Prophetic visions of disaster, great escapes, desperate battles, gruelling journeys, death traps, betrayals, prison breaks, massacres, the heroic rescue of damsels from a totalitarian state…and this is a story about bunny rabbits. It is also my favourite epic saga, and has been since I was ten.
A young rabbit named Fiver has terrible visions, foretelling the doom of his warren. A few heed him and flee, journeying into unknown territory in search of a safe haven. Fiver's brother Hazel becomes their quiet, intelligent leader, faced with the difficult task of keeping his band united and alive.
Watership Down is the opposite of those epics whose heroes can slay hundreds of unnamed foes without apparent effort or risk. The rabbits' adventures are harrowing and exciting precisely because they're in mortal peril from everything – cats, dogs, roads, crows, stoats, weasels and, of course, the terrifyingly incomprehensible Man. Oh, and they have no opposable thumbs, and can only count up to four.
I do wish I had written Watership Down, but if I had, then my ten-year-old self would have been denied the joy of reading the book for the first time, sharing the heroes' struggle against overwhelming odds, and savouring every hard-won victory.
Watership Down (978 0 1400 3958 0) by Richard Adams is published by Penguin at £8.99.
Frances Hardinge’s latest book, A Face Like Glass (978 0 2307 4879 8) is published by Macmillan at £12.99.