Gregor and the Code of Claw: Doesn’t quite match quality of earlier books

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Suzanne Collins Gregor and the Code of Claw Gregor the OverlanderGregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins

This is the fifth and series-ending (I shy from ever using the word “final” with regard to fantasy nowadays) book in the Gregor series, one of the most original and powerful young adult fantasy series now in recent years. It is not a standalone book, so if you haven’t read the first four, you should start. Assuming you have, however, how does Code stack up?

I have to admit to some disappointment. While much of what has made Gregor such a strong series can be found here: strongly distinct characters, a quick pacing, truly moving scenes, a realistic approach to violence and its consequences seldom seen in most books (young adult or not), Code doesn’t quite match the quality of the earlier books.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsCode picks up at the end of the fourth book. The war between the humans and their allies (bats, crawlers, nibblers, etc.) and gnawers has ratcheted up to peak level as the humans fight a major early battle against the rat army, then prepare for a siege, all the while trying to frantically break the “Code of Claw” that the rat army is employing to communicate. Gregor is in the middle of it all, of course, all while trying to forget about the prophecy saying he (The Warrior) will die.
Much of the plot is expected from previous books — The Bane makes an appearance, tension deepens between human factions, the relationship between Gregor and Luxa continues to grow. There are a few surprises in terms of plot. The battle scenes are bloody (as
usual) and major characters are not spared war’s deadly consequences (also as usual).

Typically for Suzanne Collins, the story moves along quickly, but here I think it moves too quickly. Much of the book felt a bit rushed — plot and character elements are introduced and then resolved too quickly or, if not resolved, pushed back by another fast-moving plot/character development. It would have felt rushed no matter where in the series this took place, but coming in the final book, one especially wanted some time to savor some of the developments, allowing them to deepen and allowing the reader to become somewhat more invested. It’s by no means a fatal flaw, Code is still a pretty good book, but it had the potential to be much more, especially based on previous books.

In the end, it’s a fitting close, if a slightly flawed or disappointing one. But that doesn’t take away from the accomplishments of the series as whole, which is highly recommended, although parents should be aware that it is not for younger kids — too many scenes that are truly frightening, too many meaningful, painful deaths, and a lot of blood. But for older YA readers, it’s an exhilarating, moving ride. Three stars for this novel, five for the series as a whole.

The Underland Chronicles — (2003-2007) Ages 9-12. Publisher: When Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. This world is on the brink of war, and Gregor’s arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland’s uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it — until he realizes it’s the only way to solve the mystery of his father’s disappearance. Reluctantly, Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.

Suzanne Collins: The Underland Chronicles: 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 ClawSuzanne Collins: The Underland Chronicles: 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 ClawSuzanne Collins: The Underland Chronicles: 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 ClawSuzanne Collins: The Underland Chronicles: 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 ClawSuzanne Collins: The Underland Chronicles: 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


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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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