Thursday, January 30, 2014

Series Review: Underland Chronicles

262430AuthorSuzanne Collins
Genre(s): YA/Middle Grade Fantasy 
*5 Books*
~Spoiler free~

The Underland Chronicles tells the story of Gregor, a seemingly average 11year- old boy, and his adventures in Underland, a world he discovers one day when he falls through a vent in his apartment. 

UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT: To be honest, I liked this series waaaaaay better than the Hunger Games.  In fact, I felt like this series was really underrated and overshadowed by the Hunger Games.
Well, I think that topic merits its own post.:)

For now, I've complied a bullet list of the reasons of why I absolutely love the Underland Chronicles.
(Note: There won’t be any spoilers for this series but there will be a few spoilers for the Hunger Games that I have left uncovered.  Read at your own risk!)

1  1. Characters: (Was it just me or were all the characters really similar to the ones in Percy Jackson?  Or the other way around, since this series came out first.  Gregor wasn't quite a sass master like Percy, but other than that, they were pretty similar.  This type of character must be a common thing because I’ve heard the characters of Percy Jackson be compared to Harry Potter (mostly in appearance; I'm not sure personality-wise because I haven't actually read Harry Potter).  Maybe that’s why I really loved this book series- because it was so similar to Percy Jackson. )  

The thing I loved most about this book, and what I felt was somewhat lacking in the Hunger Games, was the chemistry between the characters.  There wasn’t really romantic chemistry (hints here there), but the family and friendship dynamic was amazing.  You could see how much Gregor loved and cared for his sister.  It was clearly evident throughout the book with everything Gregor did.  In contrast, yes, Katniss did love her sister, and yes, her actions showed it, but as I was reading the book, I felt like Katniss viewed her sister as more of a delicate object to be protected (she was delicate, but a person isn’t an object).  The love Katniss felt for her sister could be argued as genuine, but at the same time, I personally felt there was an underlying coldness and a little resentment from Katniss to her sister.  There was something off about their relationship.   But with Gregor, all I could see was his sweet affection and unconditional love for his sister.  (I'll explore this more on the next post!)

There were other relationships I adored, especially Luxa and Gregor, Ripred and Gregor, and Ares and Gregor. 

In a bullet list within another bullet list:
- Luxa and Gregor:   They went from I-find-you-interesting-and-as-about-trustworthy-as-cockroaches (not to bash cockroaches, but they were seen as lower class; to be honest, though, they were actually really cute in this book) to I’ll-trust-you-with-my-bat (which is a pretty big deal!).

-Ripred and Gregor: Ripred is the snarky (and hilarious) mentor who, besides the cockroaches and Ares, was one of my favorite non-human characters in the books.   They have a I-care-for-you-like-you're-family-but-I’ll-pretend-I-don’t type of relationship.  Ripred is gruff, but caring in his own way.

Ares and Gregor: They started off as sort of enemies, but grew to love and care for each other.  Their relationship was very honorable with a tinge of sweetness.  (It’s a bit weird to describe their relationship like this, but I think "honorable" really sums up their interactions.)

2. The plot: Oh my goodness, the story was AWESOME. I can’t gush about it enough!  It was exciting, entertaining, and fun.  It was fast paced too, and there were so many twists and turns with each book; it definitely kept you on your toes. Again, I felt the stories were similar to Percy Jackson in nature; I don’t know if it was just me, but there were A LOT of similarities between *certain* scenes.  

But read and decide for yourself.  ;)

I can’t really say more about the overall plot without giving away spoilers, but it was really something (prepare thy heartstrings to be tugged and soul to be ripped).  And that ending?  I can’t guarantee it won’t disappoint (in a good way!), but it was satisfying.  So satisfying. (Mockingjay doesn’t hold a candle to it.)

3. The world:  Made me want to find a vent and jump in myself ;).   It might not be appealing to everyone (there were rats, bugs, bats…), but I personally love bugs, and the description of this place was beautiful.  Seriously.  There are few authors that could make an underground fantasy world beautiful, creepy, and real all at the same time- Ms. Collins is one of them.

The world building was just amazing. The author built up this world slowly, telling us only what we needed to know at that time- and there was a lot to know (esp. the prophecies!).   No info dumps or lack of info.  This book was a great example of balancing telling and showing.

4. Messages/themes:  This series was really lovely, not just in the plot and characters, but also in themes and messages.  It was mostly focused on themes of loyalty, family, doing what's right, and destiny/fate (PARTICULARLY THIS!). Now, these themes might sound cliche and overly done (esp. nowadays with YA books popping out like cake pops), but the author doesn't just plow you in the face with them.  It was very subtle, and writing this review now (I read this series again a month or two ago), I found myself realizing more connections and more themes within the novels that I hadn't before.  

5. Addiction level: INSANE. This series was amazing.  Honestly, I think I’ve read this series only a few less times than I’ve read Percy Jackson (and you guys all know my obsessive love for that!!).   The thing I think that made  this book so great was the chemistry between the characters and the characters themselves.  The plot itself was amazing, but with cardboard characters, even the best plots can be ruined.   Here, we were lucky enough to get both a great plot and awesometastic characters!  

Final thoughts?  So usually, I would take issue with the fact that Gregor was THE ONE.  But here, there was a rare exception of that being done well and being done with a plot twist.  (!!)

Can't recommend this series enough!!

Rating: 5 out of 5

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