A very strong finish for this series. Honestly, I think that the first book was the weakest, and that's really a shame, because I fear it may turn some people away from finishing the series. One thing is for sure, this little series is not nearly as popular as it deserves to be. I hope to recommend it a lot in the future, because it has slowly made its way to one of my favorite fantasy series.
Of course, the fact that this is the last book in the series makes it difficult for it to be satisfying. There was so much more I wanted, and so many things I wished could be different. These feelings can mostly be chalked up to the pitfalls of being a last book. Upon reflection, the only true complaint I have is Collins's handling of the prophecies. I don't want to spoil anything, but I felt like she'd brought the readers along a certain path for the first four books, then overturned all our assumptions in the last one, expecting us to chalk everything to this point up to coincidence. Not cool.
Rather than reflecting any further upon this book, I'd like to comment on the series as a whole in this review. I think it has several elements that set it apart from standard fantasy fare.
First, the strong inclusion of family in each book. So many fantasy books conveniently get the family out of the way, by orphaning, or otherwise afflicting the hero, so he or she can go on adventures by himself. Collins, on the other hand, includes Gregor's family, and it ends up being one of the best elements of the series. It serves to show another side of Gregor, as someone who doesn't just slay monsters, but has the tenderness to take care of a three-year-old sister. This same sister, Boots, goes on almost every quest with Gregor, and she adds most of the humor to the book. This is something that is really needed to balance out the dark parts of the books. It's good to have a hero that is conscious of the responsibilities of family, and it adds a fresh element to the fantasy feel.
Another strength of these books is that they have such real conflict. Collins is not afraid to ask the tough questions. Like, what affect does all this killing have on the psyche of a twelve-year-old boy? And are these actions ever justified? Is war necessary to gain peace? These are things that Gregor struggles with all through the books, and there are no light answers. The asking of them gives a depth to this series that most fantasies lack.
The last thing I'll mention is that Collins does some pretty awesome characterizations. And boy, she has to in order to make us become fond of some of these characters. I mean, a giant cockroach? A rat? The path to liking them is sure to be an uphill climb. Yet, by the last book, I couldn't help but love them and want more of them.
Along with all these things, The Underland Chronicles also contains all the action, excitement, and battles scenes prevalent in other fantasy. It's just that there's so much more with it.
So count me as a big fan of these books. I would consider this a 5-star series. I'll be recommending them to any hapless children at the library who stumble over and want to know what to read after Percy Jackson, or Harry Potter, or any of those other guys.