The Underland Chronicles is a series of five books (Gregor the Overlander, Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, Gregor and the Marks of Secret and finally, Gregor and the Code of Claw) which tell the story of Gregor, who does not lead your typical twelve-year-old life.
His dad went missing a year ago and hasn’t contacted since. It’s summer now and he hardly sees his mother as she is working to provide for their poor little family living in a cramped apartment. Meanwhile, he cares for his two younger sisters as well as his grandma who is slowly losing touch with reality.
It’s a big responsibility for someone so young—but it all changes the day Gregor and his two-year-old sister fall down a grate in the laundry room and land in the Underland. In this new world, thousands of feet below New York City, people are pale and have purple eyes; cockroaches, rats and bats are ginormous; and it is always dark. All Gregor wants is to return home, but when he finds out that the Underland has a prophecy—and he’s in it—he realizes his journey home is going to be longer and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.
I read this series for my own personal pleasure and was not required to write a review. Therefore, all comments and opinions are entirely my own.
When I finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy a year and a half ago, I wanted more. Whenever I read a book (or series) that I really, really like, I usually look up the author and see what else he/she has written. So, when I had finished Katniss and Peeta’s story, I looked up Suzanne Collins and found she had written the Underland Chronicles before writing the Hunger Games. I checked out the first book from the library and started reading.
It was pretty good. Not extraordinary or anything, but there was a cool twist at the end and I enjoyed the concept, so I requested the second book. This book, too, yielded similar results. It was pretty good; nice twist at the end. I supposed I may as well finish the series, but so far, I liked Hunger Games a lot more. Then I read the third book and that’s when it changed. Midway through Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, the stakes got higher, and the story became more than just one journey after another as different aspects began tying it all together.
I zoomed through the last two books and by the time I was finished, I had tears in my eyes and a burning desire to buy them as soon as possible.
Why do I like this obscure series so much? In fact, why do I like it almost as much (if not equally as much) as the famed Hunger Games trilogy?
Well, let me tell you.
First of all, I was fascinated by the world Collins created. In each book, we’re introduced to a new Underland creature (sometimes, more than one!) and while they are familiar to us as they exist in our world, too, she gives them new, unique attributes and suddenly, they feel like people. After reading the series, I wanted a huge bat like Ares that could fly me places and I was less repulsed by rats because I fell in love with the sarcastic, yet caring Ripred.
I also just loved Gregor as a character. On the one hand, he’s your average twelve-year-old boy and I found myself laughing at his realistic reactions to events in the Underland and the sassy things he would say. But on the other hand, because of his unique situation, he is very mature for his age. I loved the way he cared for his sisters, looked up to Vikus, befriended Luxa; by the end of the series, he has such a deep respect and genuine love for these people he hadn’t even known existed only a year before.
I’m trying not to spoil anything, but there is a series of prophecies throughout the books and I really enjoyed trying to solve them. Each time, I failed, but I was never upset. My eyes would widen, I’d gasp and give Collins an air high-five. Her prophecies, rhymes and songs are so well written. Certain ones leave chills down my spine the way I “hear” it echoing in my head.
I also want to quickly mention (as I did in my review for the Hunger Games) that Collins’ characters are just so real. Each one is unique, each one is broken and each one is struggling to find peace. They all have different backgrounds, so each of their roads to peace are going to look different from someone else’s.
The rivalry between the rats (or Gnawers) and the humans (or Killers) seems like a silly concept when you read the synopsis. But not when you’re reading. In fact, there’s something about their undying hatred for each other that really left an impression on me. They’ve been at war with each other on and off for centuries that they’ve forgotten why they started hating each other in the first place. They just do because they always have. And Gregor almost falls prey to that line of thinking. But as he gets to know the rats better, he realizes it’s just prejudice—and that’s what so scary about it. We all have a prejudice against somebody or something and, just as was demonstrated in World War II, if you let prejudice reign your worldview and your actions, you end up committing unthinkable things.
That’s another thing I just can’t get over. In both the Hunger Games and the Underland Chronicles, Suzanne Collins gives us a raw picture of the realities and devastation of war. She also shows the hard choices one is confronted with and just how hard and complicated it can be to not only do the right thing, but figure out what the right thing to do is in the first place. By showing us these things, she (through Katniss and Gregor) reveals to us what really matters:
Family. Friendship. Laughter. Joy. And to always remember that life is short. Happiness may only last for a moment, so hold on to it. And the trials of life may change you, but you’d never go back to being ignorant as you were before because now you see life for what it truly is. That’s what Gregor taught me.
“There was nothing to do but keep moving forward and make the moments count.” –Gregor and the Code of Claw
I give the Underland Chronicles 5 out of 5 stars. Perfect for middle grade readers and up. There are no curse words and no innuendos, but there are some brief, bloody descriptions of battles and their aftermath to be aware of.
Valerie Cotnoir graduated from homeschooling in 2016. She is currently studying for a BA in History through online courses with Lumerit Education while working part time at the preschool at her church. Valerie was born in Montreal, Canada, but lived for fourteen years in Plano, Texas before moving with her family to the Raleigh area in North Carolina. She is the oldest of four and has two sisters and one brother. She’s been writing since she could hold a pencil and reading books just as long. She loves having deep conversations about theology, books and movies with friends and family. Her favorite memory verse is and has been for many years John 16:33:
“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”