Title: Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods (Book 3 of The Underland Chronicles)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Middle Grade Reader, Fantasy, Adventure
Warmblood now a bloodborne death
Will rob your body of its breath,
Mark your skin, and seal your fate,
The Underland becomes a plate.
When a plague wracks all warm-blooded creatures of the Underland, rat and human alike, Gregor is summoned. He's ready to leap into action. His mother is another story. Twice her son has disappeared to the Underland, and she's not going to let it happen again. Unfortunately, fate has a way of intervening.
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.
This prophecy will take Gregor and his companion to the Vineyard of Eyes, the only place where the plant that may hold the cure grows. It seems like a straight-forward quest. But Gregor has been through enough of these prophecies to know that there's always a catch. Something is off, and if he doesn't figure it out, the plague just may do away with everyone he loves.
This one could be called "Sympathy for the Rats," because man, do you start to feel sorry for them. First, we learn that they're starving because the humans have taken over their food supplies. Then we learn that the plague is carried by the fleas, and the humans have flea powder, but refuse to share it with the rats, even though the plague affects them all and they should be on the same side. All the books thus far have introduced a sympathetic rat character, and this book is no different, having Lapblood and Mange. When you learn why they're on the quest, it's enough to break your heart.
One disappointing thing is Gregor's mother. She could have been such a cool character. I mean, single handedly feeding her family, having to deal with the disappearance of her son and daughter—twice. When I learned she'd be traveling to Underland (by reading the back of the book), I was excited to think of her going with Gregor on adventures, adding a new dynamic, maybe easing some of the pressure off the poor boy. Unfortunately, nothing of that sort happens. She acts like a typical mom, humiliating Gregor and exhibiting little personality, and then gets conveniently pushed aside for the sake of the plot.
But there were other interesting new characters, most notably Hamnet, the uncle of Luxa who willingly banished himself from the capital. He, aside from Gregor, seems to be one of the few people who don't innately hate rats and tries to live in peace. Hamnet offers a glimpse of a different way of running the kingdom.
Oh, and if you were wondering about the fate of the important characters left hanging in the balance in Book 2, well, let's just say that you have to get halfway through the book to find out.
As in all of The Underland Chronicles, you can expect page-turning suspense, action a-plenty, lovable characters, intense violence, and death. Probably best suited for older elementary and up.