With two prophecies fulfilled, Gregor is now focused on the Prophecy of Blood, which calls for Gregor and Boots to return to the Underland to help ward off a plague. But this time, his mother refuses to let him go . . . unless she is allowed to travel with them.
When they arrive in the subterranean city, the plague is spreading — and it claims one of Gregor’s closest companions. Only then does Gregor start to understand how the illness plays with the fate of all warm-blooded creatures. But how can he help combat it?
I seem to have the weird habit of reviewing books that are smack-dab in the middle of a series, instead of taking the time to review the first book first, the second one second, and so on. The thing is, I almost always like the middle book of a series (usually a trilogy, but since the Underland Chronicles is a five book series, Warmbloods is the middle book too) best, so naturally I feel the most inspired to shout my love for it from the rooftops. Or the blogtops. Anyway. Warmbloods is currently my favourite book of the series, although all of them are great, and since I just read it recently (for the third time, I believe), I’m reviewing it. There’ll be spoilers, for this book and possibly others in the series too, just so you know. Just so you know.
About three days have transpired between the above paragraph and this one, and I think it’s mainly because I don’t know exactly why Warmbloods is my favorite book out of the Underland Chronicles. Normally, I dislike stories where, at one point or other, the characters are wandering around in some place with no food or water (especially if that place is hot). It makes me feel thirsty and uncomfortable right along with them. And the fact that Luxa (probably my favorite main character) behaves like a jerk for most of the time she’s on-page certainly isn’t a vote in the book’s favour. But it’s still my favourite.
A big part of it is, I believe, Hamnet. Vikus and Solovet’s son, twin brother to Luxa’s mom, and husband to a mysterious Overlander woman (which resulted in his Halflander son, Hazard) whom you never find out much about. His past is undeniably tragic and heartbreaking, so I feel a lot of sympathy for him, but the person he became after all that tragedy is admirable in its own right. Living with his son and lizard, Frill, in the dangerous jungle of the Underland isn’t a picnic, but he’d rather do that than go back to Regalia and end up harming more people (it’s super complicated). And his death is unfair. So unfair. There are a handful of fictional character deaths where the only word to describe them is unfair, and Hamnet’s definitely is. He could’ve survived, gone back to Regalia, worked out his relationship with the various family members, and it would’ve all worked out, especially since Solovet dies in Gregor and the Code of Claw. But NO. Suzanne Collins killed him off, just like Finnick.
I can’t say enough good things about Suzanne Collins’ knack for characterization. From Ripred to Luxa to Doctor Neveeve to Gregor himself, each character is completely unique, fully-formed, and believable. I never imagine the rats or bats or cockroaches (yes, cockroaches) as humans rather than their respective species, which is more than I can say for other books I’ve read where animals make up some of the main characters (or all of them, in the case of the Redwall series). My one complaint about the characters in the book would be that Howard didn’t really make an appearance (dear, dear Howard…), but since the plague was so bad, his excellent skills as a medic were needed back at Regalia. So I can’t really complain too much.
As with every other Suzanne Collins book to date, Warmbloods was divided into three parts of nine chapters each. Most chapters end on a cliffhanger, and, of course, each part does as well. The plotting/pacing is great, which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read. (Well, except for the excessive amount of Feels – especially connected to Hazard.) Overall, I’d say that this is one of the most interesting books in the series, even if (and perhaps because) it’s not part of what I call ‘The Bane Trilogy’ (Prophecy of Bane, Marks of Secret, and Code of Claw). Warmbloods only mentions the Bane in passing a couple of times, which I didn’t mind, because, frankly, he creeps me out. Instead, the book focuses on showing more of the rising tensions between the rats and humans, which is great foreshadowing for the next two books, as well as introducing another species – the cutters (ants) – and bringing in more detailed background to Luxa’s dysfunctional family tree. I didn’t miss the Bane at all.
A word about the prophecies: Like Ripred, I don’t take these really seriously – I think Sandwich was either insane or like a three-year-old trying to get attention, scrawling cryptic rhymes anywhere he could. I mean, the guy practically barricaded himself into The Prophecy Room (dun-dun-DUN) and lived out his days chiseling junk onto the walls. But each prophecy is pretty interesting, especially in how each one rhymes in a different way, and how the Regalians (and Gregor, kind of) scramble to fit any meaning they can to each one.
“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.” ~Prophecy of Blood