Monday, October 17, 2011

Gregor and the Marks of Secret

Title: Gregor and the Marks of Secret
Category: Fantasy
Grades: 3-8
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic
Date: 2006
Pages: 343

A simple trip to the Underland for an echolocation lesson turns into a far more dangerous trip for Gregor as he returns to the underground kingdom in this fourth installment of Collins’s series.  Gregor is spending far more time in the Underland these days as his mother heals of the plague, and tensions mount between the humans and the gnawers.  The nibblers are in crisis, and send to Queen Luxa for aid.  Setting out to assist them, Gregor’s party finds mounting evidence that the gnawers are not only forcing the nibblers to relocate, but driving them to their deaths, the genocide of their species.  And they are led by none other than the Bane, now a spoiled and gigantic adolescent rat who seems unable to control his cravings for anything.  War seems inevitable, and the party must not only save what nibblers they can, but prepare for the coming battle and the onset of the final prophecy.

Even though she is writing for children, Collins doesn’t pull any punches in this dark foray through the Underland.  The war and genocide scenes may be disturbing to some younger readers. Nevertheless, Collins injects her trademark action and even humor throughout this fourth installment.  In spite of this novel being a transition and not driven by a prophecy, it still contains a story in its own right and paves the way for the final tale.  Readers will appreciate the return of several of their favorite characters, including some we love to hate, and the ever-increasing complexity of the plot.  As always, Collins’ greatest strength is in the depth and complexity she achieves with her characters, weaving strong themes of tolerance and anti-violence into their stories.  Another powerful tale with a cliffhanger ending that will leave readers waiting anxiously for the last book.


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