When eleven-year-old Gregor and his little sister Boots fall through a grate in their apartment’s laundry room, all Gregor can think about is getting him and his two-year-old sister back home as soon as possible. However, he swiftly discovers that that might not be as easy as it sounds—he has fallen into the Underland, a world miles beneath New York City and populated by giant cockroaches, spiders, bats, rats, and a race of people with translucent skin and violet eyes. Taken in by these people, who are called Regalians, Gregor soon learns that his only hope of getting home resides in a quest—to save the Underland, and perhaps to solve the biggest mystery of his life.
As the series progresses, Regalia teeters on the edge of a great war, the greatest, perhaps, that they have ever faced, and Gregor may be the only one who can ensure their victory. With the help of the young Queen Luxa, several valiant bats, a loyal cockroach, and many more besides, Gregor must, among other things, battle sea-serpents, survive an avalanche, and face the largest and most lethal rat of all as the stakes rise from getting back home to saving all that he holds dear.
First of all, I would just like to say that you should not be put off by the giant spiders, rats, cockroaches, etc. While I don’t mind some of those creatures, I’m not entirely sure that my reaction to seeing a six-foot-rat would be terribly chivalrous. However, the series is brilliantly written, and despite my lack of enthusiasm for giant (or normal sized) cockroaches, I couldn’t put the books down. The characters felt real, and Gregor in particular was very relatable to. I’m about Gregor’s age, and I can say that his thoughts, mistakes, and general reaction to the Underland was very believable.
The Underland Chronicles do get dark in places, and there is some violence, so I would probably recommend them to ages ten and up. One thing that made a big difference to me, though, was that although there is some violence and battle scenes, Gregor really doesn’t believe in war, and sees it not as an unfortunate necessity, but as something that must be stopped. Also, none of the characters were evil death machines—they all had stories, and as a reader you could understand what made them what they were, even if you didn’t like them. I would recommend the Underland Chronicles to anyone looking for an engrossing, exiting, and impossible-to-put-down series.
Note: In September 2016, I reviewed Gregor the Overlander, the first book in the Underland Chronicles. However, as our book reviews became more sophisticated , and I decided to update the review on what is still one of our favorite books!