The Chicken House, 2009
Now on a quest to the deeps with his best friend Chester and his brother Cal, Will Burrows and the boys begin to discover that things are more than they seem to be. Initially in search of his father, Dr. Burrows, Will is rescued by a pair of rebels who have been tracking them across the Great Plain. These two insurgents reveal that the Styx have been plotting to unleash deadly diseases on the surface in order to wipe out the Topsoilers and reclaim what they believe to be rightfully theirs. Also, unbeknownst to Will, his real mother Sara has been convinced by the Styx that her son is a monster who murdered hundreds of people, including her brother Tam and is hunting him in the deeps. Now Will must choose between his loyalty to his father or this group of freedom fighters as well as desperately try to evade all of the Styx’s attempts on his life.
This sequel heightens the drama and the underlying story in far more detail. The first book is mostly about setting up the world and the characters, but Deeper reveals that there’s a much larger world with powerful players and much at stake. It also sets up what should prove to be an interesting plot in the book after this one. As such, there are more layers of conflict and more elements of social commentary. Will unwittingly stumbles upon a war that’s been going on for hundreds of years, and doesn’t yet realize that he probably has a part to play for good. In addition, the themes of power and oppression from a ruling class who doesn’t care about human life as well as the effect that religion has to blind its followers to a great tragedy going on around them or through them gives this fantasy tangible elements to the real world.
On the other hand, Tunnels is an exclusively original fantasy, which makes it engaging and imaginative in other ways. The elements throughout and the back-story on how this underworld was created are unique to this tale. Certainly, this isn’t the first time that a story has been told about people going down into the earth’s crust, Journey to the Center of the Earth being the most popular. However, the world created in the Tunnels series is entirely unique to this subterranean fantasy. There are no elves or dragons, no vampires or werewolves and the only magic that shows up is through scientific discovery. I recommend this to any readers 11+.
For the Classroom
Since this is largely a work of fantasy, the science of the world is different than our own. However, the exploration of the tunnels, and the cavernous underworld is interesting and somewhat applicable to geological studies.