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Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane
by Suzanne Collins
Somewhere or other, Suzanne Collins claimed that she conceived the Underland Chronicles as a modern, urban answer to Alice in Wonderland. To be sure, what Gregor finds at the bottom of a manhole in Central Park is jarringly different from the topsy-turvyland Alice found at the bottom of her English rabbit hole. It is so different, in fact, that I am inclined to think of Underland as more of an Oz for the 21st century.
Consider this: Like Dorothy of Kansas, Gregor of New York is part of a loving family circle that suffers from horrendous poverty. This is not the sort of ever after you expect after Gregors heroics in rescuing his long-lost father from giant rats and bringing him home. Dad is still sick in body and mind. Grandma still thinks she is on the old farm in Virginia where she grew up. Mom can scarcely earn enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table. And with two beloved younger sisters to think about, Gregor is the one who goes hungry most often. Even with the help of a kindly, and suspiciously knowledgeable, lady from the apartment upstairs, you look at this family and think: Gee, somebody should do something about this.
Somebody does. Several somebodies. Unfortunately, those somebodies are giant rats, and the something that they do is to attempt to kidnap and murder Gregors baby sister Boots.
Why? Well, the rats have learned of a prophecy by the visionary founder of the Underland city of Regalia, Bartholomew of Sandwich. For the prophecy of Bane predicts that only Gregor the Overland warrior can destroy the great white hope of the rats and their bid to wipe out all humans in the Underland. But they also believe that if they kill Gregors baby sister, Boots, it will break Gregors spirit and he wont be able to stop them. Its like an arms race whoever hits their target first, wins all. And Gregor has never felt himself to be much of a warrior, after all.
Before Gregor knows whats happening, he and Boots are back in Regalia, preparing for another quest deep into Rat territory. This time they must cross monster-infested waters, depend on allies who may or may not be dependable, and overcome epic portions of anger, fear, grief, and hatred. Gregor learns staggering things about the amazing Underland, about who his true friends are, and about himself. But the most dangerous part of his adventure may happen after his quest is complete…
I am amazed at how colorful and lovable Collins makes her characters and the strange world in which they live and, in some cases, die. I am even more amazed at the menace, the mystery, the gut-clenching action and the deeply moving drama that unfolds around them. Did I say this was like Oz? I must have been out of my mind! This is like no world of danger and destiny you have ever entered before. And by the time Gregor comes out of it, all youll want to know is when hes going back in!