up in this story to satisfy, and enough left open to send you searching for the next book in the series.
It’s also beautifully illustrated by Zach Franzen.
It’s a fun and exciting story, which TOTP and I both loved, awarding it nine out of ten Diamonds (guess we both love noble rabbits willing to fight for ideals and freedom). We’re already onto the second book in the series (there are four in total).
Has anyone read this book? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!