The third book in the Ember books is oddly satisfying. I read it over a twelve hour period including two meals, playing with the kids, and cleaning the bathroom. It's not especially challenging in length or style, but readers accustomed to the subject of the first two Ember books will be taken for an unexpected ride.
The story takes place in a small, rural town, beginning with the vision of a local woman who becomes a cult figure (in a coma, no less), and the arrival of a city girl beset by the problems of the world (mounting international tension and government repression), the problems of her family (her father is always away on secret business and her mother is stressed out), and the problems of adolescence.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the three goals Nickie has for her trip to Yonwood, when she and her aunt leave the big city (Philly) to clean up and sell her late great-grandfather's house, which has been in the family for a century or so.
Nickie is tired of the inhumanity of life in the city, with its dangers and callousness, and yearns for the good life in the countryside. And the house does not disappoint. It comes equipped with memorabilia, a stowaway with a dog, and plenty of purpose.
And aside from du Prau's depiction of scared people's reckless willingness to believe and follow (reminiscent of The Wave, televangelism, and the early stages of The People's Church), the strongest points about this are Nickie's to-do list, which she completes in due time, and the way the book fits, by the end, into the series. It's not exactly as it seemed on page 1, but pretty close.
City of Ember fit so well into a movie that I was expecting something similar of this and The People of Sparks, but the scenery is less stark and obvious (I mean it in a good way - the setting of City of Ember is one of the appeals to me). This is more subtle, clearly a sequel for interested readers - and it will satisfy them - but not as inherently interesting as the first.
Also, it answers more questions that it leaves open. However, it does leave some intriguing ideas unfinished, having to do with parallel worlds, and the purpose of the Builders.
Having read The Prophet of Yonwood, I'm a lot less sure of what I'll find in book 4 of Ember, but definitely looking forward to it.
- Steve Shea
- A 40-ish publisher (editor, project manager, etc.), husband, and father of an even number of offspring, I grew up, or failed to, reading fantasy and sci-fi. I still enjoy reading, and now am trying to write. My favorite books include YA fantasy, manga, biography, and advice to authors. I'm also a former history major/grad student/high school teacher and assessment writer. Now I work for a school supplement publisher, specializing in high-low chapter books. I spend a lot of my time controlling reading levels. At night, I cut loose and use long words. W00t!