I really am enjoying The Books of Ember series. The first book was great, you can read my full review on it here on my blog, so I won’t talk about that here.
The second book in the series, The People of Sparks takes place right where the first book leaves off. At the end of the first book, Lina and Doon make it out of Ember and discover the land above the caverns that had been living under. Upon throwing a note down to their people who discover it, the rest of the Emberites leave their underground city and follow Lina and Doon. All the Emberites come across a post-apocalyptic village of survivors, whose settlement they call Sparks. In Ember, we are told that the City of Ember was built for the Emberites by The Builders. The Builders not only constructed Ember to be a functional society, but told those who founded the city underground that they were to forget all about the world they left behind. Therefore, the Emberites knew nothing about blue skies, or the world above. As far as they were told, they were the only survivors left in a dark, dead world. The Emberites lived with electricity, and running water, and their city was stocked with supplies to keep them going for a multitude of years. Canned food, light bulbs, clothing, etc. The first book tells us that the people of Ember are far beyond their city’s capacity, repairing failing items, scrounging for bits and pieces of things to re-use. Their biggest fear is that the lights will go out forever and they would be living in total darkness and starve. 400 and some Emberites arrive in the City of Sparks, hoping to receive food, water, shelter and assistance. They are refugees of their former city, looking to create new roots and a life elsewhere in the world they know very little about. The City of Sparks is in direct contrast to Ember. They live more primitively with their lack of technology. They use wood burning stoves to cook instead of electric stoves, and they have no electricity at all. They use water pumps to get water out of the ground. They are aware of the world they came from, the Disaster, and the Plagues that destroyed the world. They know the things that have been lost, and the err of mankind. These people have suffered great hardships in creating their settlements, and are finally on the verge of prosperity when the Emberites- all 400 of them arrive at their doorstep.
This book in my opinion is a lot better than the first. Where the first book had themes of faith and belief, hope, and what it means to live and be human; this book expanded those themes and introduced us to a few more facets of what it means to be human; and not the good parts. War is something the Emberites know nothing of. Sun, heat, changing seasons, extensive manual labor and starvation are things that are foreign to them. Their city had been built for them. Stocked with supplies for them. What starts out as kindness, and not wanting to repeat the errors of the past; the People of Sparks take in the Emberite refugees and devise a solution. How will they feed an extra 400 people without going hungry themselves? Where will they put them? So many questions arise, and in a vote, the 3 leaders of Sparks opt to keep the Emberites and teach them about building a settlement of their own, for 6 months. At the start of winter, the Emberites must leave and make their own way.
Naturally, people from different worlds, with different lifestyles collide, and turmoil ensues. The People of Sparks who were kind at first, slowly start to resent the Emberites and their ignorance. Their food portions become smaller, yet the Emberites are expected to work beyond exhaustion, in a slave like manor. Despite all the expectations and resentment, when the Emberites ask for more food, the People of Sparks are outraged. One bad apple on both sides turns the tables, and the sparks of hate ignite.
Lina and Doon learn about the Disaster, which is described as 4 wars and 3 plagues. The wars over oil and land, the weapons of war such as bombs, and nukes destroyed them. There was sickness after, eradicating most of the human race. Unbeknownst to the People of Sparks, the Emberites were shuttled underground, to preserve the human race. We hear about how these evils destroyed the world, and contrasted with the arrival of the Emberite refugees- oblivious to these things; grow just as hateful as the People of Sparks. Seeds of anger, and fear grow into hate and destruction. The mistreated Emberites want to push back after their mistreatment, concerned about the unfairness of how they are treated, and expected after just a few short months to go it alone in the throes of winter. Even Lina and Doon are swept up into the conflict, both bothered by all of the negativity.
This book simply stated the dangers of humanity, and contrasted it with the simplicity of it as well. Torren, who lied about throwing the tomatoes and was the catalyst for the seeds of hate being sewn; does it out of anger (Doon’s father tells him in the first book about controlling his anger, because it can have unforeseen consequences. Nice continuation on that message.), and the way Lina and Doon look at the bright world above with wonderment and appreciation is a beautiful juxtaposition.
The message in this book is clear: Fear and Anger breed hate, and kindness, generosity and selfless acts breed love. The People of Sparks were afraid being burdened by the Emberites, and wanted to be selfish, even though they didn’t see their actions as being selfish because they were concerned for their own people rather than realizing that they were ALL people. They looked down on the Emberites because of their lack of knowledge of their world, and saw them as less than they and treated them as such; maybe not at first, but definitely toward the end. When they realize that unfortunate consequences of their actions, only then do they relent.
I can’t help but compare this to our present society, and I think that is the point. This story felt more like a cautionary tale of warning, showing the path of destruction that could lie ahead if we don’t get our action together. I also couldn’t help but think about the recent issue that affected my state as well as many others, with the influx of Syrian refugees. States publicly announced whether they would be accepting these refugees, and my state publicly stated they would accept them. Still I saw on Facebook, and overheard people in my town arguing about whether it would be safe, and why we should or shouldn’t. I remember having a discussion with my friends over dinner about it, and one of my friends stated it was like history repeating itself, with the people’s reactions and opinions on accepting German refugees after WWII.
I should mention that I knew this was a YA book, but I didn’t realize how young. I assumed that when I went to Barnes & Noble last night to look for The Diamond of Darkhold, that I would find it in the YA Teen section, but after combing all the shelves I didn’t see it. I decided to look in the Children’s section, thinking maybe it might be there next to Harry Potter (since our main characters are 12/13 year olds) and I was surprised to see it under the “Young Readers ages 7-12/Grades 3-6”. I think that makes me appreciate it a little more. I’ve always said that a good story is good no matter who reads it. A true, good story transcends beyond the audience it is written for, and I feel that this series is just that good. Especially when I read these books and pick up on the themes and messages that run deeper, but are simple in nature. What does it mean to be human? Why are we so afraid of what we don’t know or understand? Why can we not meet difference with kindness instead of fear? What does it mean to live? To believe, to hope for a better, brighter future.
The next book in the series is actually a prequel, The Prophet of Yonwood, which is set 50 years before the creation of Ember. Amazon said it could come anywhere between the 7th (tomorrow) and the 22nd, so it could come literally any day. I got The People of Sparks 3 days after ordering, so hopefully it comes tomorrow and I can get started on it ASAP, otherwise I am going to have to start another book while I wait, and the remaining books on my list (other than the classic, The Phantom of the Opera) are very long books. The Ember books are not that long, as far as pages go, and they go by pretty fast.
I am sorry this review was so long! I was so taken with this book, I think I could have gone on a lot more, I promise I did try to condense as best I could.