My place beside you, my blood for yours,
Till the Green Ember rises, or the end of the world!
The Green Ember stories began on a porch in West Virginia, with S. D. Smith and his young daughter watching rabbits cavort in their yard. Soon Smith began telling her stories about those rabbits and their adventures. Like rabbits, the stories multiplied. So did Smith's children (though not like rabbits) and they all loved the stories about #RabbitsWithSwords.
Finally, Smith decided to share his stories with a larger audience. If you want to know more, you can watch what apparently was their Kickstarter promo video. If it sounds a little funny in places, that's because for some reason the references to Kickstarter have been blanked out in this version.
The Green Ember is just a story. It's not a lesson, it's not a sneaky vehicle to teach you something. It's just a story. But I believe in the power of stories. — S. D. Smith
I also believe in the power of stories, whether from a book, a movie, a video game, or any other medium. Even at my age I must be careful what stories I let myself experience, because I'm so vulnerable to their effects. By now most of you know what's coming, my definition of a good book, slightly paraphrased: A good story inspires me to be a better person. These are good stories, not at all in a syrupy way, but shot through with reality, life, action, and beauty.
Yes, I realized I just used the term "reality" about a book with anthropomorphized animals.
It was a little jarring at first to wrap my head around the idea that the rabbits have both human and rabbit physical characteristics. That is, they are fully capable of using their front paws as hands (e.g. wielding swords, making stained glass windows, knitting), while their hind legs are rabbit-style powerful weapons. But it didn't take me long to get over it. (I wonder if it helped or hindered that I was at the same time reading Uncle Wiggily's Adventures. For the record, much as I respect the bunny rabbit gentleman, The Green Ember is 'way better.)
Let's see, what do I like about this book, other than its positive impact and the fact that I was immediately entranced and didn't want to put it down?
- The primary protagonist is a strong female character. I've mentioned before how I grew up with books that made me embarrassed to be a girl, and nearly always identified with the male characters instead. Here's a female character who can think, fight, nurture, worry, and push herself beyond her limits.
- This rabbit heroine is named Heather!
- The secondary protagonist, Pickett, is highly intelligent and mathematically talented, and his gifts don't make him a freak, but rather a valuable asset in the community.
- Due to his young age and the trauma in his life, Pickett has some dangerous emotional issues. The wisest rabbits in the community don't seek to make him "normal," but instead help him find healing through becoming more, not less, himself.
- This is very much a medieval rabbit world. They fight with swords and arrows—and feet and just a little bit of gunpowder. They make clothing by hand. Skills are learned through apprenticeship. Somehow chivalry and honor and high callings fit better in a medieval-themed world, as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis amply demonstrated. Even George Lucas peopled his high-tech future with swords and knights.
- The rabbit community values, supports, and praises excellence in every good endeavor, from cooking to fighting to building to storytelling. The end of the rabbits' world seems imminent, yet they emphasize the importance of the arts, and value doing the work of ordinary life extraordinarily well.
The ending of The Green Ember begs for a sequel, and I understand one is in the works. In the meantime, there's Smith's second book, The Black Star of Kingston. It's a distant-past prequel to The Green Ember, and definitely enjoyable to read in its own right. It's not quite as satisfying, mainly because it's much shorter, but also because the strong female characters are mostly missing. Perhaps even rabbit civilizations need to develop over time.
Thanks, Serina T. for recommending The Green Ember, and especially for letting me know about the amazon.com special when I could get the Kindle version for free. I'm hooked, of course, and bought The Black Star of Kingston at full price. Not that $3.99 is going to break the bank around here.