Gregor and the Marks of Secret is the fourth of the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins.
In Gregor the Overlander I talked about how focused and subtle it was in its war themes. By the fourth book in the series, the message is much blunter, with Gregor outright questioning the place and necessity for war. Although this approach probably wouldn’t have worked in the earlier books, by now the series has built up to a point where it can support a harder look at the issue. (Spoilers ahead)
Gregor the Overlander shows how war can tear apart families and the fear that comes along with that. Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane is about the innocent children that can become targets. Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods depicts biological warfare. This one explores the beginnings of war.
I really like the reintroduction to the Bane in this book. He’s such a mess, perfect for Twirltongue’s manipulation. And Twirltongue. I hate her. Hate hate hate her! She’s so evil, inciting the humans to war.
Thalia’s death breaks my heart. Although she was only introduced in this book, she was so cute and innocent, and Hazard cared so much for her, that her death hits home. Both that and the nibblers’ (horrifying) genocide really brings up the intensity of this book.
The transition in both theme and intensity works. Have you ever read a book that seems like it’s going to deal with a big issue, a real moral dilemma, but then it side-steps it at the last moment? I know I have. And it’s frustrating, because the book could have meant something, but it decided to ‘play it safe.’ That doesn’t happen in Underland Chronicles.
Instead, the series builds up from a subtle message to a clear question. And as long as it’s done well (and doesn’t resort to ‘preaching’), that’s great. Series should grow and develop in their themes, as well as in their characters and plots. How boring would it be if the stakes never got higher after the first book? Or if any character development ended then? The theme development should be no different.
What are some other books with strong themes?