Title: Gregor and the Marks of Secret (Book 4 of The Underland Chronicles)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Come under my hat,
I will give you a slice of bacon,
And when I bake, I will give you a cake,
If I am not mistaken.
For once, there's no prophecy. Instead, Gregor (twelve now) comes to Underland to beat the New York heat, hang out with his friends, sing silly songs, dance, and attend royal birthday parties. It turns out that without all those nasty wars threatening to break out, Underland is a pretty cool place.
Now the guests are at the door
Greet them as we have before.
Some will slice and some will pour.
Father, mother, sister brother,
Off they go, I do not know
If we will see another.
Unfortunately, the good times don't last. When friends send an urgent plea for help, Gregor finds himself on yet another quest. The mice are disappearing, and the only clue they’ve left behind is an ominous mark scratched on the floor. As Gregor and his friends follow the trail, they come across a dark and horrifying secret that will change the fate of Underland forever.
First, you need to know that this is essentially Part 1 of a two-parter. A lot of this book is set-up for Book 5, and the ending is less than conclusive. If that sort of thing bothers you, I really recommend making sure you have Book 5 ready.
The beginning of the book is a bit slow, as there's no crisis and no clear prophecy to ratchet up the tension. But as soon as the quest starts, we find ourselves with plenty of action and danger... and, for the first time, a bit of romance... to keep the story moving. And then we find out about the mice and things go very dark, very quickly.
A little thing that bugged me was that there were a few too many natural disasters in the book. It seemed like every time the pace threatened to slow, some raging element was thrown in the hero's direction: fire, water, wind, earth—take your pick. It was starting to strain at my suspension of disbelief.
The rats were back to being evil here—evil with a vengeance—and that sort of makes me sad. But really the problem is one particular rat. Now, in Book 2, Gregor made a decision that was morally correct, in my opinion, but the consequences seem to be horrific. Would he have been better off making the other decision? The book doesn’t really dwell on it much, but I feel like it should have.
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.