I have recently completed reading The City of Ember, a 270 page dystopian fiction novel written by Jeanne DuPrau. This book is the first in a series of 4 and won numerous literary awards since it was published in 2003, and is now a major motion picture. I read this story as a part of a book club and I liked it more than I expected. After reading the summary on the back I didn’t think I would be interested in it, however it was a great book and very interesting to read.
For many generations a huge generator has powered everything, including all of the light, in the dark City of Ember. It was built by the builders to last 200 years and the lights are starting to flicker and fade. Out in the Unknown regions, the darkness goes on forever. Everyone believes Ember is the only light in the dark world. Except Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow have some hope.The food supply is running low and the city is corrupting. Doon and Lina follow a series of clues from fragments of old instructions that they found stuffed in the back of a closet. As blackouts in the city become more frequent, they are determined to find a way out of Ember and into a new world of light, before their world fades into darkness forever. The two of them follow the directions underground in dark tunnels and caves to put the pieces together and solve the mystery.
I noticed how the author included many signposts in this book. There were various situations with again and again were demonstrated throughout the story which foreshadowed upcoming events. For example, in the book, Lina’s grandmother kept mentioning and looking for a box over and over again. That might have kept coming up because the box could be important and have something to do with finding a way out of Ember.
I liked the way the author incorporated mystery into the book. I wanted to know how Lina and Doon got out of Ember and what the instructions said. It was suspenseful when the lights went out and it made me want to keep on reading and find out if they ever figure a way out and into a new world of light.
I wish that the author included a little more description of the setting because I couldn’t really imagine the scenery very well. However, there was a lot of author’s craft which made the story interesting, but I think it would have been more enjoyable with more detail.
I was interested in this passage when Lina lost poppy in the street and the lights go out
““Have you seen a little girl, a baby, walking by herself? In a green jacket, with a hood?” The old woman just stared at her with dull eyes and shook her head. “Poppy!” Lina called. “Poppy!” Her voice rose to a shout. Such a little baby couldn’t have gone far, she thought. Maybe down toward Greengate Square, where there were more people walking around. She began to run. And then the lights flickered, and flickered again, and went out. Darkness slammed up in front of her like a wall. She stumbled, caught herself, and stood still. She could see absolutely nothing. Shouts of alarm came from up and down the street, and then silence. Lina stretched her arms out. Was she facing the street or a building? Terror swept through her. I must just stand still, she thought. The lights will come on again in a few seconds, they always do. But she thought of Poppy alone in the blackness, and her legs went weak. I must find her.”
I quoted this passage because it shows how the author creates suspense and uses author’s craft to grasp the reader’s attention.
I would rate this book a 6.9 out of 10. It was a good book, but not the best. There were times where the story wasn’t very interesting but it had a good plot, and the author wrote it well.