Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
The cover of the first boxed set edition.
|Cover artist||Daniel Craig, August Hall|
|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|
Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods is an epic fantasy children's novel, and the third book in The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2005. Scholastic has rated its "grade level equivalent" as 5.3 and its lexile score as 710L. The book has been lauded for "[addressing] a number of political issues ... in a manner accessible to upper elementary and middle school readers." It has also been praised as an excellent sequel to the preceding two books, though some reviewers have warned, "if you have a sensitive reader, be aware that there are a few gory descriptions ... and the characters encounter some things that are potentially scary." Horn Book's review of the book classified it as "intermediate fiction".
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. Neveeve, 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. Neveeve 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" is unusual in two ways: it is the first of Bartholomew of Sandwich's prophecies to feature a repeating "refrain"; and it is carved backwards in a tight corner of the prophecy room, so that a mirror is required to read it. It 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.
Meaning: Gregor hypothesizes that Sandwich included a cryptic repeating segment in the prophecy to drum the meaning of these lines into the heads of his readers, or to emphasize their importance. It successfully confuses generations of Underland scholars until the quest group discovers that the plague originated with the humans, and was not a natural disease. 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. The second line refers to how the Underlanders see the "what"—the plague—but not its "when"—the time its first victim was infected. The final two lines similarly describe the location of the first victim.
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.
Meaning 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.
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.
Meaning: This stanza reiterates the need for the warmbloods of the Underland to unite to find the cure. It states that the birthplace of the plague is also where the disease 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. Neveeve's lab back in Regalia when she produces the cure in the same location.
Gnawer, human, set aside
The hatreds that reside inside.
If the flames of war are fanned,
All Warmbloods lose the Underland.
Meaning: 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." 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.
- 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. Hamnet resents the two of them for never giving up this crusade.
- 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.
Since its first printing in 2005, a number of alternate editions have been produced. Scholastic has signed rights to publishers working in a total of 19 different languages. To date, editions have appeared in German, French, Chinese, Polish, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Italian, Finnish, Bulgarian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Turkish. Multiple editions with unique cover art have been published for most of these languages. Scholastic advertised the second English edition, relaeased exactly one year after the first, as having "fresh new cover art" by August Hall.
The book was originally released as a hardcover and later as a paperback and as part of a boxed set. An ebook version was released in August 2010. Random House Audio released an audiobook version in December 2005. It was read by actor and narrator Paul Boehmer.
Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods has been positively reviewed by professional and amateur critics alike. As of May 2016, the book was given 4.8/5 stars on Amazon, and 4.5/5 on B&N Online. Many reviews, including that of School Library Journal, cite the book particularly as an excellent sequel to the first two of the series. Sarah Stewart of Goodreads said in her review, "It was such a relief to be in the hands of an author who knows what they are doing and can create satisfying story that stands on its own two feet even when it is part of a series." Though these reviews praise the novel as a continuation, they also occasionally criticize aspects of the novel which are not as discussed in reviews of other installments. For example, Amazon reviewer B. Capossere states "The plotting in this one is not quite as strong as in the others—a bit more straightforward (though with a nice darkly cynical twist at the end) and containing a few scenes that seem a bit sketchy, not quite fully thought out or drawn out." Other reviews have made similar claims about the novel's ill-explored setting, large number of new characters, and overly "quest-based" storyline.
A few reviews cited the novel's dark plot as a reason to limit this book to older readers only. Its Kirkus review, for example, read: "This offering takes on an even darker tone than the earlier ones, delving into meaty questions of territorial expansion and its justification." The book's author, Suzanne Collins, has said, "I'd like to take topics like war and introduce them at an earlier age. If you look at 'Gregor', it has all kinds of topics. There's biological warfare, there's genocide, there's military intelligence. But it's in a fantasy." Collins has also stated that she approaches her books the same way her father approached explaining his military service to her as a child: at a level understandable to children, but not without the honest descriptions needed to show the true gravity of the situation. As phrased in a review by Lydia Presely, as an author Collins does not feel the need to "pull her punches".
A review published in The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books makes the interesting claim that Gregor's "evolution from a scared, unwilling combatant in the first book to a morally responsible, talented warrior ... here ... makes his character realistic and appealing", and thus that the increased violence in Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods is a necessary part of his character development. Reviews by Library Media Connection and VOYA also praise the novel's more serious nature as providing better insight into the politics of the Underland.
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