Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
The cover of the boxed set edition.
|Cover artist||Daniel Craig|
|Series||The Underland Chronicles|
|July 1, 2005|
|LC Class||PZ7.C6837 Gp 2005|
|Preceded by||Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane|
|Followed by||Gregor and the Marks of Secret|
Despite the difficulties it has caused for his family, Gregor finds it hard to distance himself from the Underland. When he receives word that a plague has broken out and his bond Ares is one of the victims, he is more than willing to help save his friends by participating in yet another of Bartholomew of Sandwich's prophecies. His mother, however, is far less open to her children's return. She is finally coerced into allowing Boots and Gregor below with the conditions that they do nothing more than attend a short meeting and that she comes with them. The humans' plague expert, Dr. Neveve, explains that there is a plant called starshade growing deep in the Vineyard of Eyes which can be distilled into a cure. In the midst of the meeting, a dying bat infected with the plague inadvertently infects a few of the delegates -- Gregor's mother included.
Though he knows his mother will hate the idea, Gregor feels compelled to join a group of creatures on a quest to find the starshade, as described in "The Prophecy of Blood". The current queen Nerissa informs the group that she has arranged a guide for them, which turns out to be Hamnet, the estranged son of Solovet and Vikus. The pacifist Underlander, his Halflander son Hazard, and their hisser companion Frill reluctantly agree to lead the motley crew so through the extremely dangerous Jungle. The questers experience several setbacks, including an invasion of poison dart frogs which renders nearly all their food and water inedible and an attack by carnivorous plants that kill the rat Mange. During a near-death experience with a pool of quicksand, the group encounters Luxa, the heir apparent of Regalia who was assumed to be dead after the quest in Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane. She and her bond Aurora were trapped in the Jungle when Aurora dislocated her wing, and had been living there in a colony of nibblers (mice). After Hamnet fixes Aurora's wing, the bonds accompany the quest.
They arrive at the Vineyard of Eyes, but an army of cutters (ants, who would like to see all warm-blooded creatures gone) destroys the starshade and kills Hamnet and Frill. The group's hopes are crushed until an offhand comment by the cockroach Temp causes them to realize a new possibility: that the plague was developed by the humans as a biological agent to be used against the rats. Knowing that their theory will be proved true if the humans have developed a cure during their absence, the group hastens home. Their theory is proved correct, and Luxa furiously exposes the covert military project. Dr. Neveve is executed for her participation and Solovet, the project's head, is imprisoned in preparation for a trial. Following up on a promise to Ripred, Luxa sends doses of the cure to the gnawers while the Regalian hospital treats as many human and bat victims as possible. Though she is healing, Gregor's mother is too weak to go home, and so the book ends with Gregor confiding in his neighbor Mrs. Cormaci.
The Prophecy of Blood
The "Prophecy of Blood" features a repeating "refrain", which goes as follows:
"Turn and turn and turn again.
You see the what but not the when.
Remedy and wrong entwine,
And so they form a single vine."
The full prophecy reads:
Warmblood now a bloodborne death,
Will rob your body of its breath,
Mark your skin, and seal your fate.
The Underland becomes a plate.
Bring the warrior from above
If yet his heart is swayed by love.
Bring the princess or despair,
No crawlers care without her there.
Those whose blood runs red and hot
Must join to seek the healing spot.
In the cradle find the cure
For that which makes the blood impure.
Gnawer, human, set aside
The hatreds that reside inside.
If the flames of war are fanned,
All Warmbloods lose the Underland.
The prophecy may be "translated" as follows:
Second "verse": The second "verse" mandates the return of the "warrior", Gregor, to help the people he cares about. It also tells the Regalians to bring down Gregor's sister Boots, the "princess", to gain the allegiance of the crawlers. The crawlers are cold-blooded and as such have no interest in a cure for the plague, except for protecting their precious princess.
Third "verse": This stanza reiterates the need for the warmbloods of the Underland to unite to find the cure. It states that the "cradle", or birthplace, of the plague is also where the "impurity of the blood" will be cured. When the warmbloods first assume that starshade is the cure, they also make the assumption that the plague must have originated in the Vineyard of Eyes. It is later learned that the "cradle" is actually Dr. Neveve's lab back in Regalia when she produces the cure in the same location.
Fourth "verse": The final stanza Gregor refers to as "Sandwich's usual prediction that if things didn't work out, there would be total destruction and everybody would end up dead" because of how it warns that the outbreak of the plague represents an all-too-easy opportunity to start a war between the humans and rats. The humans later interpret this stanza as reinforcement for Queen Luxa's decision to send aid to the rats.
"Refrain": The cryptic "refrain" of the prophecy confuses generations of Underland scholars until the quest group interprets it to describe how the humans were both the creators and curers of the plague. The first line implies that, no matter which direction the questers turn, they will not have the cure until they have returned to their starting place (Turning 180° three times, as Boots does in a special dance she makes up to go along with the prophecy, results in one facing one's starting direction.) The second line refers to how the Underlanders see the "what", the plague, but not its "when", or when its first victim was infected. At first they believe the plague was first transmitted to the flier Ares when he was bitten by carnivorous mites, when in reality he was infected during an accident in Dr. Neveve's laboratory much later. The final two lines are, similarly, first interpreted to be a rephrasing of the third verse telling them the "vine" which both caused and cured the disease comes from the same place, though the Regalians later realize it hints at the humans' involvement as both the aggressors and peacemakers of the conflict caused by the plague.
- Gregor: A young Overlander and "rager", said to be the warrior mentioned in "The Prophecy of Blood".
- Boots (Margaret): Boots is Gregor's toddler sister. She is called the "princess" by the crawlers, and has a knack for recognizing different insects.
- Hamnet: A former soldier and son of Solovet and Vikus, who leads the questers through the Jungle until his death.
- Hazard: The child of Hamnet and an unnamed Overlander woman. Hazard is gifted with languages.
- Ripred: A gnawer (rat) and rager like Gregor.
- Mange: A male rat who is eaten by a carnivorous plant. He is Lapblood's mate and the father of her pups.
- Lapblood: Mange's mate, desperately trying to save her pups from the plague.
- Temp: The crawlers' representative on the quest. He is endlessly patient and brave, especially with his "princess". He also has an uncanny knack to recognize danger before other questers, though his warnings are often ignored.
- Frill: A hisser who has been living with Hamnet and Hazard. She dies fighting the cutters.
- Nike: A black and white flier (bat) who helps Gregor while Ares is incapacitated. She is the daughter of the fliers' queen, and has a permanently optimistic disposition.
- Solovet and Ajax: Originally planned to be quest members, but banned from participating by Hamnet. Solovet tried to force her son to be a warrior even after he turned to pacifism, and so he resents her and her bond Ajax.
- Luxa: An unofficial member of the quest who joins the group after she learns of the plague. She was trapped in the Jungle when her bond's wing was dislocated, and is at first untrusting of the group because of her hatred for the rats.
- Aurora: A golden flier who is bonded to Luxa. She incapacitated and delirious from pain after her wing is dislocated during a battle with some twisters, but recovers with help from Hamnet and Gregor.
The book received positive reviews, but was criticized for being slower paced than the previous books.