Top critical review
Interesting concept, but not well executed
on August 30, 2012
So having read the Hunger Games and enjoyed that series I decided to give this book a shot. The first thing you may notice is that this book is not Hunger Games, in fairness though that is not really a fair comparison to make. A better comparison would be to with the Redwall Series, in my opinion Redwall sets the benchmark for young adult/teen books with talking animals and quests and weird prophecies. So how does Gregor the Overlander compare with Redwall? Well having read the last Redwall Book this summer 'The Sable Quean' I can say that Gregor the Overlander is nowhere close. That does not mean that the book is bad, but if you really liked Redwall because of the battles and clever plot you will probably be disappointed.
So first a few non spoiler points:
1. The prophecy part just felt weird, most of it was easily interpreted and not terribly mysterious, and the parts that were mysterious were not really interpreted in any terribly clever way. Going back to Redwall, when there is some sort of prophecy it is generally comes to pass in some interesting and clever way. Here though, it was really specific and ended up being just a plain old roadmap to the entire plot of the story.
2. These was a pronounced lack of battle scenes. Sure there were several scenes where large groups prepared to fight one another, but the only actual battle scene is the one near the front of the book. Everything else ends without any real fight. i.e. the bridge scene, and the final battle. In general the fighting either occurs off camera, or does not occur at all. Redwall on the other hand generally has very strong battle sequences that make the story much more engaging.
3. The ending is really short, and does not really make that much sense. Mostly it feels like it is just there to wind off a few plot points. This may be because the entire book is short, but either way, I felt that the ending was a letdown after wading through the rest of the book. Generally in Redwall the endings are short as well but they feel much more fulfilling.
Look out, spoilers below:
So these last few things contain spoilers:
To start with, the Gregor's father plot seems contrived, the rats conveniently kill everyone they find except for Gregors dad. They keep him so that he can build them weapons, but everything he makes breaks and the rats are only now starting to wizen up, that is far fetched to begin with. Furthermore when they find him he is half dead and mildly catatonic. You would think that if the rats really did want weapons, they might keep him healthy and in shape to actually build them weapons. As a side note Gregor's dad getting better is described in book as a 'miracle' and honestly it makes about as much sense as one. One line his dad is just sitting not saying anything there and then two lines later, without any explanation he is like, "Hi Gregor, I missed you, we should probably go before the rats eat us."
Also the Henry being a traitor plot was really just strange. As several other characters so kindly point out, his motivations make absolutely no sense. There is no reason why he would ever trust the rats, especially given that they killed his parents. Instead his grand idea is to wipe out too generally friendly species and create a more powerful rat empire that would have no one to fight but Regalia. That is not evil, it is just dumb.
Anyway, that came out a bit harsher than I intended. In fairness the book did draw me in after a while, but while the idea was interesting I felt the execution was done poorly. Some of that may be because it more intended for kids than young adults, but in the end it just felt dumbed down.
Also, I will just add that the book is remarkably similar to the plot of movie "Arthur and the Invisibles" and I think that movie is much more lively, vivid, and intriguing.
Luxa in the book is essentially the same character as Princess Seleneia in the movie, and Arthur and Gregor share many similarities as well. If you want the movie version of this story go watch that.