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Jeanne DuPrau – The City of Ember

August 25, 2008

104. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (2003)
Books of Ember, Book 1

Length: 270 pages

Genre: Young Adult; Science Fiction

Started: 24 August 2008
Finished: 25 August 2008

Summary: “The City of Ember was made for us long ago by the Builders. It is the only light in the dark world. Beyond Ember, the darkness goes on forever in all directions.” So says The Book of the City of Ember, that the Builders created Ember and stocked it to last with all of the things its inhabitants would need. However, that was a long time ago, and the reality is that Ember is failing: things are falling apart, there are shortages of crucial items, and the periodic blackouts are lasting for longer and longer. Twelve-year-olds Lina and Doon have just left school and began their assigned work, she as a messenger, he in the pipes below the dark city, when Lina finds a set of instructions. They’re damaged and incomplete, but they’re also ancient – maybe from the time of the Builders – and she and Doon must race to decipher the instructions and save their city before the lights go out for good.

Review: One of the short stories I wrote during my angsty-teenage-short-story-writing phase was about a city that was surrounded by fog, and a girl who kept dreaming of blue skies and sunlight without knowing what they were. I was forcibly reminded of that story throughout this entire book, except Ember is filled with darkness, not fog, and DuPrau evokes the hopelessly, horribly claustrophobic atmosphere of her city far better than my fourteen-year-old-self was able to (less angst, too). That descriptive ability is one of the best parts of this book; Ember is a real, living place from the first chapter, and I found myself wanting to take this book and read it outside just to counteract the creeping claustrophobic willies. That aside, it’s an excellent adventure book, with sufficiently-mysterious-but-still-solvable clues and plenty of danger and suspense. It doesn’t have the strongest character development ever, but both Lina and Doon are intelligent, sympathetic, and likable protagonists, even though the action and atmosphere are the real stars of the story. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Another interesting and highly enjoyable YA book that I would have missed if not for the upcoming movie (see the links section below). Highly recommended. Aaaand I’m off to see if my library has the sequel….

Read my review of the sequel, The People of Sparks, here.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: They’re also making a movie out of this one… I saw the trailer for it before WALL-E, which is what inspired me to pick up the book in the first place. You can see the trailer here… It looks like they’ve made the kids a little older and the clues they’re following a little more mystical, but from what I can tell, it looks like they did a good job at least with capturing the visuals and atmosphere of the book. Also check out Jeanne DuPrau’s website for more info about the books.

Other Reviews: Ticket to Anywhere, BookDweeb

First Line: When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 26, 2008 8:24 am

    I picked this one up too, having seen the trailer last month. I hope to read it before the movie comes out. Thanks for the review.

  2. August 26, 2008 10:25 am

    Stephanie – it’s a very quick read; should be squeeze-in-able in an afternoon or two. I hope you like it as much as I did!

  3. GirlwiththeBraids permalink
    September 1, 2008 10:50 am

    I love this book! I have read the series, and I was disappointed with the third one. Was the last one good?

  4. September 1, 2008 10:53 am

    GirlwiththeBraids – My review of the last book in the series is here, but in short: It was better than the third one, but not quite as good as the first two, mostly because I didn’t feel like the plot was quite as urgent/life-or-death.

  5. person from earth permalink
    September 24, 2008 9:53 pm

    its okay

  6. Kayla permalink
    November 6, 2010 2:37 pm

    what are the instructions to get out of ember they didnt make that clear.


  1. REVIEW: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau « Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog

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