This is the end of the book, and I’m not going to review the next books in the series right away, or any books for the time being. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, and there are other things I want to focus on for this blog and other things I want to write about and I simply can’t juggle it all right now, so until I can book reviews are on hold.
So, Gregor jumped, and most of the rats fall into the chasm along with Gregor. The ground gave way as he jumped and the rats were right on his heels. Henry was with the rats and is falling too, which confuses Gregor. He had jumped in because he thought he was supposed to be the last to die, but can Henry die too?
Then Gregor realizes that Ares is flying among the falling rats. Of course, Ares would save his bond, right?
Gregor had never seen Ares dive in earnest. He was heading for the ground at tremendous speed, dodging the rats that reached for him. Gregor began to doubt he would be able to pull out of it. “He overshot,” thought Gregor as the bat rocketed past Henry.
He could hear Henry’s desperate plea: “Ares!”
At that moment, Gregor slammed into something.
Yeah, Ares saved Gregor instead of Henry.
He heard the bat whisper, “I did not know, Overlander. I swear to you I did not know.”
“I believe you,” Gregor whispered back.
So, Ares didn’t know about Henry’s plan, and we can assume he also didn’t know about Henry’s plan to kill Ripred the other night. Henry was keeping secrets from his bond, but he still expected Ares to take his side. Henry was arrogant enough to believe that Ares would always choose him, no matter how he treated the bat, and in the end that’s what got him killed.
The other quest members survived, the rats that did not fall into the pit have either joined Ripred’s side or fled when King Gorger died. The quest is over. Ripred bids the group goodbye, and the rest must now return to Regalia.
Ares and Aurora are unsure of the way home, so they have to stop on a ledge. Luxa is in a deep depression because of Henry’s betrayal and can’t seem to speak. Ares isn’t doing much better. Aurora needs stitches on her wing, which Gregor has to do for her, and she can’t fly for a while afterwards.
Figuring out what to do is left up to Gregor and Temp, but at that moment his dad wakes up and he seems to be more aware than he was before. He recognizes Gregor and he’s able to help figure out how to get home. Using a lodestone (there were plenty of them in the pit that Gregor’s father was being held in), a needle from their medical supplies, and a small bowl of water, they’re able to make a compass that point them north, the direction Regalia is in. After a while of flying north, Ares and Aurora are able to recognize their surroundings enough to know the way home.
Once they get back to the palace, Gregor’s father is taken down to the hospital and Boots is taken to the daycare. Vikus comes to greet the returned quest members, and learns of Henry’s betrayal and death.
Vikus looked at Luxa and opened his arms. She stood, still frozen, staring at him as if he were a complete stranger.
“Luxa, it’s your grandpa,” said Gregor. It seemed like the best and most important thing to say at the moment. “It’s your grandpa.”
Luxa blinked. A tiny tear formed at the corner of her eye. A battle took place on her face as she tried to stop the feelings rising up inside her.
The feelings won, and to Gregor’s great relief, she ran into Vikus’ arms.
Boots and Gregor’s dad are being taken care of by the Underlanders. Boots has a mild flu that is simple to cure. Gregor’s dad needs more attention, of course, and spending all of that time as a prisoner of the rats is something that has irrevocably changed him, but they believe that he will recover.
The war with the rats is over, for the time being. They retreated when news of King Gorger’s death spread, and they’re now in chaos trying to figure out what to do without a leader.
Luxa has also recovered somewhat, but there’s some bad news about Ares. He’s at a hearing, where it will be decided whether or not he should be banished. And most are in favor of banishing him.
Everyone is convinced that Ares knew about Henry’s plot. Even after Gregor and Luxa point out that Ares couldn’t have been in on Henry’s plot if he chose to save Gregor instead, that only gives them another reason to try to banish Ares. He broke his bond. That in itself is an offense that leads to banishment.
“Even when you find out you’re bonded to a really evil guy?” asked Gregor. “Seems like there ought to be a special rule for that.”
Gregor’s right, there should be a rule for that. What if you’re bonded to someone and it turns out that they’re terrible, or that you really don’t see eye to eye with them. I guess that’s why choosing someone to bond with is such a big decision and they don’t generally let people do it too young or too early, but still. Is there any way to break up a bond officially?
In any case, it’s seeming like everyone is intent on getting rid of Ares, and the sad thing is Ares isn’t really fighting it. Either because he’s so depressed about Henry’s betrayal that he doesn’t care what happens to him, or because he thinks he deserves banishment for breaking their bond, or maybe both. Probably both.
“Yes, who among us could ever trust him again?”
“I could!” yelled Gregor, silencing the crowd. “I trust him with my life!” And then he knew what he had to do.
He ran to Ares and extended his hand. The bat lifted his head in puzzlement, then understood. “Oh, no, Overlander,” he whispered. “I am not worthy to accept.”
Aw, Ares, of course you are. You deserve better than Henry.
Gregor grabs Ares’ claw and says the vow, and after some hesitation, Ares says it back.
Gregor stepped back to face the crowd. He and Ares stood before them, hand still locked to claw. Gregor spoke with a power that was entirely new to him. “I am the warrior. I am he who called. Who among you dares banish Ares, my bond?”
Forget the rootbeer thing, this is the coolest thing Gregor has ever done.
Now that he’s bonded to the warrior, it’s decided that Ares can’t be banished, though everyone is pretty pissed about this turn of events.
Gregor turned to his new bat. “Well, I probably won’t be here much longer.”
“It matters not,” said Ares. “While I have flight, I will be here always for you.”
I like Ares.
After visiting with his dad and Boots for a bit, Gregor finds Vikus. He’s offered a sword that belonged to Sandwich, but Gregor refuses it.
“I pretended to be the warrior so I could get my dad. But I don’t want to be a warrior,” said Gregor. “I want to be like you.”
“I have fought in many battles, Gregor,” said Vikus cautiously.
“I know, but you don’t go looking for them. You try to work things out every other way you can think of first. Even with the spiders. And Ripred,” said Gregor. “Even when people think you’re wrong, you keep trying.”
It’s nice that Gregor is able to see the value in how Vikus tries to solve problems, how it’s better to save fighting as your last resort or for self-defense, rather than making it your first move every time. Nearly everyone else in the Underland makes it sound like every act of compassion or mercy is only going to get you killed. But if that’s the way everyone thinks, how is there ever going to be peace?
Finally it’s time for Gregor to go home, while it’s still safe to do so. He says goodbye to the Underlanders, and with a few vague and ominous hints about something called the Prophecy of Bane, they send him on his way. So. The Underland isn’t done with Gregor just yet.
Ares flies Gregor, Boots, and their dad to the entrance by the Waterway, which lets them out right in Central Park. They take a cab home, to find their mother sitting silently at the table, alone. The book ends with Gregor saying the one thing his mother wants to hear right now, which is that they’re home. Finally.
So. Some overall thoughts.
A decent start to the series, though it’s definitely not without its faults. Most of those faults, for me anyway, appear more toward the end. Henry’s motivations are confusing and that weakens the impact, plus the whole thing felt rushed. Up until the last few chapters, things were actually progressing pretty slowly. The quest doesn’t even officially start until Ripred shows up, which is very near the end of the book, and then the quest is over within a couple of chapters. It makes the book’s pacing feel very uneven overall.
But I like these characters, and I like this world. They become more developed later on, of course, but I thought they were introduced well here. I was interested in where the story would go from here, and how much more of this world there was to see, and how the characters would continue growing. That’s really what Suzanne Collins does best, drawing you into her books through the characters and settings, and that’s what keeps me interested in her stories.