“Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness…
But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them?” (from Goodreads)
This year I rediscovered The City of Ember. Watching the movie with my siblings reminded me how much I loved the books, and I decided to start this series by Jeanne DuPrau again. This time since I already knew the story I was free to slow down and enjoy every aspect of it. I could feel the impending doom of Ember with the rust and the mold and the damp and the blackouts. I could feel what it was like to hold your breath and count until the lights came back on with the absolute terror of not knowing where you were and what was going to happen next. I didn’t just enjoy Lina and Doon’s attempts to solve the riddle of the torn instructions, instead I was rooting for them to find the way out. Even though this was a fantasy book, the people and place names were never so odd that it detracted from the story but instead it gave the background development of people far removed from regular life but still holding onto aspects of it. Lina and Doon were written as real, live people with loves and hates, worries and hopes, and faults even too. A small metaphor that I had completely missed came out this time and left me smiling. Doon watching a worm build its cocoon and break free, Lina planting a seed and watching it sprout–metaphors of hope. (And a good explanation of the next book’s cover.) The author’s frank writing style still left room for poetry and I found myself experiencing the disorientation of SPOILER ALERT! using a boat and candles for the first time and the wonder of SPOILER ALERT! seeing a brand new day be born! I honestly cried at that one. 😉
Many readers have noticed the odd references in this book about religion. Side characters are heard wondering if there is a great Being watching over them and saying maybe or maybe not. Doon also wonders where life comes from and knows it’s a power greater than the Builders. The Believers are a group of people that aren’t in the book very much but do have the most “beliefs” of anyone. They claim to have seen the Builders coming again to “show them the way” in a dream. Now of course, SPOILER ALERT! in the story Lina and Doon save the day and the Builders are nowhere to be seen which is a great case for humanism, isn’t it? Except…the Builders SPOILER ALERT! did save them. Who wrote the instructions? Left the boats? The candles? And later in the series a few more surprises? I think it’s positing an interaction between their own efforts and what has been provided for them. It’s really not a huge theme of the book, but I would recommend some parental guidance for younger readers who are not strong in what they believe.
Best quote(s): “The trouble with anger is, it gets hold of you. And then you aren’t the master of yourself anymore. Anger is. And when anger is the boss, you get unintended consequences.”
“Wouldn’t it be strange, she thought, to have a blue sky? But she liked the way it looked. It would be beautiful – a blue sky.”
I very much enjoyed this book and can’t wait to start re-reading the second one! Definitely a great series. 😉