I probably hyped up this book a bit too much, since I knew it was going to be the last one in the series. If your new to reading my blog, I recently became smitten with Jeanne DuPrau’s young adult book series, The City of Ember. First let’s have a small recap:
The first book, titled The City of Ember, is about a group of humans who live in the underground citer of Ember, and have no knowledge of a world outside their own, because they have lived underground for over 200 years. The main characters are 11 year olds Lina and Doon, and they discover the lost knowledge of the magical timed lockbox, which was supposed to open when they should have exited their underground world but was lost over time. At the end of the first book, Lina and Doon discover the world above and spread the word to their fellow Emberites that as their city continues to falter; with electrical outages becoming more frequent; that the time has come to leave the only world they have known. In the second book, The People of Sparks, after their journey out of the underground, Lina, Doon and the Emberites come across a settlement known as Sparks. The people of Sparks have endured harsh weather, and famine and labor among other things, and their town is finally prospering. The world of Ember was built underground by The Builders and included everything they needed, the biggest things being electricity, running water, and stockpiles of inventory such as canned food, clothes, and medicine. Despite having all these things, the Emberites know nothing of the sun or weather, or seasons, fire or even bicycles. The people of Sparks lived without the necessities that were so common for the Emberites, building houses, planting crops, using herbs as medicine and using pumps to pump water and kindling to light stoves and keep warm. The second book is more about conflict and doing what is right- the big conflict of the book is between the people of Sparks and the Emberites, with the people of Sparks resenting the Emberites for being “a burden” on their life by having to share food and shelter with them when they have worked so hard to prosper themselves. The second book is a really great follow up to the first, and keeps with the themes of the series such as hope, faith, and doing the right thing even if it’s hard. It’s easy to see why these books are great for young readers, and the older more mature reader as well. The third book, The Prophet of Yonwood, feels like an outsider, since it’s technically a prequel story as it is set 50 years before the creation of Ember. There are a lot of moments I was looking for things to tie in; and really, they tie in until the last few pages, and I’ll get to that later. (some things do show up in the last book, as seeds from the third book.)
The last book, The Diamond of Darkhold, starts immediately where The People of Sparks leaves off. At the end of the second book, Lina and Doon discover how to make electricity in a small generator using a light bulb, and hand crank. At the end of the second book, this gives us hope that our characters will figure out a way to save their people and their newfound civilization. While everything seems to be going well, despite the hard winter, we discover that in addition to the clues and instructions The Builders left for their exit, they also left them an invention with instructions. Because reading is a practice that has been lost over time with the people from the world above, a roamer who discovers the invention takes the book to use its pages for fire starters, and by the time our characters get a hold of it has been mostly destroyed. This books almost acts as a doppelganger to the first one with our characters trying to decipher the lost message, figuring it out, embarking on the journey only to have complications, and then eventually help everyone.
I did thoroughly enjoy this book, especially the discovery of what has happened to Ember. When they left Ember, they left in a hurry, and we see our characters bravely venture back to Ember to try find the secret, and supplies for their people. Upon their investigation, they find out that Ember has been inhabited by a family who believes the city was meant for them. They declared their land Darkhold, because most of the time the city is now in utter darkness; this being the driving fear that drove the Emberites to leave. The Trogg family who resides in Ember have an ever-burning fire for light, and occasionally the power comes on in spurts. Afraid anyone who discovers their underground palace will run and bring hundreds to the city to inhabit it, they take prisoner anyone who comes there, forbidding them to leave. Doon is captured, and Lina must hurry back and get a rescue team to rescue him, but of course Doon finally escapes and shuts the power off for good by tampering with the generator in the Pipeworks and trapping the Troggs in the Pipeworks. The other major discovery is what invention was left behind for the Emberites. The invention is described as a diamond, and for a while we are led to believe there is only one. We discover there is indeed more than one, but the instructions are moot, being mostly destroyed. It is on accident that Lina and Doon discover that the invention is solar powered lights. At the end of the book, we find out that the Emberites and the people of Sparks all learn how to use them, and even trade them; putting the solar powered lights in other towns, and the knowledge of electricity spreads. In the last few pages, it is mentioned that a moving star in the sky the characters have noticed, is an unmanned spaceship sent by an astronomer named Hoyt McCoy, a character from the third book The Prophet of Yonwood. In The Prophet of Yonwood, Hoyt McCoy is a grouchy old man who lives in a house that mimics the stars or the “heavens”. It is insinuated in The Prophet of Yonwood, that Nicki’s grandfather was contemplating and researching alternate existing dimensions and that Hoyt McCoy was some intelligent man who could shed light on this. (Nicki’s grandfather mentions it in his diary writings). We discover in the paragraph that names Hoyt McCoy that he is indeed an astronomer, that had discovered the existence of other intelligence and made contact. This is why on the verge of war, that the world does not go into war until 50 year later. It finally ties in together.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Ember books. I understand how the third book ties in now, but I still think the main 3 could work without The Prophet of Yonwood. On a side note, I discovered that there are curriculums built around this book, mostly in the 5-6 grade range. I am thinking of doing this as a unit for a young adult reader, since the story is both engaging and a fast read.
Personally, I have 6 books on my shelf waiting to be read, I have not decided if I’m reading one solo or a back to back comparison. Until next time!