Let me start off by saying I didn't think I'd like this book all that much. I read the book flap description and thought `giant rats and bats? Another quest fantasy?'. But, being the bookworm I am, I decided to at least give it a chance. I'm glad I did. And yes, it is a quest fantasy, and yes there are giant rats and bats and cockroaches too. Surprisingly, it all made for a very enjoyable read.
Gregor, our teenage hero is an ordinary boy fallen on hard times in New York City. His father vanished years ago and his mother works trying to make ends meet while he tries to take care of his siblings. All this changes when Gregor follows his baby sister, Boots, when she falls through a vent in their laundry room into an underground world with giant bugs and creatures. There are humans there too, and all of them seem to think that Gregor is the Overlander of one of their most powerful prophecies-the warrior who will unite them and bring them victory over the armies of the rats. Gregor is more interested in finding a way home, until he discovers that fulfilling the prophecy might also mean finding his father. But the prophecy is muddled and unclear-can Gregor survive the quest and make it home with his sister and father-or will it claim his life?
The story presented here is fairly well tread ground, a reluctant hero from another realm, a quest that requires a gathering of several different creatures, a prophecy that is suitably ambiguous and a dangerous enemy to be overcome. What makes it work is that the author brings the characters to life in delightful ways; the roaches, rats, bats and spiders all have their own styles and customs. As long as the reader is willing to suspend their disbelief that such things can exist, it's a very fascinating a rousing adventure tale with a very satisfying ending. Once the quest is set in motion, events happen very quickly, and our hero becomes the warrior he's required to be. And the twists and turns in the prophecy make certain that this won't be an easy ending to completely figure out. There isn't a great deal of world-building here, although there's enough to make the underground world seem real and realistic in its geography. And while the non-human characters receive some excellent characterization, I found that some of the human characters were less well fleshed out, although Boots is very charming in her way and some of the human characters are better revealed as the story progresses. Perhaps my greatest complaint with this story was that at the very end, a teaser is placed in the story for the sequel in a rather clumsy way. There's suddenly the announcement of "oh, by the way, there's another prophecy . . ." as if it were pulled out of a hat and dropped into the plot. Despite this little add on, the story itself is decent and enthralling and should keep a reader entertained until the end.
This book is dark at times, and may be a bit scary for younger readers, but most young teen and preteen readers who enjoy quest fantasy will likely enjoy it. Older readers may find the characters a bit too young for their interest -this is definitely not a universal read, but it works well for its age group. Readers who enjoy this will want to go on to read GREGOR AND THE PROPHECY OF THE BANE, which is the next book in the series. Other types of books these readers may enjoy will be THE DARK IS RISING sequence by Susan Cooper and SO YOU WANT TO BE A WIZARD by Diane Duane.
Happy Reading! Shanshad ^_^
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