Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Ember Books Series Overview: Book 1, The City of Ember, & Book 2, The People of Sparks


The City of Ember

Storyline: Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow have grown up in the city of Ember, where floodlights provide their day, no one ventures beyond the city limits, and the generator that provides their electricity is slowly dying.

On the final day of school, Assignment Day, where the students of Ember receive jobs, Doon draws messenger and Lina draws Pipeworks laborer. They trade because Lina has always wanted to be a messenger, while Doon wants to be close to the generator because he thinks he has ideas on how to fix it.

But things twist in a different direction than they expect. Doon discovers that the generator's workings are far beyond his knowledge, and Lina's grandmother finds a strange box in their closet. Unfortunately, Lina's little sister Poppy takes and eats half of the paper in it before Lina can look at it.

Lina and Doon discover a hoarding plot by the mayor of Ember, plus instructions for leaving the city. They decide to take action before the generator breaks and the city is lost in darkness.

My Take:

Though it's written for younger teens, the post-apocalyptic premise of this book snagged my attention. Technically, it's very well-written except for the head-hopping she does. And even that isn't as confusing as it could have been.

I saw the movie first, but as I read the book, I wondered, Why couldn't they have stuck to the book more faithfully? It's fully exciting enough as is. The giant mole didn't need to be added, nor the story of Lina's parents changed.

There's mention of a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship between a 12-year-old girl and an I-don't-know-how-old guy, though the book leads us to assume that he's only a few years older. But nothing worse.

There's a definite humanistic/socialistic outlook to the books, with the assigning of jobs and the belief that humans can fix the mess they created themselves. It mentions Believers, people who think that the Builders of Ember are coming back to rescue them. Whether that's making fun of spiritual issues (not Christianity specifically, I think) or if it's just a part of Ember's ordinary life, I'm not sure.

Altogether, though, this is a fun, exciting book most suitable for kids 11-14, though I think older ones could enjoy it.

Rating: four out of five stars

The People of Sparks

Storyline: The people of Ember have made it out of the mountain! Doon and Lina lead their people from the mountains, inadvertently stumbling upon a small town, Sparks. The town leaders agree to let them stay until the month of Chilling, winter.

The Emberites eagerly begin learning how to survive in the world. But it's much harder than they imagined—their muscles aren't nearly strong enough, and their pale skin is susceptible to bug bites, poison plants, and sunburn.

Lina decides she dislikes it in the village, and when a roaming trader comes through, she secretly hitches a ride to a ruined city, which she discovers isn't what she expected.

Doon, intent on making their situation better, struggles to understand the new world. But Tick, another young man, is intent on one thing—stirring up trouble.

My Take:

I found Doon just as curious and likable as ever, but Lina seemed—sneaky. I didn't like that she slips off without telling anyone that she's going to the ruined city.

I think there would be more hope in these books if there was any mention of God. But there's not. Even the Believers seem to have vanished. And, once again, Lina's friend Lizzie attaches herself to a loser guy (this time Tick instead of Looper).

However, this is a decent read. The story of a group struggling for survival is intriguing and brings to mind stories of pioneers. The reminder that some things really aren't worth all that much in the grand scheme of things is very welcome. It's good to see kid protagonists shown working hard (even if they complain about it). Also, it shows how ingenious people can be when they have to come up with stuff on their own.

And, though it sounds hard, the life of a roamer (roaming trader) sounds interesting. It made me wish she'd write a book specifically about a roamer.

Rating: four out of five stars

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