I picked up the first book of Suzanne Collins’ Underland Chronicles series to see if it would be good for my son. My husband and I sometimes struggle to find him good, engaging books that are at his reading level but that don’t contain material or ideas that are too mature for him. I read The Hunger Games trilogy a couple of years ago and loved it, but it’s too violent and dark for the little guy, so I thought I’d try this series. I’ll admit upfront here that I fell for these novels completely and became almost obsessed with them, even sending my husband out to the library to pick up the next book in the series as I finished one of them. I don’t like to judge books this way, but I think I liked this series even better than the The Hunger Games.
The main character of these books is Gregor, a regular kid who finds a secret underground city called Regalia where he is considered the “warrior” named in several prophecies by the founder of Regalia. In each novel of the series, Gregor returns to Regalia to fulfill yet another prophecy. Each adventure in the Underland leaves Gregor mentally scarred and grief-stricken for those friends and comrades he loses along the way. He cares about the Regalians, especially Luna, the young queen, but he is also concerned about his mother who suffers terribly whenever he disappears into the Underland. Of course, Gregor continues helping the Regalians, but the final book delves more deeply into the choices both he and other characters have to make and examines the consequences of their decisions in a much more serious way than the previous novels of the series. In the end, Collins manages to bring the fantasy series to a believable and satisfying conclusion without falling into the trap of “happily ever after.”
I’d heard good reviews of this series, but I was still surprised by how quickly these novels drew me into Gregor’s world. I felt as though I couldn’t put them down until I’d finished them all. There are many similarities between these novels and Collins’ more famous trilogy, especially the themes of children being sacrificed by their elders and the horrors of war, but these books are geared for younger readers and therefore are not quite as dark. My son, hearing that there were giant rats and cockroaches featured throughout the novels, was a bit hesitant to try them, but I think he will love them in a couple of years when he gets over his fear. I would highly recommend them to young readers who are old enough not to have rat-filled nightmares and older people who want a quick and exciting adventure series to read