I was telling someone or other about how awesome Wool was, and Someone said, “That kind of sounds like the Ember books.”
“Re-he-he-heally?” I inquired. Upon receiving confirmation, I promptly forgot who Someone was and downloaded the first Book of Ember. (There are four.)
If you are Someone, I’m sorry I forgot who you are. I didn’t forget you; I just forgot that you were Someone, dig?
It wasn’t really like Wool except for the part about an underground civilization, but I enjoyed it anyway. Wool is straight-up science fiction; the Ember books are clearly YA, and young YA at that, though they have a pace and plot that makes them exceedingly enjoyable nonetheless.
The books follow young Lina and her friend Doon as they discover that there may be a way out of Ember, which is vital because the infrastructure is slowly crumbling. They are running out of electricity and fear the city may go dark forever. Now, it’s clear from the beginning of the first book that Lina and Doon will indeed find a way out, and that they will discover the surface of the Earth, but I appreciated the well-paced unfolding of information about the way Ember works, and how it was created, and how Lina and Doon decode various puzzles they come across. It has a light-handed suspense to it.
The second book, The People of Sparks, gives an account of what happens to the people of Ember once they emerge from underground. This book is more moralistic than the first, and since it is intended for a younger audience, the morals and their presentation are straightforward and simplistic. But still, the morals are good: be brave, pay attention, share, and help others even when it’s hard.
The third book, The Prophet of Yonwood, is a prequel to the first books, and is a little less streamlined in plot. Enjoyable, yes, but more rambling in the plot and overly heavy-handed with the moralizing in a way that makes it something of a discord in the series. In truth, I could have done without the last two books in the series, though they were moderately entertaining.
The fourth and final book, The Diamond of Darkhold, finds Lina and Doon back in Ember as they uncover still more secrets about their former city. I wouldn’t say the last book enhances the series, but DuPrau does such a good job of making us care about the people of Ember that I enjoyed it as a kind of appendix. And of course, the books are linguistically quite easy to read; I read all four of them in about five afternoons.
The Books of Ember touch on big themes in simple ways: likable characters, good pacing, and compelling mysteries. Though I don’t have enough to say about them to write full-length reviews for each one, I found them to be especially great summer reading for their ease and entertainment value.