The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

City of EmberInformation

Goodreads: The City of Ember
Series: Book of Ember #1
Source: Library
Published: 2003


Two hundred years ago the Builders created the underground city of Ember to safeguard a small segment of humanity.  Now, however, the electricity is failing and the stock piles are running low.  Lina and Doon believe they have discovered a long-lost manuscript that shows the way out of Ember.  The manuscript, however, is damaged and time is running out.


The City of Ember was a solid middle-grade fantasy that kept me reading past my bedtime–yet I have seen this book before.  I cannot immediately name all the other works with similar elements, but they are there.  Of course, the premise that two inquisitive children find a way to save their city that all the adults overlooked will surprise no one.  That is simply how middle grade books tend to work.  The way both children have distinct talents that make them uniquely suitable to such a quest is also standard–Doon likes to fix things and Lina likes to run.  The presence of two protagonists, one girl and one boy, as if we have to check all the boxes to ensure this is not a “boy book” or a “girl book” is again familiar.  Add a dystopian city with a secret past and all the ingredients for a popular book have united.  I cannot fault the book for doing what so many other books do, but the end result is that The City of Ember simply does not stand out.

Strong characters can help a familiar plot seem new and interesting, but while I liked almost every character (except, you know, the obligatory grumpy adults out to ruin everything), I never thought, “Oh, she’s wonderful!  We could be friends” or “Wow, he’s really complex.  His characterization fascinates me”.  They were all just kind of nice.  Lina was nice.  Doon was nice.  Doon’s father was nice.  The lady who lived next door to Lina was nice.  Possibly the most well-rounded, and therefore interesting, character was the mayor, but we have all seen his type before–he is there to lie to the people and tell them everything will turn out all right even though he knows it will not.  It adds drama.  But I found I could not even dislike him properly.  He just seemed so sad and pathetic, poor stereotyped government official that he was.

In the end, this is the type of book I would recommend only to someone who likes books similar to it–maybe Museum of Thieves, for example.  It simply does not have the “wow factor” that would lead me to bring up its name in an unrelated context.  Still, the story proved interesting enough that I hope I can find the sequel soon–it seemed like the book ended when the exciting part had only just begun!

You Might Also Like

Dragon Slippers   The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom   House of Secrets

4 thoughts on “The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

  1. Brittany says:

    I totally agree! I enjoyed the book but it did really lack a certain “WOW” factor. I was hoping for a lot more and it was a nice book, but just really didn’t deliver to keep me reading future books in the series!


    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I gave the second book a chance simply because I wanted to see what was outside Ember, but that one was even more disappointing so I didn’t continue with the series.


  2. DoingDewey says:

    I’ve been noticing this book for a while and I haven’t picked it up because lately most middle grade books I’ve picked up recently just feel too simple and too familiar. This sounds like a solid enough book, but I think it would take something more than that to entice me to pick up another middle grade book🙂


    • Krysta says:

      If you’re looking for an original middle grade book, I wouldn’t recommend this one. It is overly simplified and cliche and it doesn’t need to be–there are so many middle grade books out there that are funny and clever and unique. I remember City of Ember being pretty popular when it came out, so I was disappointed to find out I didn’t like it that much.


Leave a Reply! We'd love to read your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s