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Literature: The Underland Chronicles
Yeah, it's a children's book. And yes, the lizard is a good guy.

"Aurora the Flier, I bond to you...Our life and death are one, we two...Through dark, through flame, through war, though strife...I save you as you save my life."

—The bonding ceremony between flier and human

The Underland Chronicles, abbreviated fondly as TUC, was written by author Suzanne Collins as her debut series of novels. The books consist of:

  • Gregor the Overlander
  • Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane
  • Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
  • Gregor and the Marks of Secret
  • Gregor and the Code of Claw

When a kid named Gregor follows his little sister, Boots, through a grate in the laundry room of their New York apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland beneath the city. There, humans live uneasily besides giant spiders, bats, cockroaches and rats - but the fragile peace is about to fall apart. Of course Gregor wants no part of a conflict between these creepy creatures. But when he discovers that a strange prophecy foretells a role for him in the Underland's uncertain future, not to mention find his missing dad he knows there's no other choice. Little does he know his quest will change him forever.

Though it sounds like your run-of-the-mill fiction, the books are surprisingly good and feature great characters. And yes, the animals talk. Big time.

The series has a small but devoted fanbase which has become slightly larger following the success of her other series, The Hunger Games.

This series includes examples of:

  • A Boy and his Bat:
    • Henry is bonded with the bat Ares.
    • Luxa and her bond bat, Aurora.
    • At the end of Gregor the Overlander, Gregor bonds with the bat Ares.
  • Action Girl:
    • Queen Luxa. Pretty much a requirement, with the humans nearly always at war with the rats.
    • Solovet.
    • Okay, pretty much all female characters save Nerissa, Boots, and Lizzie.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Gregor, Boots and Lizzie’s parents are not completely useless, and never by choice, but they are rarely able to help Gregor with his unique problems. Averted in Gregor the Overlander when his dad manages to steer them back to Regalia.
    • Averted with Vikus, though he usually plays more of a supporting role.
  • Aerith and Bob: The humans have both typical English names — Henry, Howard, York, Susanna, Judith — and more fantastic names like Solovet, Nerissa, Vikus and Mareth. Lampshaded when Gregor is introduced to – Henry, he almost laughs that "among all these strange names, there's a Henry".
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Applied Phlebotinum So...many....prophecies. Not to mention the plot-helping mutations.
  • Arc Words: Certain phrases from the various Prophecies get repeated over and over again in the story before it's revealed what they mean:
    • "Two Over, two Under, of royal descent, two Crawlers, two Fliers, two Spinners ascent, one Gnawer beside, one lost up ahead, and 8 will be left when we count up the dead" from the Prophecy Of Grey in Gregor the Overlander.
    • "Die the Baby, die its heart, die its most important part" from the Prophecy Of Bane in Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane.
    • "Turn and turn and turn again, you see the what but not the when", "Remedy and wrong intwine and so they form a single vine" and "If the flames of war are fanned, all Warmbloods lose the Underland" from the Prophecy Of Blood in Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods.
    • " Father, mother, sister, brother, off they go, I don't know if I'll see another" from the Prophecy Of Secrets in Gregor and the Marks of Secret.
    • "What she saw, it is the flaw, in the Code Of Claw" and "When the Monster's blood is spilled, when the Warrior has been killed" from the Prophecy Of Time in Gregor and the Code of Claw.
  • Badass Normal: Gregor. And Luxa. And Ripred. Okay, pretty much everyone here can kick butt.
  • Beneath the Earth: The series is all about this trope. More than 90 percent of the books take place in an underground world beneath New York called the Underland.
  • The Berserker:
    • In Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, Gregor learns he's a "rager" a person with highly developed warrior skills, a natural-born killer. Meaning he has a natural capacity to go into this state when his life is in danger. It's not always voluntary, which is really bad for a character who normally hates to kill.
    • Ripred is also a "rager".
  • Big Applesauce: The Underland is located directly underneath New York. Of course.
  • Big Bad: Pearlpelt, or the Bane. Literally.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Every single book except the first, verging on Downer Ending by the fifth one.
  • Black and Gray Morality: verging on Grey and Gray Morality before the systematic extermination of the nibblers. Even afterward individual rats on the Bane's side are portrayed in a sympathetic light.
  • Blessed with Suck: Everyone in this series has some sort of tragic past.
    • More specifically, Twitchtip the 'scent seer' whose sense of smell is so accurate that she can smell secrets — not a fast track to the popular crowd.
    • Also, Nerissa. Funny how a society built on one man's prophecies treats their own personal prophetess so poorly.
    • Turns out being the Warrior of the prophecy isn't much fun for Gregor. At the end of the series, Gregor is warned that with his rager abilities it will be much easier for him to kill people, so he'll always have to keep an eye on himself.
  • Bond Creatures: The Underlander humans and the bats are the only species with this. Until Gregor and the Code of Claw.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The assorted oversized creatures of the overworld are given simpler names, allegedly by the people who live there. (Rats are known as "gnawers", spiders as "spinners", and so on.) This is what the creatures of the Underworld actually call themselves, just translated into the nearest thing in English. Humans have one of these names too among the Underworld creaturesnote , but they don't like to hear it.
  • Character Development: Oodles of this. It's quite refreshing, actually. Gregor goes out of his way to point this out in Luxa when she goes to Temp for advice in later books.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: The series starts off with Gregor the Overlander, then continues to Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, then Curse of the Warmbloods, and so on.
  • Covered with Scars:
    • Ripred.
    • By the end Gregor's racked up an impressive total. After his fight with the Bane, he basically gives up the idea of even coming up with an excuse for them.
  • Cypher Language: A major plot point in Gregor and the Code of Claw.
  • Death Is Such an Odd Thing:
    • The Kill 'em All ending leaves Gregor in a state of emotional distress about many characters, many of whom were absolute jerkasses toward him. Particularly in Gregor and the Code of Claw, when faced with the Prophecy of Time that foretells his own death.
    • On a smaller scale, the True Companions have a very confused, not-quite-stunned reaction to the death of Tick in Gregor the Overlander.
  • Death World: The Underland jungle. Scratch that, the entire Underland may count. Besides the humans have to deal with intelligent races of Rodents of Unusual Size and Big Creepy-Crawlies. This isn't to mention the earthquakes, volcanoes, eyeless plesiosaurs, giant squid and the occasional plague outbreak. Good thing the humans have the bats on their side — otherwise they probably would have been goners long ago.
  • Die Laughing: A certain type of carnivorous plant in the Vineyard of Eyes emits a euphoric gas that makes you laugh at everything, rendering you helpless to the attacking vines.
  • Disappeared Dad: The father of the titular character in Gregor the Overlander, vanished when he was eight. They find him though.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Subverted. Fairly early in Gregor the Overlander, Luxa slaps Gregor across the face and is immediately reproved - first by Boots, then by Vikus.
  • The Drag-Along: Temp and Boots. Averted in Gregor and The Curse of The Warmbloods. Temp kept on warning them, first suggested the idea that the cradle/cure might not be where they thought it was, and Boots did her dance.
    Ripred: And if Temp is right, it would explain one thing .. The point of having a crawler on this whole hellish trip! Honestly, how has he added to anything of significance? No offense, Temp, you've been a real champ about babysitting, but what have you contributed? Nothing! Maybe this is it! Your big moment!
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: The Underlanders will spend centuries meditating on the possible meanings of Sandwich's prophecies, but they won't give a second thought to whatever Nerissa says.Sure, Nerissa is not all there but her visions are accurate.note  Gregor at least gives her the respect she deserves.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Where to begin? Start with Gregor, whose father mysteriously vanished when he was eight and who gets dragged into a war at the age of eleven for no reason other than Because Destiny Says So, then add in Luxa, who broke when both her parents were killed and suffered even more when her cousin and close friend Henry betrayed her in the first book. Gregor's best friend is Ares, who is unfairly stigmatized from Henry's betrayal, which left him in the unpleasant position of choosing to save his bond or Gregor. Ripred is a Deadpan Snarker Fair Weather Mentor at the best of times, something of an outcast among his own kind, whose wife and children died years ago. Even NiceGuys Howard and Vikus have to deal with ever-increasing amounts of horribleness as the series goes on. The most normal person out of all of them is Boots, who is three, and even she is forced to deal with some of the realities of death and war more than her family would like. Most of the time it's not anybody's fault exactly, it's just the natural result of living in a Crapsack World where Everything Is Trying to Kill You.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Ripred and eventually Gregor spin. It is implied that all ragers can.
  • Evil Albino: The Bane. This could also apply to some of the humans in the series, but every single Underland human is a violet-eyed albino and a majority of them aren't that despicable.
  • Eye Scream: Happens to a rat in Gregor and The Prophecy of Bane.
  • Failure Knight: Poor Hamnet. He shouldn't have listened to his mother and let the flood gates open so that everyone would drown. Later we discover that Ripred is this for his dead mate and pups.
  • Fandom: A rather small one, considering, but the fanfiction for the series has a few exemplary pieces that rival the original works.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Even though the crawlers/cockroaches, gnawers/rats, spinners/spiders, fliers/bats, etc. that coexist with humans in the Underland are not human, they are sentient and treated as full characters on the same level as humans. Prejudices held among human characters towards these species are even treated as equal to any intra-human bigotry.
    • The bats, humans, and mice are allies with each other, and hate the rats, who hate just about everyone but especially the humans and mice. The insects pretty much hate all the mammals. The spiders are willing to play both sides, and the cockroaches are considered stupid.
    • Lexa getting over it is part of her Character Development.
    • Vikus is one of the few Underland humans who doesn't have it.
    • Like Luxa, Henry mocks the cockroaches and even attempts to kill Ripred.
  • Final Battle: Almost all of Underland's species come together against the Bane's army on the Plains of Tartarus.
  • First Name Basis: Gregor, Boots and Lizzie's last name is never mentioned. Their mother's first name is Grace.
  • Friend to All Living Things:
    • Boots. Even the creepy-crawly ones. Kind of her 'superpower'.
    • Vikus is one of a very few Underland humans who would willingly work with a rat.
  • From Bad to Worse: The entire series can be summed up like this.
  • Garden of Evil: The Vineyard Of Eyes in Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods.
  • Good with Numbers: The mice, judging by their Theme Naming, and Lizzie in Gregor and the Claw of Code.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The human-rat war is FULL of this.
  • Gut Feeling: Happens a lot.
  • Happily Married: Vikus and Solovet. Though it's implied her participation in the creation of the plague made things rocky between them.
  • Heroic BSOD: More than once.
    • Gregor suffers from one in Gregor and the Code of Claw, when the realization that if the prophecy is true he's going to die.
    • Luxa becomes essentially catatonic when her cousin betrays her.
    • Vikus suffers a stroke after his wife dies.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Used in almost every book - and not just from Gregor. Everyone wants to die for their loved ones. Sometimes this doesn't help all that much.
  • I Can Still Fight: Gregor and the Code of Claw has everyone doing this.
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin: Some of the carnivorous plants in the Jungle subdue you by getting you high.
  • Insistent Terminology: "Fo-Fo? Fo-Fo? I am he called Photos Glow-Glow and will answer to no other name!"
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Gregor and the Mark of Secret features a nursery rhyme that turns out to be a prophecy detailing the Holocaust-esque genocide of a group of innocent mice.
    • Also, the nursery rhyme features the line, "Some will slice and some will pour." This sounds like an innocent tea party, but turns out to be a description of the medieval-style warfare used in the Underland. "Slicing" refers to the use of swords, and "pouring" refers to the pouring of boiling oil over the walls of a fortress or castle to stop a siege.
    • Given the "revelation" that Sandwich's prophecies are either nonsense or so vague as to be practically so, this seems a lot less significant.
  • Just Following Orders: In Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, Doctor Neveeve says this line while being arrested.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • Ripred points out that Sandwich's prophecies may well just be coincidence or self-fulfilling, and he doesn't believe in them. They seem to be pretty accurate, but only after a book of trying to decipher them and you can see how they could be reinterpreted to fit the latest explanation.
    • Mrs. Cormaci, who tends to send just the right objects at just the right times and who gives tarot readings. Gregor at one point wonders if she can see what he needs in her tarot cards, and given that psychics exist in this series, he could be right.
  • Missing Mom: When Gregor's mom gets the plague in Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, she spends most of the rest of the series recuperating in the Underland.
  • More Than Meets the Eye: Everyone seems to have hidden depths in this series.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast:
    • Ripred, The Bane (whose true name is Pearlpelt), Twirltongue, Lapblood, Mange...all the rats have some scary names.
    • A place version: The Arch of Tantalus.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Everyone dies unexpectedly.
  • Noodle Incident: A conversation between Vikus and Ripred in Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods gives us this little gem:
    Ripred: Well, you have to at least credit her [Nerissa] with a certain instability. Remember when she told you I was plotting to take over the Fount with an army of lobsters?
    Vikus: You did try and take over the Fount with an army of lobsters.
  • The Nose Knows:
    • The rats demonstrate this quality in their first appearance by accurately calculating what Gragor and Boots ate for dinner hours earlier right down to the tiny bowl of greens. They also are shown to be able to estimate human emotions and navigate and fight in complete darkness.
    • In Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane we meet Twitchtip who has such a sensitive nose that she is called a "sent seer." Among other things she can detect the sent of a rager, newly hardened volcanic rock, a whirlpool, and the color of Boots' shirt from out side the castle tower Boots is in.
  • One-Man Army: It takes four hundred soldiers to take out Ripred. Gregor qualifies as well.
  • Patchwork Map: In the Underland there are plains, jungles, maze-like tunnels, small seas, arable land and desolate areas all within one or two hundred miles of each other, and no transitions.
  • The Plague: Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods has the disease known Curse of the Warmbloods.
    • Synthetic Plague: The Reveal at the end of Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods is that the disease called "the Curse of the Warmbloods" was a biological weapon that escaped from a Regalian lab. Its creator didn't tell anyone she had the cure because she didn't want to admit she'd created the plague.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Subverted. The series revolved around the prophecies of Sandwich (no, really), who wrote numbers of them in his tenure in the Underland some time before. At first, these prophecies seem to be always turning true (the first two books for example), but the third and fourth books become increasingly stretched to fit the prophecy. It all comes to a head when it is revealed that in the last prophecy, Gregor is supposed to die. After going into the final battle, Gregor does not die, and not all of the prophecy comes true, as is noted by several characters throughout the book such as Ares, Gregor, Ripred, and Luxa. However, they still manage to con the people and creatures of the Underland that the prophecy is true with a little help from Luxa's "prophetic" cousin, who believes the prophecies are true in order to bring peace amongst the humans and rats.
  • Prophecy Twist: Happens all the time. Then it is subverted in Gregor and the Code of Claw, when Ripred points out that the prophecies could be loosely interpreted to cover a variety of situations, and that people are often adapting what happens in reality to fit the prophecy so that it is fulfilled (their society is strongly based around the prophecies their founder wrote). He then gets really Genre Savvy by deliberately giving himself a wound that will fulfill yet another prophecy.
  • Reality Ensues: In the worst possible way, usually.
  • Released to Elsewhere: The rats are "relocating" all the mice in the Underland. Turns out that they're actually leading the mice to their doom without them suspecting anything. Not surprising, considering that the story is based on the Holocaust.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: The series has these as main characters- not to mention the giant insect and bats....
  • Scars Are Forever: Ripred. Later Gregor as well, which he realizes in part of his Bittersweet Ending.
  • Screw Destiny: In Gregor and The Code of Claw, Ripred tells Gregor to do this when a prophecy says he's going to die.
  • Secret Keeper:
    • Lizzie is often required to explain why her family members have disappeared for extended periods of time.
    • Mrs. Cormaci becomes this for the family starting in Gregor and the Marks of Secret.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: In Gregor and the Marks of Secret, Gregor and Luxa are going to investigate the Nibbler's situation, but since no one can know about it, they pretend that they are going on a picnic. Of course, Howard shows up and offers to join them, so Gregor, looking for an excuse, tells him that they're going on a date. Even when Howard finds out that Gregor was lying, he still chews him out because seeing as Luxa's a princess and Gregor's not even an Underlander, they couldn't possibly be married. Gregor states several times that he and Luxa aren't like that and marriage is thinking way too far ahead, but then Howard asks Gregor why he thought Howard might believe it in the first place, rendering all his arguments useless.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Gregor at the end of the series. He's twelve. Ripred is an older version of this.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Very much averted with Howard, who seems hellbent on making sure Gregor and Luxa never go on a date.
    • And there's Gregor's mom who secretly approves of Luxa, because she's "got attitude."
  • Theme Naming:
    • All of the bats have names taken from Greek mythology.
    • Luxa's mother is named Judith, while Judith's twin is named Hamnet and their sister is named Susannah. William Shakespeare had a daughter named Susannah and twins named Judith and Hamnet.
    • The mice are named after famous mathematicians and mathematical principles.
    • The rats have compound names, usually violent — Ripred, Gorger, Makemince.
  • Tonight Someone Dies: In the Gregor the Overlander, an ancient prophecy states that 12 will set out on a quest "and eight will be left when we count up the dead." Sure enough, by the end of the book, Tick, Gox, Treflex, and Henry have all met their maker.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Gregor and Ripred as a result of being ragers.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Gregor seems to love mocking Luxa's stiff conduct and all that. Has some pretty funny moments.
  • What the Hell, Townspeople?:
    • The Regalians still scorn Gregor even though he's saved their lives multiple times.
    • The ending of Gregor and The Code of Claw has Gregor tell off what amounts to the ENTIRE Underland. The Bane's dead and the humans and rats are ready to live together peacefully. Luxa then announces that the rats are being sent to live in the most hostile region of the Underland. Ripred isn't amused, and both sides are ready to go to war right then and there. Gregor tells all of them off not just for being so stupid after both sides have been devastated, but also for Ripred having come all this way with them and Luxa treating him like dirt.
  • Wham Line: That encoded message in Gregor and the Code of Claw? It says Twitchtip died in pit. Also, Luxa's declaration of war against the gnawers.
  • When Trees Attack: Lots of the plants in the Jungle are carnivorous.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Brought home in Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods when his mom contracts the plague; Gregor acknowledges mentally that there was no other way to ensure the prophecy would happen the way it needed to.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Averted, mostly. This happens a bit in the first book, but then Gregor goes on this quest to find his missing dad and all that. Otherwise they want him to go home. And then come back for the next 4.

UgliesYoung Adult LiteratureThe Underneath
UgliesLiterature of the 2000sThe Underneath
Under HeavenFantasy LiteratureUnfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth

alternative title(s): The Underland Chronicles
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