Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH meets Warriors in this charming novel that proves that even the smallest rabbit can be the biggest hero from publishing power couple Santa and Simon Sebag Montefiore.
Life is an adventure. Anything in the world is possible—by will and by luck, with a moist carrot, a wet nose, and a slice of mad courage!
Shylo has always been the runt of the litter, the weakest and quietest of all of his family. His siblings spend their days making fun of him for not being like the rest of them. But when Shylo stumbles across a band of ratzis and overhears their evil plan to take a photo of the Queen in her nightie, it’s up to this unlikely hero to travel to London and inform the Royal Rabbits of London about the diabolical plot! The Royal Rabbits of London have a proud history of protecting the royal family and now the secret society need to leap into action to stop the ratzis...
But can a rabbit as feeble and shy as Shylo convince them that Queen is in danger?
About the Author
Santa Montefiore’s books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages and have sold more than six million copies in England and Europe. She is married to writer Simon Sebag Montefiore. They live with their two children, Lily and Sasha, in London. Visit her at SantaMontefioreauthor.com.
Simon Sebag Montefiore’s bestselling and prize-winning books are now published in over forty-five languages. His new book The Romanovs: 1613–1918 has been universally acclaimed and is already a bestseller in the UK, Australia, and the USA where it was on the New York Times bestseller list for eight weeks. Montefiore has won literary prizes for both fiction and nonfiction. His latest novel, One Night in Winter won the Best Political Novel of the Year Prize and was longlisted for the Orwell Prize. He is now writing the third novel in this trilogy. Follow Simon on Twitter at @SimonMontefiore. For more information visit SimonSebagMontefiore.com.
Kate Hindley is an illustrator who graduated from Falmouth School of Art in 2008. She lives and works in Birmingham.
Read an Excerpt
The Royal Rabbits of London
IN A DEEP, DARK BURROW at the edge of the forest, Horatio, the old gray rabbit, heard the rustle of leaves and the patter of paws. He put down his book, ears sharp, and sat up straight in the big, tatty armchair where he had been warming himself in front of the fire.
Horatio was elderly and grizzled, and a stump was all that remained of his hind left paw, but his hearing was as good as ever and he listened carefully as the footsteps grew louder. The old rabbit’s heartbeat quickened and he began to slide the handle from his walking stick, easing a blade into the dim light.
When a rabbit has been hunted by his enemies, who want to kill him, he never sleeps easy again. “Who twitches there?” he demanded, looking over the cracked frame of his spectacles. His voice sounded strangely gruff, more like a dog’s growl than a rabbit’s murr.
“It’s me, Shylo Tawny-Tail,” replied a soft voice nervously. In the doorway, Shylo gave a gentle thump of his hind paw—for that is what polite rabbits do when they arrive somewhere—and twitched his nose.
Horatio relaxed and slid the sword back into his walking stick. “Come in, young Shylo Tawny-Tail,” he said. But the small, skinny rabbit hesitated, for although he had visited Horatio more than a dozen times now, the old buck was still an alarming sight.
“Don’t be afraid! You’ve come back for more stories about the Old World, have you?” murred Horatio, whose smile revealed a broken yellow tooth.
“Yes,” Shylo replied, bounding into the gloomy room.
Horatio looked at Shylo’s narrow shoulders, his scrawny body, the red eye patch worn to correct his squint, and he had yet to see a weaker and more feeble bunny. But Horatio knew that looks could be deceiving. After all, hadn’t he been just as weak and feeble once? Hadn’t he then risen to great heights?
He smiled at the courage of the small bunny because not only was it forbidden by the Leaders of the Warren to venture this close to the farm, but it was also absolutely and totally and unmistakably forbidden to visit Horatio.
When Horatio had arrived here all those years ago, broken in both body and mind—not to mention strange in manner, for he belonged to a very different variety of rabbit—they had barred their burrows against him. He had been forced to build a home on the other side of the forest, only a short distance from the farm that nestled in the valley below.
Indeed, fear of strangers was a terrible thing. But Shylo’s curiosity seemed so much greater than his initial fear. It was his curiosity that had led the little bunny to Horatio’s burrow in the first place and was what kept him coming back again and again.
“So where does your mother think you are this time?” Horatio asked.
“I said I was going to dig up turnips,” Shylo replied, one ear flopping over his forehead in embarrassment because, as lies go, it wasn’t a very good one.
“Well, no one will find you in this part of the forest, that’s for sure.”
Horatio pointed at the store cupboard with a shaky paw that was always wrapped in a bandage. “You’ll find a bag of turnips in there. I can’t send you back empty-handed. You know you could get into a lot of trouble coming to see me.”
“Mother says you’re . . .” Shylo hesitated suddenly because what his mother said about Horatio wasn’t very polite.
“Crazy?” Horatio finished the sentence with a chuckle, then erupted into a fit of coughing. “I know what they say. That I’ve lost my mind and that my enemies will find me here and put everyone in terrible danger. Fear is born out of ignorance, Shylo Tawny-Tail. Don’t ever forget that. Your Leaders don’t know any better.”
Shylo gazed at the long scar on the old buck’s cheek, the bandaged paw, the ugly stump of his missing fourth paw, and his right ear, which seemed to have been almost entirely bitten off, and he understood why other rabbits were afraid of crazy Horatio. The old rabbit looked like he’d had a fight with Tobias the farm cat, and won. But Shylo had discovered, quite by chance, that the battle-scarred buck was really a surprisingly gentle rabbit once you got to know him.
Horatio took off his glasses. “Sit down, Shylo. Now where did we finish last time?”
Shylo went to the bookcase and pulled down a large, heavy book and carried it, rather unsteadily, across the room. He perched on the stool beside Horatio and pushed the book, covered in cobwebs, onto the big buck’s knee. Horatio read out its title: “The Rise and Fall of the Great Rabbit Empire.”
“You were telling me about the Great Rabbit Empire,” murred Shylo eagerly. “When the Great Rabbits of England governed much of the Rabbit World. At that time, most of the Human World was ruled by the Great British Empire. ‘As above, so below,’ I believe you said. Then both empires fell—”
“Yes, the British lost many of the lands they’d conquered in faraway places and so did the Great Rabbits,” Horatio interrupted. “Now America is the most powerful country in the Human World and the American rabbits are the most powerful in the Rabbit World. But let’s go back to the beginning. Tell me about the oath made long ago to protect the Royal Family. Tell me about that band of elite rabbits.”
Shylo’s eyes shone with excitement. “Many hundreds of years ago, when King Arthur ruled England, he declared that rabbit pie should be the favorite meal of the kingdom. But his seven-year-old nephew, Prince Mordred, loved rabbits. He knelt down in front of the whole court and begged his uncle to change his mind.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Size doesn't determine worth in this hopping adventure, which packs tension in a fun and exciting tale. Shylo is the runt of his family—something his siblings refuse to let him forget. But none of them know of his secret, forbidden friendship with an old rabbit on the edge of the forest. When Shylo overhears rats plotting against the Queen of England, he informs the old rabbit, who sends little Shylo on the adventure of his life. This is a tale with a bit of a quirky mixture. There's a more serious, traditional feel with the burrow life, where Shylo is constantly being picked on; there's a touch of modern day as rats run around with tablets and cameras; there's poking humor as the dangerous rats, aka Ratzis, want to publish pictures in the tabloids; and there's the palace in London with it's royal life and dangers. Parts of this hang on modern whimsical, while others have a more traditional atmosphere like Watership Down. It's odd, lifts eyebrows at times. . .and it works. Splendidly. Shylo is the perfect, tiny hero. He's shunned by his siblings but still has the never-dying love of his mother. He's brave and kind, which is clear from the first pages. It's easy to like him and root for him until the very end. And he does get into some pretty sticky situations, which are sure to leave readers on the edge of their seats. Still, the authors manage to keep even the most tense moments very age appropriate with a slight sense of humor wiggled in. The ending wraps everything into a nice, inspiring package yet leaves the door open to many more adventures to come. As an extra bonus, there are ample illustrations sprinkled between the pages. These slide right along with the fitting scenes and help bring the very colorful characters to life. Not only these illustrations, but the text itself keeps a lightness to the story which is perfect for even more reluctant readers. To top it off, the book holds a more elegant, high-quality feel. It's compact, shines with golden trim, opens to display bindings worthy of the Queen, and ends with a sweet, entertaining recap of the characters. This is a tale I can highly recommend and will be grabbing up the next books in the series myself. I received a complimentary copy, and my kids and I loved this book so much that I'm leaving my honest thoughts.