Review: Gregor: The Underland Chronicles, by Suzanne Collins

If you liked Percy Jackson and the Olympians, here’s a series you should try:  Gregor:  The Underland Chronicles, by Suzanne Collins, better known as the author of The Hunger Games trilogy.  (I know, what’s with the cool Percy and Gregor names, right?)  I was introduced to this series through my 5th grader.  It is exciting, captivating, and surprising philosophical.  It’s similar to The Hunger Games in terms of making you think.  What is right, and what is wrong?  What is good and what is evil?  Is it really that black and white, or is it more gray?  And, what is ethical?  What lengths are appropriate to go to, to have an advantage over your enemy?  Do prophecies really predict the future?  Or are we the masters of our own fate. Is anything more important than family?  The Underland Chronicles are filled with thought provoking  questions, fantastical creatures, a war between human and rats, rats discrimination against mice, huge flying bats, flesh eating creatures and plants, and more.

There are 5 books in the series, and I’ll try not to give too much away:

Book 1:  Gregor the Overlander

Gregor’s father disappeared years ago, and now Gregor is living a life of poverty with his Mom and little sister, Boots in New York City.  One day, Boots falls into a grate in the basement laundry room, and Gregor follows her.  Down and down, they fall to the bottom of a huge dark passageway, and discover the Underland, a fantastical dark land underneath the city.  There are giant cockroaches, rats, bats, and spiders – and there are humans.  The Underland is on the verge of war, and Gregor’s arrival has been foretold in the Prophecy of Gray.  The Underlanders think he is the Overland Warrior, the Son of the Sun – the only hope to save the humans and the underground, stone city of Regalia, from destruction by the rats.  But Gregor’s just a skinny 11 year old, and he just wants to go home with his sister.  Will he stay and help?  Is he really the warrior? What will happen on the quest? 

Book 2:  Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane

Gregor’s little sister, Boots is kidnapped, and Gregor must return to the Underland to find her.  Turns out, the Underlanders need him for another prophecy.  Gregor is sent on a new quest with his bat, Ares and Princess Luxa.  They must travel through the dangerous Waterway to find and slay the Bane.  But is the Bane really the enemy?  Will Gregor succeed in his quest?  Will he lose the people most precious to him?  And what is a Rager?

Book 3:  Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods

Gregor is called to the Underland again, for the Prophecy of Blood, to avert a catastrophic plague.  His mother refuses to let him go, so Gregor, his mother, and Boots all travel to Regalia for a “short meeting”.  But all is not as it seems.  The terrifying, lethal plague is contagious, and quickly spreading among all warmblood races.  The prophecy is a riddle, and Gregor is sent on another quest to obtain the cure, with humans, rats, and a giant cockroach all travelling through a dangerous jungle.  Twists and turns abound, and what will Gregor do when he uncovers the horrific truth?

“Turn and turn and turn again, you see the what but not the when.  Remedy and wrong entwine and so they form a single vine.”

Book 4:  Gregor and the Marks of Secret

The rats have always dominated the mice, or “nibblers”.  But now, the mice are disappearing.  Why?  Gregor and Luxa set out to find out what’s going on, and are shocked at what they find.  Can they save the mice from genocide?  Did Gregor make a mistake in book 2, regarding the Bane?  Is Gregor falling in love with Luxa?  Why is there no prophecy for this event?  Are humans only known for killing?  The war between rats and humans has started, and we are now at the door of the final, secret prophecy, the Prophecy of Time.

Book 5:  Gregor and the Code of Claw

Gregor finally reads The Prophecy of Time, which call for the warrior’s death.  Just how far is Gregor willing to go to save the Underland humans?  Will he sacrifice his life?  An army of rats is approaching Regalia, and this time all of Gregor’s family is in danger in the Underland.  Will the humans be able to crack the Code of the Claw?  Will they be able to stop the rats?  How?  Given their histories, is peace possible between humans and rats?  Will Gregor ever master echolocation?  Can he control being a Rager, or will it consume him?  The war is in full swing and death is everywhere. 

Overall

The Underland Chronicles are full of good questions, questions worth asking (that’s why there’s so many in this post).  Is it okay to question authority?  Would you do what is right, at the risk of being punished?  Will you do what’s necessary, even if it might destroy you?  Gregor grows up quickly, faced with challenges and mysteries, one after another.  Things are never as they seem.

Like a modern day, urban Alice in Wonderland, Gregor is a treat to read.  Suzanne Collins knows how to hold your attention and make you care about her characters.  A fantasy adventure, with themes of morality, values, ethics, duty, destiny, and humanity, The Underland Chronicles are sure to make you and your kids ponder each character’s choices. Thrilling battles, puzzling quests, and cliffhanger endings will keep you turning the page, again and again.

Recommended for reading level ages 9 -12 (grades 4 – 7); I think it’s perfect for 9 and up – I know I enjoyed reading it, as did my 14 year old.

Price is $6.99 for each book, or $21.75 for the complete 5 book set on Amazon.  Definitely worth spending $20+ for these books – it’s better than seeing a movie, and your kids will have an enthralling, smart series of books to read for school.  Oh, and skip The Red Pyramid and read this instead.

P.S.  You can see from the photo, our copies are getting worn out from reading…

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