For several years, children’s writer S.D. Smith has been creating a series of swashbuckling adventure stories – all starring rabbits. First was The Green Ember, told from the perspective of two children whose lives are upended with an attack by wolves. And it is much greater than an isolated attack; the wolves are making war upon the rabbit world.
The Black Star of Kingston is a prequel to The Green Ember. Ember Falls is the second installment in the main series, and the third – Ember’s End – is due to be published next week (its publication date moved up a bit because of the general upheaval from the coronavirus epidemic).
Smith has also published two related stories, more of novella length.
The Wreck & Rise of Whitson Mariner takes place during the great wars. King Whitson Mariner is sailing to safety, carrying a precious cargo – the royal jewels, elderly women, other women and children, and his own family, Queen Lillie and Prince Lander. Sailing on another ship with him is Lord Grimble, who might be better named Lord Grumble, a sour and resentful aristocrat who seems to believe hem and not Whitson, should be king.
And sure enough, Grimble turns out to be a traitor, in league with the feared dragons. Whitson’s ship is tricked onto treacherous rocks and is shipwrecked. Queen Lillie is kidnapped by dragons. The cargo is lost, and those aboard who are not rescued die in the water. Lieutenant Massie Brunson is ordered by the king to stay with Prince Lander at all costs. The prince, for his part, is soon seen running into the woods on shore. Massie knows he’s needed with the rescue, but he obeys the king and follows. And a great adventure ensues.
In The Last Archer, Jo Shanks is Living at Halfwind Citadel. It’s wartime, and Jo is desperate to prove he’s as good an archer as the famed Nate Flynn. But he doesn’t seem to make a very good soldier – he oversleeps, he has an unpolished sword, and his commanding officer has little use for him. But there’s an archery contest, and Jo proves his skill by not only placing but coming very close to beating Nate.
Nate needs a temporary replacement on his team of archers, and he asks Jo to fill in. Jo discovers that Nate is nothing like Jo imagined him to be. He still has trouble with the commanding officers, but he finds he’s fitting in with Nate’s crew. And then the wolves attack and enter the citadel itself.
Both stories have underlying lessons aimed at children (but equally valid for adults). They’re about obedience, mistaken impressions, trust, and having courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Using rabbits instead of children likely takes some of the immediate terror out of the situations, but children will identify with Massie, Prince Lander, Jo, and Nate. These are rollicking good stories, with good messages.
Top illustration by Zach Franzen: Whitson Mariner takes up the Stone Sword of Flint.