I had not previously read any of the Underland Chronicles, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this book. The background story was relatively easy to figure out, and I liked the characters immediately. Gregor takes the news of his impending death quite well, and his tenderness toward his family is endearing. Even the animal characters--Ripred, especially--have more human characteristics than some of the humans. In spite of gruesome battles and plenty of darkness in this novel, the ending leaves us with hope, both for Gregor and his family and for the human race in general.
Highly recommended for grades 5-9.