I had pretty high expectations for this book because of its critical acclaim, movie adaptation and spin-off television show. I will say right now, this book met every expectation and then some.
The plot was not only engaging, but compelling and intense, especially during the second half when the rabbits arrive at their new home. I particularly loved the very first part where we are introduced to the Sandleford warren, the bizarre place where domesticated rabbits live and someone is snared, and the escape from the pursing rabbits of Efrafa. Some parts felt slower than others, but there was not one moment when I was truly bored with this book.
The rabbit characters took a while to become distinct and identifiable, as they all have fairly similar speech patterns and characteristics, but each one served importance to the plot and had their own separate moments to shine. I found Bigwig's bravery and seriousness to be particularly admirable and the main antagonist came off as highly threatening. I feel a second reading would do even more to make these characters a bit more distinct and vivid, but they are more than fine as is.
All in all, Watership Down is a riveting novel. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys animal-themed fiction such as the Warriors series (which, I will eventually explain, I feel is a much weaker version of this same book). Some people may find the generous exposition and slightly erratic pacing to be a turn-off, but I greatly enjoyed this book and will probably enjoy it many times more in the future.
9/10. Not totally flawless, but a very worthwhile read.