Monday, September 28, 2015

Book Review | The Underland Chronicles (Book 2)

Hey hey.  This review is for the second book in the Underland Chronicles.  To read the review for the first book, clicky click right here.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane:
(I’m going to break this up into two parts – one without any spoilers, and one quick paragraph with a few.  I’ll give a warning when I switch ;)

Let me just start by saying that most of these books end in such a way that you feel a desperate need to go get the next book right away.  (If I’m exaggerating, it’s only slightly.)  After finishing Overlander I was just a tad upset because Barnes and Noble is 40 minutes away – not exactly something I can just do on a whim.  I considered just getting the second book on le Kindle, but I apparently have a sickness and I cannot have some books from a series electronically and others in the physical realm.  Nope.  Can’t.  It has to be one or the other.  (I’m okay having some different books by the same author in both formats, though, so maybe I’m not completely insane?  Maybe?  Someone?)

So yes, despair.  It didn’t last long, though, and I was finally able to get the next book.  Collins doesn’t give a ton of updates on the condition of Gregor’s family after the whole Underland affair, which was a little bit of a letdown.  Nothing necessary to the plot, but I think just a pinch more of detail re: Gregor’s family and friends would have made the book (and whole series) more endearing – it’d make them feel more like ours.  But okay, moving on.  Pretty quickly, Gregor and Boots, his baby sister, are back in the Underland, once again facing a prophecy that will require a thrilling quest. 

This book is much more violent and graphic than the first (though I think it’d be fine for 8+ as long as they’re not very sensitive), but it’s also more gripping.  We learn more about the characters – what moves them, what makes them tick, how they respond to difficult situations.  We’re also introduced to several new characters and to a whole new part of the Underland – a massive waterway with many a dangerous beast. 

Gregor, the Warrior mentioned in many of the Underland’s prophecies, is told to go and kill the Bane, a giant and fearsome white rat.  He and several others set out to do so, but in the end only Gregor and his bat bond (in the Underland, humans and creatures can become “bonds,” swearing to protect one another’s life as if it were their own), Ares, can actually meet the Bane.  The events of the journey have made Gregor almost eager to kill the rat.  Now and at several times throughout the series, Gregor wonders at his ability to kill.  

This meeting is the climax of the book, but really, the whole thing was just so action-packed.  I couldn’t put it down.  The third book is really where the best themes come into play and the larger questions of the necessity of war arise, but this book is great for a few reasons.  It starts to really display the hate and distrust that some species hold for the others (namely, the rats and the humans).  Gregor emerges as an opponent of the rampant disregard and discrimination, sometimes yelling at his fellow humans despite being closer to them than to the other creatures.  (A good lesson for anyone, but especially for kids – sometimes you need to challenge your friends.)  More than in the first book, we really start to see a tug of war going on in Gregor’s mind and in the Underland over Machiavellian tactics.  It’s really engaging to read along. 

Now I want to dive a little deeper.

wat? this is me diving deeper.
*This part has a spoiler.  I’m not going to share the ending or the specific characters that die, but there is a plot spoiler.  Don’t read this part if you are the type to lose interest in a book when certain plot points are shared.
Last warning.


Like I said, Gregor is sent to kill the Bane.  From the prophecy, it sounds as though the Bane will lead an army of rats to kill all the humans in the Underland.  Gregor is their only hope. 

Unfortunately, it turns out the Bane is just a baby.  A wee pup.  Gregor’s heart is a tad hardened at this point in the story, but still, it is difficult for him to decide whether or not he should kill the Bane, regardless of what the prophecy says, since he’s only a baby.  I’m not going to reveal what he chooses to do, but I will say that “Is it worth it?” is certainly a question we’ll ask several times during the series.  Remember, the Machiavellian philosophy that the end justify the means plays a prominent role in these books, and it’s something Gregor struggles with often.  This book does a solid job of exploring those ideas and the repercussions of merciless, preemptive action.  

It’s really fantastic. 

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