Ranking The Hunger Games Movie Series

Right around the time the Catching Fire movie came out, I reviewed all three of Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games books. Now, after Mockingjay Part 2 has been released, it’s time for me to talk about the movies! All three book reviews can be found on this blog, but I’ll link to them below for ease of access.

Spoilers for all three books and all four movies.

I’ll start out by ranking the books, since I never did that when I reviewed them.

1.) The Hunger Games

2.) Mockingjay

3.) Catching Fire

A lot of people do not like Mockingjay, but I happen to be one of the few who love it. You can read my reviews of the books to find more of my thoughts (linked above). I did notice something interesting, though, while I was thinking about not only my ranking of the books but also my ranking of the movies: my actual, technical ranking of the books very closely matches my ranking of the movies. So, let’s rank the books again, this time taking specific scenes and events in consideration rather than just having an average ranking:

1.) The second half of Catching Fire

2.) The second half of The Hunger Games

3.) The first half of The Hunger Games

3.) The second half of Mockingjay

4.) The first half of Mockingjay

5.) The first half of Catching Fire

By breaking it up into “halves,” roughly, there’s a lot more variance in this ranking. Catching Fire is now both first and last, while the other two books make up the middle.

Before I rank the movies, I’d like to quickly say that I think the movies are some of the best film adaptations of books I’ve ever seen, and some of the most faithful as well. They included mostly everything important and most of what they put in that wasn’t in the book only added to the world. More about that when I talk about each film.

Now, let’s take a look at how I rank the movies and see if you can catch the similarity with the list above. I’ll be giving them their full title to avoid confusion with the books:

1.) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

2.) The Hunger Games

3.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

4.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Let’s talk about each movie in turn, in the order I ranked them.

1.) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Why is this my favorite movie of the bunch? Well, let me point out my book ranking. It’s my least favorite overall, but the second half of it is my favorite when dividing the books up into halves/sections. And the first half of the book is precisely why it’s my least favorite overall, because I absolutely despise the first half. It’s boring, it drags on and on, and it makes the pace choppy. I can’t stand rereading Catching Fire precisely because I know I have to get through that awful first half to get to the better second half, and I’m not the type of person to only read the last half of a book.

So, let’s go back to the movie now. And what the movie does that makes it not only such a great book adaptation, but also probably the best “movie” out of all of them, is that it almost completely cuts out the first half of the book. Gone are the two kids in the woods, gone is the electrified fence dilemma, gone is the interesting but tedious back-and-forth with Katniss and the Distract 12 residents. What’s kept in is minimal: Snow’s visit, Gale’s whipping, and whatever else is needed to carry the plot. What it adds is great: the intrigue behind the scenes, visual depictions of Katniss’s PTSD, more of Plutarch, who is given a life and dimensionality in the movies that is not seen in the books, and small conversations and interactions. And that’s why it’s my favorite movie, because it cuts out all the boring parts and adds important things to other scenes to keep that information in there.

Yes, the movie has its flaws. The transition from a first-person book to a third-person film means that some things are lost in translation: a truncation of the tributes’ plot, confusion over why the morphling saved Peeta (it’s never fully described how all the tributes, beyond the ones in the arena with Katniss, are in on the rebellion plot), and some other things that are best done in a book rather than in a movie. But that’s something to be expected and does not, in my opinion, cast a very large shadow over the other parts of the movie that are phenomenal.

2.) The Hunger Games

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? It’s the first movie and it’s incredibly faithful to the source material–perhaps the most faithful of all of them. It leaves almost everything in and the things it cuts is minimal. And it adds scenes with Snow and Caesar Flickerman that add to the world of Panem. It’s visually lush and beautiful, the music is great (as it is in all the movies), and the suspense is carried throughout the movie well. The shaky cam is irritating, but understandable in a movie targeted for teenagers that’s incredibly violent at heart.

My main quibble with this movie is that the transition from a first-person narrative to a third-person film completely distorts Katniss’s motives. My friend recently read the books for the first time, after seeing the movies, and told me that everything was so different when reading solely from Katniss’s perspective. It’s not just her voice that’s lost in translation, but her motivations and thus a part of her character. I’m not sure how many people understood, just from watching the movies without having read the books, that Katniss was faking her relationship with Peeta in order to get help for him, that she was playing to the audience. A vital side to Katniss’s character development is distorted, and so in a way Movie-Katniss is different from Book-Katniss. They’re not the same Katniss. And that’s okay, but it still is prominent in my mind when I watch the movie, thus spoiling my pleasure of it slightly.

3.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

This is the most brutal of all the movies; appropriately so, since Mockingjay is the most brutal of the books. Once again, the movie leaves out some things from the books, but I didn’t mind: the movies have already communicated Katniss’s PTSD well enough without having to show her descent into drug addiction. Most of what they added I also enjoyed, such as the conversation between Gale and Katniss after Prim’s death, something that was much needed in the book. Gale’s character is much more sympathetic in the movies than in the books, in my opinion, but that conversation did a lot to make viewers not necessarily feel sorry for Gale, but to feel sad at the destruction of a lifelong relationship. “I was supposed to protect your family, Katniss. I’m sorry.” Those words do a lot to make me feel more for Gale as a character than I ever did in the books (and in the first three movies, for that matter).

Other things I enjoyed from the movie: the musical cues (especially right after Coin’s death), Jennifer Lawrence’s facial acting during the scene when Coin is getting them to vote on a Capitol children Hunger Games and you can see Katniss’s realization that this woman has to go, the trust shown between Haymitch and Katniss when he agrees because he trusts her, the truncating of the epilogue (though it wasn’t really necessary; the movie could have ended on “You love me; real or not real?” “Real” and it would have been a fine ending. Movie-Katniss didn’t need the epilogue as Book-Katniss did), and the overall effect of the movie. It’s grim and brutal and it punches you in the stomach at every chance, but you are feeling what Katniss is feeling and that is immersion.

This movie’s not ranked higher because it came after the disappointing Mockingjay Part 1 and it’s simply too brutal and grim to really be a stand-out, or stand-alone, film. I would watch Catching Fire by itself; I could not watch Mockingjay Part 2 by itself without watching the first three again.

4.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The movie makers must not have realized what a fantastic thing they did by cutting most of the first half of Catching Fire out because they decided to make the first half of Mockingjay its own movie. And unfortunately, they only highlighted the weaknesses of the first half of Mockingjay. Almost nothing suspenseful happens in the first half of Mockingjay, to the point where the film had to create its own action (by showing the rescue of Peeta) to get some conflict going. But showing the rescue of Peeta led to a completely made-up scene between Katniss and Snow, which made an already long movie drag on forever.

Speaking of “long movie,” when I saw this movie I could have sworn it was 2 1/2 hours long. I walked out of the theater and realized that it had only been about 2 hours long. That is not a good thing when a move feels half-an-hour longer than it actually is.

I did like some aspects of the movie: the cheekiness of the propaganda movies, the inclusion of the Hanging Tree song, and the shock of Peeta attacking Katniss (which is where the movie should have ended, in my opinion). But most of the movie dragged on, stretching out the little conflict there was and trying to generate more through a rescue attempt that simply made me more irritated at how Gale was being portrayed. Mockingjay Part 1 is definitely the weakest link of the film series, which is a shame because it also drags Mockingjay Part 2 down with it.

So there you have it! Those are my thoughts about the Hunger Games movies. Again, like I said at the beginning, problems aside I do think these are some of the best and most faithful film adaptations of a book/book series made today. I’m sad that they’re over, but excited that I can relive the world over and over again through both the books and the movies’ vision of the world of the books.

Advertisements

The Hunger Games Weekend Extravaganza: Real Or Not Real?

Mockingjay is written by Suzanne Collins. It is the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. It was published in 2010 by Scholastic. Collins’ website can be found here.

Spoilers for all three books; MAJOR spoilers for Mockingjay.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult, Survival

Summary/Blurb:

“Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell and it is by design that she has long been a part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans—except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’ willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay—no matter what the personal cost.”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

My body breaks out in a sweat at the memory. My hand slides down the screen and hangs limply at my side. Peeta doesn’t need a brush to pain images from the Games. He works just as well in words.

“Once you’re in the arena, the rest of the world becomes very distant,” he continues. “All the people and things you loved or cared about almost cease to exist. The pink sky and the monsters in the jungle and the tributes who want your blood become your final reality, the only one that ever mattered. As bad as it makes you feel, you’re going to have to do some killing, because in the arena, you only get one wish. And it’s very costly.”

“It costs your life,” says Caesar.

“Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life. To murder innocent people?” says Peeta. “It costs everything you are.”

~Collins 22-23

“Katniss, I don’t think President Snow will kill Peeta,” she says. Of course, she says this; it’s what she thinks will calm me. But her next words come as a surprise. “If he does, he won’t have anyone left you want. He won’t have any way to hurt you.”

Then I know Prim is right, that Snow cannot afford to waste Peeta’s life, especially now, while the Mockinjay causes so much havoc. He’s killed Cinna already. Destroyed my home. My family, Gale, and even Haymitch are out of his reach. Peeta’s all he has left.

“So, what do you think they’ll do to him?” I ask.

Prim sounds about a thousand years old when she speaks.

“Whatever it takes to break you.”

~Collins 150-151

Cover Art

Warnings: Violence, death.

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

Wow. Oh, wow. I’d forgotten how powerful this book is. How gut-wrenching, how terrible it is. Anyone who says that The Hunger Games is an inappropriate book for people (teenagers/children) to read because it’s about teenagers killing each other need to read this book. The Hunger Games is by no means a glorification of murder. It is by no means teaching children that violence is okay. It’s saying exactly the opposite, and Mockingjay drives it home again and again. This is the message of the Hunger Games trilogy, people: violence changes you. Irreparably. It leaves no room for compassion or understanding or mercy. It’s a vicious cycle. Once you go down that road, you can’t go back. You can’t forget it. It will stay with you. Forever. It will change you. Forever. Case in point: District 13 and Coin. Katniss realizes almost immediately that Coin is virtually no better than Snow. Throughout the book, we see that District 13 will do to the Capitol what the Capitol did to the Districts. District 13 doesn’t even blink twice in killing children or their own (defenseless) people for the purposes of winning the war. Coin even wants another Hunger Games for the Capitol children. This is when Katniss finally realizes that this must stop. The cycle cannot keep on going. Hence, why she kills Coin.

Katniss says continuously throughout the first two books how selfish she is. But it is in this book that she starts to think about other people a lot more. The growth of Katniss, out of her selfishness into selflessness, becomes even more apparent when Haymitch and the team are talking about what Katniss did that made them feel something real. Every one of the actions listed were when Katniss was at her most selfless and most self-sacrificial. “I guess there isn’t a rule book for what might be unacceptable to do to another human being,” she says at one point (Collins 185). This revelation, if you will, of hers is what causes her to eventually kill Coin and what creates the rift between her and Gale. It is in this book that Katniss really starts to think about what this war is doing to people. To her, to the other people affected by it. At the end, when she realizes how changed people are, how desperate and full of revenge, she thinks this: “I no longer feel any allegiance to these monsters called human beings, despise being one myself. I think that Peeta was onto something about us destroying one another and letting some decent species take over. Because something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences. You can spin it any way you like. Snow thought the Hunger Games were an efficient means of control. Coin thought the parachutes would expedite the war. But in the end, who does it benefit? No one. The truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen” (377). Katniss realized that the Capitol was wrong and that there needed to be a rebellion (i.e, there is sometimes a just cause for  violence or war). But she also realized that what the rebellion was doing was also wrong (i.e., succumbing to violence rather than exhibiting mercy, justice, compassion, etc.).

This realization is why Katniss did not, could not, and should not have “chosen” Gale. I know a lot of “Team Gale” fans were legitimately upset at “how Collins chose to put Gale out of the picture;” namely, the bombing and Prim’s death. But Gale was already out of the picture way before then. He was out of the picture all the way back in Catching Fire. He became even more out of the picture when Katniss realizes how bloodthirsty and angry he is during Mockingjay. Katniss just wants it all to end. Gale wants revenge. He wants the Capitol to pay. He lies to Katniss. He is completely at odds with her. If Katniss had “chosen” Gale, she would have gone spiraling down the path of destruction. Furthermore, she would have been deluding herself. But Peeta…Peeta makes Katniss a better person. He’s kind, he’s steady, he’s good. He brings Katniss out of her despair and makes her feel hope. Katniss says at the end, “What I need to survive is not Gale’s fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that” (Collins 388). To have Katniss go with Gale would have completely gone against Collins’ message. It had to be Peeta, and only Peeta.

Now we come to the ending. More specifically, the epilogue. I know so many people who hated the epilogue. Who thought it went against Katniss’ character. That it was (yet another) example of patriarchy, another example of women being reduced to childbearer. As for me…I thought it was fabulous. Here’s two reasons why the epilogue is the best ending for this book:

1.)    Katniss has children.

2.)    Katniss has children.

Reason one: Katniss has children! What did she say throughout the first two books? That she would never have children because she didn’t want to subject them to the Hunger Games. Don’t you see? Her having children doesn’t go against her character at all—instead, it shows everything about how her character is now! She can have children now because there are no more Hunger Games. She has the freedom to have children. And she has finally realized that this is not the past. She can have children, revel in them, and know that what happened to her will never happen to them.

Reason two: Katniss has children! Why? Because Peeta wanted them. People can say whatever they want, but this action shows how much Katniss has learned and developed. Having children for Peeta is, like, the most selfless act Katniss could have done, because she put Peeta’s wants over hers. Katniss is no longer selfish.

Fan art by unknow_chan on deviantart.

What I Didn’t Like:

Finnick! Why!

Okay, one thing that has always bothered me about this series is that there is virtually no one who chooses not to fight. No one jumps in between a person and a gun (except for Katniss at one point, who as the protagonist doesn’t count). No one refuses to choose a side. Even Peeta, who represents goodness, doesn’t. I mean, I guess Prim counts, but I’m thinking more of a non-medical person here. It’s like the only option is to fight or to be a doctor, but that’s not true in real life. Nobody runs away. Nobody mutinies (besides the obvious Capitol/District mutiny. I’m talking more of captain/soldier mutiny), deserts, opts to not choose a side, whatever. I’m not talking about nameless crowds. I’m talking about characters. Collins was aiming to only show a specific side of war, and she did so very successfully, but her presentation didn’t encompass all areas of war and violence, which would have been quite wonderful to see. Then again, this is YA.

Overall Review:

Mockingjay is powerful. So powerful that I did more of an analysis than a review. The Hunger Games was great. Catching Fire was a decent follow-up. MockingjayMockingjay is the reason why these books were written.  You cannot read or consider these books separately; they need to be read and considered together to understand the scope of what Collins is presenting. Mockingjay is a masterpiece. Well, almost. But it’s definitely a masterpiece of YA.

You can buy this book here: Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

Coming Up Next: The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

The Hunger Games Weekend Extravaganza: I Am The Mockingjay

Catching Fire is written by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2009 by Scholastic. It is the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy. Collins’ website can be found here.

Spoilers for The Hunger Games.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult, Survival

Summary/Blurb:

“Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol—a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

Back in our old quarters in the Training Center, I’m the one who suggests the public marriage proposal. Peeta agrees to do it but then disappears in his room for a long time. Haymitch tells me to leave him alone.

“I thought he wanted it, anyway,” I say.

“Not like this,” Haymitch says. “He wanted it to be real.”

I go back to my room and lie under the covers, trying not to think of Gale and thinking of nothing else.

~Collins 73

“What do you think they’ll do, Haymitch? To the districts that are rebelling?” I ask.

“Well, you’ve heard what they did in Eight. You’ve seen what they did here, and that was without provocation,” says Haymitch. “If things really do get out of hand, I think they’d have no problem killing off another district, same as they did Thirteen. Make an example of it, you know?”

“So you think Thirteen was really destroyed? I mean, Bonnie and Twill were right about the footage of the mockingjay,” I say.

“Okay, but what does that prove? Nothing, really. There are plenty of reasons they could be using old footage. Probably it looks more impressive. And it’s a lot simpler, isn’t it? To just press a few buttons in the editing room than to fly all the way out there and film it?” he says. “The idea that Thirteen has somehow rebounded and the Capitol is ignoring it? That sounds like the kind of rumor desperate people cling to.”

“I know. I was just hoping,” I say.

“Exactly. Because you’re desperate,” says Haymitch.

I don’t argue because, of course, he’s right.

~Collins 168-169

Cover Art

Warnings: Violence, death.

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 4/5

What I Liked:

I think I want to talk first about the love triangle that really raises its head in this book. Obviously, it’s GalexKatnissxPeeta, and to me, it’s a very interesting love triangle. Katniss seems to waver back and forth between the two. Or does she? At the beginning of the book, it’s obvious it’s Gale. She realizes it herself after his whipping. She even states how she chose Gale over Peeta. Then, towards the end…it turns to look more like it’s Peeta. Just think about how Katniss can’t handle him dying. And how they kissed in the arena. And it’s also neither, because Katniss has a rebellion to think about and can’t be bothered with something as distracting as love. She’s also confused (“Of course, I love Gale. But what kind of love does she mean? What do I mean when I say I love Gale?” [Collins 125]).For me, it was very obvious that it was going to end up being Peeta, for many reasons, most of which were because of their interactions in the arena. Gale is only there as a possibility, because, again, these two boys represent two different things. Peeta is goodness, as I said in my first review. He’s also steadfastness and selflessness. He’s willing to let Katniss go so that she is happy. Gale is familiarity, but he’s also rebellion. He matches Katniss’ own ruthless side. Katniss could chose either of them, really, and be happy with either. They both represent different possibilities. Which possibility will Katniss choose? To put it another way, which possibility is ultimately the best for her to choose? In my opinion, it’s very clear at the end of the second book that she chooses Peeta (and, arguably, that Peeta is the best choice).

Note: Keep in mind that Katniss thinks of herself as selfish. It’s very important, especially for the last book, in understanding her development.

The Games of this book felt very different to the Games of the first book. Perhaps it was because there was an alliance going on, or something, but it felt less urgent than the first, for some reason. But at the same time, it felt more tense, because you can tell that something is building up.

A lot of difficult choices that Katniss made in this book. Her development is really starting to unfold. She recognizes her flaws, which is good, and at some points she overcomes them, and at some points, she does not. It’s a tough journey, and it will only get tougher from here, unfortunately, because poor Katniss really gets put through the wringer in Mockingjay.

Finnick! Hi!

What I Didn’t Like:

Catching Fire is sooooo slow at the beginning. And the end is very fast, so it’s a very uneven pace. It’s like, “doo-doo-doo-doo District 12, hmm hmm hmm hmm Victory Tour, da-dee-da District 12, BAM GAMES BAM ENDING.” And, unfortunately, slow beginnings tend to stick with you, because it’s the one thing I remembered the most about this book. The other bad thing about slow beginnings is that nothing seems to happen even though a lot of stuff is. Like I said, it’s very uneven.

The ending is one of those cheesy cliffhangers. I always hate it when second books do that. First books always finish as if they were stand-alones, second books always have a cliffhanger. Blarg.

The information about District 13 at the end was revealed very mechanically. Maybe that was supposed to represent Katniss’ frame of mind? The “Says Haymitch!” part was done so much better, and only a page before.

Overall Review:

Catching Fire has a slow start and a very fast end, and it’s probably the weakest in the series. That being said, I love the love-triangle dynamic (I know, right? I couldn’t believe it either!) and the revelations it makes about Katniss, Peeta, and Gale’s characters and what they represent. The Games was a very interesting one, and, judging by where Collins left the characters, the third book promises to be one heck of a ride.

You can buy this book here: Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)

And the movie here: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy)

The Hunger Games Weekend Extravaganza: May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor

In celebration of the Catching Fire movie that comes out November 22, I’ll be reviewing the Hunger Games trilogy this weekend (the reason I’m not doing it the weekend of the movie release is because I’m planning to have Series Week V around that time)!

The Hunger Games is written by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2008 by Scholastic. It is, in my opinion, the book that catapulted dystopian fiction to the top of the YA map, and the book that set the stage/formula for almost all future dystopian YA novels. Collins’ website can be found here. 

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult, Survival

Summary/Blurb:

“In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

“Prim!” The strangled cry comes out of my throat, and my muscles begin to move again. “Prim!” I don’t need to shove through the crowd. The other kids make way immediately allowing me a straight path to the stage. I reach her just as she is about to mount the steps. With one sweep of my arm, I push her behind me.

“I volunteer!” I gasp. “I volunteer as tribute!”

~Collins 22

“You are a fool,” Haymitch says in disgust. “Do you think he hurt you? That boy just gave you something you could never achieve on your own.”

“He made me look weak!” I say.

“He made you looked desirable! And let’s face it, you can use all the help you can get in that department. You were about as romantic as dirt until he said he wanted you. Now they all do. You’re all they’re talking about. The star-crossed lovers from District Twelve!” says Haymitch.

“But we’re not star-crossed lovers!” I say.

~Collins 135

I know what to do. I move into range and give myself three arrows to get the job done. I place my feet carefully, block out the rest of the world as I take meticulous aim. The first arrow tears through the side of the bag near the top, leaving a split in the burlap. The second widens it to a gaping hole. I can see the first apple teetering when I let the third arrow go, catching the torn flap of burlap and ripping it from the bag.

For a moment, everything seems frozen in time. Then the apples spill to the ground and I’m blown backward into the air.

~Collins 220-221

Cover Art

Warnings: Violence, death.

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

Ah, The Hunger Games. I got introduced to Collins through her Underland Chronicles, and I liked her enough to start paying attention to what she came out with next. That’s how I read The Hunger Games, and loved it. I haven’t read it in a while (since Mockingjay came out), and I could only really remember what they included in the movie (which I enjoyed thoroughly and thought they did a good job of taking a first person POV and turning it into third, although Katniss’ motivations are not as clear), so I was excited to read this book once again and see if I still enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. And, I did!

Reading this book again, knowing what’s going to happen in the next two…it really makes little things pop out at you. For example, Katniss’ continuous remarks that she will never have children because she doesn’t want to bring them into the Hunger Games world. Remember that, because it will be important later (and I will talk about it when I review Mockingjay). Also, Katniss’ thoughts about Gale while she’s in the arena, setting up the inevitable love triangle (which, when I first read, I didn’t much care about because I was unused/ignorant to the dearth of love triangles in YA fiction. I still say that The Hunger Games is what made that so popular).

Isn’t that beautiful?

The action in this book is so seamlessly done, with just the right amount of downtime to relieve the tension. It really just keeps you at the edge of your seat from the time they enter the arena until they leave it.

I wonder how long Haymitch and Cinna have been planning on rebelling, and when they first saw that Katniss would be an excellent vehicle to fuel that rebellion. It’s incredibly obvious that they are milking her as a symbol for all their worth (or maybe that was just Haymitch’s way of keeping her alive…?). And Katniss is exactly the right type of symbol to use, because she isn’t unaware of it, or against it. She works with them and helps them, in her own way, through her actions.

When I first read the book, I knew that Katniss would survive and inevitably win. It’s so obvious, simply because Katniss is the first-person narrator. What I didn’t expect, however, was the twist at the end with the nightlock and Peeta. I really thought that Peeta would die, or something. And Collins uses this twist really well because through it, she conveys not only Katniss’ feelings and character, but her desire to stop the Capitol’s injustice, which will in turn fuel the eventual rebellion.

Another thing I noticed is that certain characters stand for certain things. Peeta represents goodness and hope. Gale represents familiarity (in this book). Prim represents innocence. Remembering these representations will really give a whole new meaning to what Collins is saying in the series as a whole. More on that in the next two books (but more probably Mockingjay).

What I Didn’t Like:

It actually took me a little bit to get into this book simply because of the sentences and the writing. It was a little choppy and didn’t quite flow. Once I got into the book, however, I stopped noticing it.

It is not pleasant to read about teenagers killing each other.

Overall Review:

The Hunger Games is fast-paced and action-packed, and Collins doesn’t try to disguise what she is trying to show. Some of the set-up and themes that she is using in this book will come into play much more in the next two books, and, from what I know of the ending, will really give a complete picture of Katniss’ development as a character and the evolution of her thoughts and beliefs. For now, though, we are only seeing the surface, and can only sit back and enjoy the ride. A wonderful, wonderful book that I highly recommend simply because of the discussions that can be held about it, as well as for its entertainment (read: nail-biting) value and depth.

You can buy this book here: The Hunger Games (Book 1)

And the movie here: The Hunger Games

Coming Up Next: Catching Fire on Saturday, Mockingjay on Sunday, and then back to the regular schedule on Tuesday with The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Series Week IV: Wrap-Up of the Underland Chronicles

Series Rating: 4/5

Reading through these books again was fun. I spotted a few things on this read-through that I missed before, such as foreshadowing and other clues. The prophecies are always interesting to read and to try to decipher, and the fact that they always mean something beyond what is taken at first-glance means that the reader is figuring things out along with the characters. Most of the action scenes were well-done in terms of excitement and suspense, and there were a few scenes that were downright chilling.

Gregor and Luxa are probably the two characters that developed the most throughout the series, although both delved into stupid and annoying territory far too often when they should have known better. Their relationship at the end of the series is not something I enjoyed reading at all, and I thought it was unnecessary and completely wrong–Gregor and Luxa should not have had any sort of romance at all, not at their age. However, I thought that their connection was well-developed and so it made their parting at the end so much more difficult to read about.

The overall issue of war and hatred that the series deals with has some good points to it, and Collins delivers the message quite well throughout the books, but the ending laid it on way too thick, diving deeply into “preachy” territory, and left the characters in a sort of limbo where the reader does not know how things will be resolved and finished. Moving the family to Virginia would have been the perfect ending for this series–but the fact that Collins refused to answer that question gives the series an unfinished feel.

As always, here is my book ranking of this series:

1.)    Gregor and the Marks of Secret

2.)    Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods

3.)    Gregor and the Code of Claw

4.)    Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane

5.)    Gregor the Overlander

It was really easy to rank these, all things considered. It helps that there are only five books in the series as opposed to, say, ten or thirteen.

Coming Up Next: I will be taking a couple of weeks off, but I will be back in September with The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima!

 

Series Week IV: Gregor and the Code of Claw

Gregor and the Code of Claw is the fifth and final book in the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2007 by Scholastic.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Summary/Blurb:

“Everyone has been trying to keep Gregor from seeing the final prophecy, The Prophecy of Time. It says something awful, but Gregor never imagined just how awful: It  calls for the warrior’s death. The warrior being Gregor, of course.

Now, an army of rats is quickly approaching and Gregor’s mom and his little sister, Boots, are still in Regalia. In spite of the terrifying prophecy, Gregor must gather up his courage to defend Regalia and get his family back home safely. The entire existence of the Underland is in Gregor’s hands and time is running out. There is a code that must be cracked, a new princess to contend with, Gregor’s burgeoning dark side, and a war designed to end all wars.”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

That was the cruelest thing Solovet had done to him, cut him off from the world. How could she do it? How could no one notice he was gone? It had been hours now, maybe days. Didn’t anyone even care where he was? Suddenly he was so upset he had to bite his lip so he didn’t start screaming.

And then something happened that changed his entire perception of the world. Gregor coughed. It was just a small cough. But the instant it left his mouth, it was as if lightning had struck the room. He could see! Okay, not see exactly, because it was still dark in his cell. But he could tell with absolute certainty the proximity of the wall across from him. It was almost as if a picture of it appeared in his head.

~Collins 98-99

And this was how Ripred found them as he swept into the room. “What’s going on in here?” His nose was twitching, clearly registering the lingering throw-up smell. Then his eyes landed on Lizzie, and he became still, too, except for the tip of his tail, which twitched from side to side. An expression came over his face that Gregor had never seen before. If he had to put a name to it, Gregor would have called it tenderness. The rat’s voice became positively gentle. “I didn’t know we had company. But I bet I can guess who you are. You’re Lizzie, aren’t you?”

~Collins 129

Cover Art 1

Warnings: Violence, death

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Rating: 4/5

What I Liked:

Wow, what a war-filled, battle-heavy book. It’s funny, when you think about it, how similar The Hunger Games and The Underland Chronicles are. They’re both messages about war and hatred, and how war changes people, just told in different ways for different audiences. Collins is clearly trying to say that working together, setting aside past hatreds, and getting along are much better than fighting, which is a message that everybody wants to hear but not a lot of people follow. Probably because nobody likes to think that they’re wrong.

Cover Art 2

Ripred, the revelations about you in this book only made me like you more. Also, Lizzie, you’re awesome, too. And Luxa, you actually learned something! Way to go, girl! Gregor…you had your stupid moments (like the whole thing with Ripred’s puzzle…that was just wince-worthy. Sorry, Gregor), but you had your awesome ones, as well. And, props for getting that echolocation down finally (as unrealistic as it is, but hey, it’s fantasy).

I feel like Solovet was the real villain of the series. The Bane was just a maniac. Solovet was arguably scarier, because her cold, ruthless manipulation (and the short revelations about what she did to Hamnet, her son) was terrible. And it caused her soldiers to be cold and ruthless.

What I Didn’t Like:

That ending was really bittersweet. Hopeful, but bittersweet. And, unfortunately, extremely unsatisfying. The message about war at the end was preachy and unnecessary, and the fact that we know nothing about what Gregor’s family will do makes everything seem unfinished. Are they leaving or aren’t they? The whole point of saying goodbye to the Underground was because they were moving to Virginia, but if they’re not, then what was the point? It would have been better to end it with the family moving, to signify a transition. But to not do that means that the end is stuck in a sort of limbo, moving neither forward nor backward.

Awww…fan art by fyredragon5 on deviantart

My main issue with the series: Gregor and Luxa. Sorry, but twelve-year-olds getting together is not something I want to read about. Twelve-year-olds have no business dating; they have plenty to deal with already without worrying about that. It needlessly complicates relationships and personal lives. Have they even hit puberty yet? Do they even know the full meaning and impact of the words “I love you?” Do they fully, completely understand what romantic love is? How can they, when adults don’t even understand it, or show it, or live it out? Now, I’m not saying that Gregor doesn’t, or shouldn’t, or can’t care about Luxa because of his age. I’m objecting to the nature of their relationship, not the fact that they have one in the first place. And it doesn’t matter if they “seem much older than they are” or whatever. They aren’t older than they are. I’m sorry, but twelve-year-olds in a relationship is not sweet, or cute, or endearing. It’s sad. It’s sad that a “me-first, do-whatever-you-want, live-while-you’re young” message is being shown. Sorry, Collins. I like your books, but I think you made a mistake with this one.

Overall Review:

Gregor and the Code of Claw delivers on action and character development. The conclusion to the Underground is satisfactory, but Gregor and his family’s ending is not. Their fate is left up in the air, leaving one to wonder if Gregor will just angst about the war and preach peace and love until the end of his days (sorry about the sarcasm, but it did get a little overbearing at the end). Also, Gregor and Luxa’s relationship makes me rage.

Coming Up Next: My wrap-up of the Underland Chronicles

Series Week IV: Gregor and the Marks of Secret

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

Summary/Blurb:

“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?”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

“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.”

~Collins 24-25

Cover Art 1

“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!”

~Collins 128-129

“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.”

~Collins 185-186

Warnings: Violence, death

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Rating: 5/5

Cover Art 2 (yep, definitely like these better)

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.

Fan art by n-arf on deviantart

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.

Overall Review:

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

Series Week IV: Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods is the third book in the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2005 by Scholastic.

Spoilers for The Underland Chronicles.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Summary/Blurb:

“Book Two left off with Gregor reading the Prophecy of Blood: a prophecy that calls for Gregor and Boots to return to the Underland to help ward off a deadly plague. But this time, Gregor’s mother refuses to let him return to the Underland…until the rat Ripred assures the family that Gregor and Boots are just needed for a short meeting, which the crawlers will attend only if their “princess” Boots is present. Gregor’s mom finally relents, on the condition that she go with them. The Underland plague is spreading, and when one of Gregor’s family is stricken, he begins to understand his role in the Prophecy of Blood, and must summon all his power to end the biological warfare that threatens the warmblooded creatures of the Underland.”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

Warmblood now a bloodborne death

Will rob your body of its breath,

Mark your skin, and seal your fate.

The Underland becomes a plate.

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.

Bring the warrior from above

If yet his heart is swayed by love.

Bring the princess or despair,

No crawlers care without her there.

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.

Those whose blood runs red and hot

Must join to seek the healing spot.

In the cradle find the cure

For that which makes the blood impure.

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.

Gnawer, human, set aside

The hatreds that reside inside.

If the flames of war are fanned,

All warmbloods lose the Underland.

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.

~Collins 24-25

Cover Art 1

Hamnet turned back and surveyed the group. The half smile still played on his lips. There was a long silence.

“Oh, look. It’s Hamnet. He’s not dead,” said Ripred finally. The rat picked up what appeared to be a human skull and started to gnaw on it.

“The skull is a nice touch, Ripred,” said Hamnet.

“I thought so. How’ve you been?” said Ripred.

~Collins 151

“Why is it called bubble gum?” asked Hamnet, taking his piece out of his mouth to examine it.

“Because of this.” Gregor blew a bubble and popped it with a loud crack. Everyone jumped.

“Don’t do that! We’re edgy enough in here as it is!” said Ripred.

“It didn’t win me a lot of points with the Regalians. Now everybody hates me. Rats and humans.”

Hamnet laughed. “Not everybody. Ripred clearly adores you.”

“Oh, yeah, I’m a big favorite of his,” said Gregor. “Probably wondering right now how I’ll taste for dinner.”

“Might be, if you were something besides skin and bones,” called Ripred.

Gregor blew a bubble and gave it a loud pop.

“Cut that out!” snarled Ripred.

~Collins 198-200

Warnings: Violence, death.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Rating: 5/5

Cover Art 2 (I like these versions a lot more than the others)

What I Liked:

This is where I really started getting into the series. The first two books were good, but this book gave that hook that made me want to keep reading more right away.

Collins always makes sure to highlight the animosity between the humans and the rats (the world versus the rats, really) and Gregor’s views of that anger. It’s quite clear that she is trying to show the reader that this is the most important issue at stake here; this is the thing that must be overcome in order for things to change. Gregor, in a way, is the catalyst for things changing because of what he thinks, feels, and how he challenges the others. Of course, Gregor also falls into the “hating the rats” mentality occasionally, and so it is that much harder to overcome. However, it is clearly Luxa who is the focal point; until she gets over her hatred, no one will. And so far, that’s not happening, if the whole quicksand thing is any indication.

Oh, Ripred and Boots. Ripred, you’re a jerk sometimes, but you act like that because you know how to survive, and you’re trying to get others to survive, especially Gregor. Ripred also is there to show the Regalians (and the readers) a different side of the rats.

Speaking of jerks, Gregor can be really annoying, but he learns from his mistakes and tries to make them better. But still…sometimes you want to shake him because he just doesn’t get it.

Fan art by JillLenaD on deviantart

Oh, man, I totally missed the part the first time through when Boots is spinning around and Gregor is like, “Uh, no, Boots, wrong way.” Nice, Collins. Nice.

Interesting note: Hamnet said that Ripred “clearly adores” Gregor. He could have just been joking, but…I think he’s closer to the truth than Gregor seems to think. I just found this interesting, especially when Ripred says, “Who’s my favorite warrior?” in another scene. I think Ripred likes Gregor more than he lets on.

Other interesting note: Solovet was originally going to go on the quest. Knowing what we find out in this book, did she have some sort of ulterior motive? Probably. She probably wanted to make sure that no one suspected the truth.

Final interesting note: Vikus and Solovet’s children are Hamnet, Susannah, and Judith. That’s a Shakespeare reference if I ever heard one.

What I Didn’t Like:

Like I said above, Gregor is really dense in this book. He does and says some really stupid things. Sometimes I wished he would just stop talking or jumping to conclusions.

Luxa, you’re still annoying, too. You’re getting better, though.

Overall Review:

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods reveals more of Collins’ great worldbuilding and continues to show how much needs to be fixed in the Underland, and that the underlying conflict is not the plague or the impending war, but the hatred between the rats and the humans. The prophecy again proves to be more complex, and tensions continue to rise. Lots of action and suspense will leave you (or me, at least) wanting the next book.

Coming Up Next: Gregor and the Marks of Secret

Series Week IV: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane is the second book in The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2004 by Scholastic.

Minor spoilers for The Underland Chronicles.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Summary/Blurb:

“In the months since Gregor first encountered the strange Underland beneath New York City, he’s sworn he won’t ever go back. But when another prophecy, this time about an ominous white rat known as the Bane, calls for Gregor’s help, the Underlanders know the only way they can get his attention is through his little sister, Boots. Now Gregor’s quest reunites him with his bat, Ares, the rebellious princess Luxa, and new allies and sends them through the dangerous and deadly Waterway in search of the Bane. Then Gregor must face the possibility of his greatest loss yet, and make life and death choices that will determine the future of the Underland.”

~Goodreads

Passages/Quotes:

If Under fell, if Over leaped,

If life was death, if death life reaped,

Something rises from the gloom

To make the Underland a tomb.

Hear it scratching down below,

Rat of long-forgotten snow,

Evil cloaked in coat of white

Will the warrior drain your light?

What could turn the warrior weak?

What do burning gnawers seek?

Just a barely speaking pup

Who holds the land of Under up.

Die the baby, die his heart,

Die his most essential part.

Die the peace that rules the hour.

Gnawers have their key to power.

~Collins 39-40

Cover Art 1

“Fo-Fo, too loud!” [Boots] said, tugging on one of his wings. “Shh, Fo-Fo!”

“Fo-Fo? Fo-Fo? I am he called Photos Glow-Glow and will answer to no other name!” said Photos Glow-Glow.

“She’s just a little kid. She can’t say Photos Glow-Glow,” said Gregor.

“Well, then, I cannot understand her!” said the firefly.

“Allow me to translate,” Twitchtip said, not even bothering to move. “She said if you don’t stop your incessant babble, that big rat sitting in the boat next to you will rip your head off.”

The silence that followed was blissful.

~Collins 120-121

Warnings: Violence, death

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Rating: 4/5

What I Liked:

The plot is much more complex in this book than in the first one. The resolution of this prophecy makes it apparent that what is taken at face value is rarely the true answer. And yet, what is taken at face value is often true, as well. In this case, both the first interpretation of the prophecy and the one that was actually the correct resolution were true, technically.

Cover Art 2

Oh, Ripred. I like you more with each book. The same goes for Boots, Temp, and Ares. I also really like Howard. Luxa, also, is not as annoying as in the first book, probably because she’s been through a lot. She still sounds like she’s fifteen rather than eleven, though. So does Gregor.

This book marks the beginning (or the start, rather) of the overarching plot of the series. The first book was mostly set-up to introduce the characters and the setting. This book, however, starts the ball rolling with the Bane and more introspective into the human/rat conflict, among other things. The ending, too, is much more open and dangling than the first. There are still questions left to be answered and issues to be resolved. It’s a self-contained plot in an overarching plot line; like the episodes of a TV show, sort of, but more connected, if that makes sense.

What I Didn’t Like:

Convenient items, like I said about the first book. If Gregor takes something from the museum, it will be important. And usually life-saving. And everything will be used in some way. The most extreme example of this is the candy bars Gregor brings along. Also, the root beer from the first book.

Again from the first book, the age of the characters not matching up with their voice and actions. So, technically, the issues that I have are more to do with the series itself, rather than each individual book.

Luxa

Overall Review:

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane is technically “the beginning” of the Underland Chronicles, since it starts the main plot arc and builds off of the foundation set up in the first book. There are some genuinely funny moments in the book, mostly thanks to Twitchtip and Ripred, and a few heart-pumping moments of tension and/or action (I’ve always found Bug Island particularly chilling).

Coming Up Next: Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods

Series Week IV: Gregor the Overlander

Gregor the Overlander is written by Suzanne Collins, of The Hunger Games fame. It was published in 2003 by Scholastic. It is the first book in The Underland Chronicles. Collins’ website can be found here.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Summary/Blurb:

“When eleven-year-old Gregor follows his little sister through a grate in the laundry room of their New York apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland beneath the city. There, humans live uneasily beside giant spiders, bats, cockroaches, and rats—but the fragile peace is about to fall apart.

Gregor wants no part of a conflict between these creepy creatures. He just wants to find his way home. But when he discovers that a strange prophecy foretells a role for him in the Underland’s uncertain future, he realizes it might be the only way to solve the biggest mystery of his life. Little does he know his quest will change him and the Underland forever.”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

Beware, Underlanders, time hangs by a thread.

The hunters are hunted, white water runs red.

The gnawers will strike to extinguish the rest.

The hope of the hopeless resides in a quest.

An Overland warrior, a son of the sun,

May bring us back light, he may bring us back none.

But gather your neighbors and follow his call

Or rats will most surely devour us all.

Two over, two under, of royal descent,

Two flyers, two crawlers, two spinners assent.

One gnawer beside and one lost up ahead.

And eight will be left when we count up the dead.

The last who will die must decide where he stands.

The fate of the eight is contained in his hands.

So bid him take care, bid him look where he leaps,

As life may be death and death life again reaps.

~Collins 109

Boots singled out one roach in particular and patted it between the antennas. “Hi, you! Go ride? We go ride?”

“Knows me, the princess, knows me?” said the roach in awe, and all the other roaches gave little gasps. Even the humans and bats exchanged looks of surprise.

“We go ride? More ride?” said Boots. “Beeg Bug take Boots ride!’ she said, patting him more vigorously on the head.

“Gentle, Boots,” said Gregor, hurrying to catch her hand. He placed it softly on the bug’s head. “Be gentle, like with puppy dogs.”

“Oh, gen-tle, gen-tle,” said Boots, lightly bouncing her palm on the roach. It quivered with joy.

“Knows me, the princess, knows me?” the roach whispered. “Recalls she the ride, does she?”

~Collins 149-150

Cover Art 1 (yeah, it’s pretty blah, isn’t it?)

Warnings: Violence

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Rating: 3/5

What I Liked:

This series is what introduced me to Collins, and how I started reading The Hunger Games (I liked this series, so when The Hunger Games came out I picked it up. That’s right. I read The Hunger Games before it was popular). I loved this series a lot when I read it the first time. It was simple, yet also complex. I loved the way everything had a purpose. I loved the rhyming prophecies (something I picked up from Redwall, which has a lot of riddles). It’s been a few years since I last read these books, so I’m interested to see what has changed about my perception of them.

I love the characters in this book and how each species in the Underland has their own unique characteristic that sets them apart. There are not many characters that I actively dislike. Boots and Ripred are by far my favorites. Boots is just adorable, and Ripred has great snark. I also like Temp, and how steadfast he is. Oh, and Ares. It’s not so evident here, but Ares is great in the next books, when certain things happen.

Fan art!

I think I enjoyed this book more because I knew what was coming, rather than because of its own merit. This is definitely a series with an overarching plot line, so characters develop more slowly, over the course of a few books, rather than all at once in one. It’s evident that this is the first in a series, but Collins does a great job of worldbuilding and setting things up for the next books. This book could be a standalone, almost; the other books cannot.

One of the things I like best about this series is the prophecies, and how they are fulfilled. The rhyming is a little cheesy, sure, but they’re never what they first appear. It’s the complexity to them that I like, even if they seem simple at first.

Cover Art 2 (this one’s a little better)

What I Didn’t Like:

This is the type of plot where everything is convenient. Everything that Gregor picks up at the beginning of his journey saves the day at the exact right time. It gets to the point where you know that everything that Gregor has on him in each book will be used, eventually, and usually in some sort of important way. The root beer in this book, for instance. It’s interesting how creative Collins can get, but it is still really, really convenient.

One of the main problems I have with the series is Gregor’s age. He’s only eleven, but he acts and sounds more like thirteen or fourteen. And, yeah, maybe that has to do with his dad disappearing and so he had to grow up quickly and so is more mature than the average eleven-year-old. Okay, sure. But his voice is still off. Also, Luxa is only eleven, too, but she acts and sounds more like fifteen. The point is, neither of these characters act or even sound like they’re eleven, so why make them eleven? Because it’s a middle grade novel? There’s also another reason why I have a problem with their age, but I won’t get into that until the last two books when it shows up.

I had a few issues with the writing style here and there, but it’s a middle grade novel so I was expecting that.

Overall Review:

Gregor the Overlander is probably the weakest book in the series, mainly because it’s mostly set-up and worldbuilding for the next four books. However, I always love books centered on quests and these quests come complete with a prophecy to follow, which is great fun to read and try to decipher. Some interesting characters are introduced that will be sure to draw the reader into the next book to see what happens to them.

Coming Up Next: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane