Gregor and the Marks of Secret is the fourth book in the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2006 by Scholastic.
Spoilers for The Underland Chronicles.
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“Now, with the third prophecy fulfilled, Gregor is drawn into a crisis. For generations, rats have run the mice—or “nibblers”—out of whatever lands they’ve claimed, keeping them on the move. But now the mice are disappearing, and the young queen Luxa is determined to find out why.
When Gregor joins her on a fact-finding mission, the true fate of the mice is revealed. It is something far more sinister than Gregor or Luxa had imagined—and it points the way to the final prophecy he has yet to fulfill. Will Gregor’s role as warrior and his abilities as a rager be put to the test?”
“You didn’t raise me,” said the Bane. “Razor did. He’s the one who cared for me.”
“Yes, he’s the one who cared for you, and how did you repay him? Tell the warrior here, before he starts feeling too sorry for you. Go on; tell him!” shouted Ripred.
But the Bane did not continue. Instead, he trapped his long pink tail between his front paws and began to suck on the end of it.
“Oh, boo hoo hoo, the poor little abused Bane. But Razor treated him as his own pup. Went hungry so he could eat, protected him, tried to teach him to survive. And where is Razor now? Dead. And why? Because Pearlpelt here killed him over a crawler carcass,” said Ripred.
“I didn’t mean to,” whimpered the Bane. “I was hungry. I didn’t think it would kill Razor.”
“For you to knock him off a cliff? Well, that is the usual result,” said Ripred.
“I didn’t think he’d go over the cliff. I didn’t hit him that hard,” said Bane, his words garbled by his tail.
“And then you tried to eat his body to conceal the evidence.” Ripred turned to Gregor in disgust. “That’s how we found him. Soaked in Razor’s blood, chewing on his liver.”
“No, no!” said Hazard in a shrill voice. “It is one of the marks of secret.”
“What’s that?” asked Gregor.
“A secret means of communication. An old collection of symbols that you could use to pass information to your allies but that were unknown to your enemies,” said Howard.
“But, Hazard, no one has used the marks of secret for centuries. They have lost all meaning,” said Luxa.
“Not in the jungle,” said Hazard. “We use them. Frill taught them to my father and he to me. That is the scythe.”
“And that means something bad?” said Gregor, nodding to the mark.
“It means death,” said Hazard, and he was starting to cry.
“It means someone will die?” said Luxa, holding him close.
“Not just someone,” said Hazard. “It means us! It means we who see it will die!”
“Upon this crown my pledge I give.
To my last breath, I hold this choice.
I will your unjust deaths avenge,
All here who died without a voice.”
Warnings: Violence, death
Recommended Age Range: 12+
What I Liked:
The Bane is slightly creepy and disturbing, especially if you look at his first appearance in the tunnels with Ripred and Gregor (a part is quoted above), and then his appearance at the front of a rat horde. The transformation is shocking and more than a little menacing, and just gives further hype to the inevitable face-off between Gregor and the Bane.
Aw, the poor, poor mice. This is a really sad, hand-to-mouth-gasping book in regards to what the rats are doing to the mice. It makes Luxa’s reaction a little more understandable, even though you know that it won’t end well because Collins has been more-than-hinting that the solution lies elsewhere.
I like the fact that Collins diverted from the usual “they go on a quest and follow a prophecy” plot line that she used for the first three books. The prophecy in this book isn’t discovered until later, and after it’s a little too late to do anything other than just acknowledge it.
Obligatory cheer for Boots and Ripred. Yay!
Character development for Luxa! That’s been a long time coming. She’s still not completely there yet, but you can definitely see the change in her.
What I Didn’t Like:
Gregor, why do you keep doing stupid things?
Oh, no, it’s the thing I’ve been dreading. I still won’t go into until the next book, but it involves Gregor, Luxa, their relationship, and their age.
Gregor and the Marks of Secret is probably the saddest in the Underland Chronicles. It really brings to mind the Holocaust, in a way. Also, the Bane finally appears as a villain and there is lots of buildup for the final book. This is another series where the books get better and better, and I love that.
Coming Up Next: Gregor and the Code of Claw