Collins, Suzanne. Gregor and the Marks of Secret. Scholastic, c2006, p2007. 343 pages. PLB $13.36, ISBN 978-1-42874-501-8 ; TR (mass market) $6.84, ISBN 978-0-439-79146-5
TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!
Part of a series? Yes — the Gregor the Overlander series (The Underland Chronicles).
It is summer vacation in the Overland, which means that Gregor now has a great deal of free time to spend with Ripred for echolocation lessons. Gregor is less than thrilled with this development, particularly as his echolocation skills are not particularly strong. Ripred surprises Gregor with the news that he wishes to kill a creature who is dangerous, unstable, and who has the potential to be extremely powerful. The next day, Gregor is attacked by three rats who smash his flashlight and show him just how important echolocation is. Ripred goes missing, but Gregor is unsure of how to (or if he should) inform Vikus of Ripred’s intentions before his disappearance. During a birthday party, a bat scout drops off one of Luxa’s crowns, informing her that a nibbler had given it to him and said that Luxa would know what it meant. Luxa makes light of the delivery in public, but as she and Gregor know, it means that the mice are in grave danger. When Luxa, Gregor, and their bonds go to find the mice, the entire colony is empty, save for one dead mouse, her body hiding a strange carving on the ground. They return to Regalia, pack up for a “picnic” (so that they may escape Regalia and search for the mice without alerting the Council) only to need to take Hazard, Boots, Howard, and Nike along. They are soon trapped by an earthquake, and the peril is real. Traveling through Hades Hall to the Firelands in order to return safely to Regalia takes them through some dangerous lands with even more perilous inhabitants … what Gregor and his friends encounter in Hades Hall is enough to push the Underland past the brink and into a full-scale war. Will Gregor and his friends be able to help the nibblers? Or is all lost in the Underland?
Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:
This book begins to take Gregor into more intense territory — there are absolutely some scenes (highlight here for spoiler >>>) for instance, a mass grave of mice, as well as a massacre that happens on the page that make me hesitate to hand this to a young reader. That said, the book is gripping, and Gregor grapples with some very real ethical dilemmas. A strong fourth installment to the Underland Chronicles that ends on a serious cliffhanger.
Curriculum Ties/Library Use:
Grade Level: 3-6
Awards and Starred Reviews:
Horn Book Magazine starred 10/01/06
Kirkus Reviews starred 05/15/06