When Fiver has an ominous premonition that death will come to the warren, his brother Hazel leads a pack of willing bucks out into the wide world. Their journey takes them through challenges and strange encounters, and Hazel must grow to be a cunning leader that he may found and protect a better warren in a safer land. Although it requires a certain suspension of disbelief, Watership Down is remarkably faithful to the animals which inspire it. The constantly involving plot can make for slow reading, but on the whole this is an intelligent, compelling, strongly written work. I highly recommend it.
Watership Down differs hugely from most anthropomorphic animal stories in that in that it remains quite faithful to its source. That is to say: these rabbits are rabbits. They do not wear clothes or cook meals in a kitchen; I'm not a rabbit expert, but it's clear that Adams has researched, and for the most part his depiction of rabbits and other wildlife is convincing. Sometimes the novel does stretch the suspension of disbelief—the rabbits don't have human lifestyles or intelligence, but there are still an unbelievable number of unusual rabbit behaviors, from singing and laughing rabbits to a militarized warren. Nonetheless, Watership Down is refreshingly realistic, and the story is all the more compelling for the fact that it could indeed occur in the country downs.
As a novel rather than a concept alone, Watership Down is sometimes slow but largely skillful. The premise—that a group of disaffected rabbits leave one warren to found another—is only mere glimpse into the overall plot, which includes a journey across the countryside, dealings with two other unusual warrens, and a lengthy search for does. The plot is constantly unfolding and the book is quite long, and so it sometimes feels like slow going. Once the reader adjusts to the unfolding plotline, however, the book becomes easier to read—and it is remarkably well written. With thoughtful detail and a complex plot, lifelike characters and skillful writing, Watership Down is on the whole an intelligent and strongly written book. It is heavier fare than many anthropomorphic-animal stories, and it has some faults, but on the whole it's a joy to read, engaging and thought-provoking, with plentiful interpretations which will stand up to rereads. I was very satisfied, and I highly recommend it.