Title: The Prophet of Yonwood
Series Title: The City of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Date Added: September 17, 2017
Date Started: December 23, 2017
Date DNF: December 27, 2017
Reading Duration: 4 days
Genre: Mid-grade/Young Adult (YA), Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian
Publication Date: April 1, 2006
Publisher: Yearling Edition
Nickie will grow up to be one of the first citizens of the city of Ember. But for now, she’s an eleven-year-old girl whose father was sent away on some mysterious government project.
So when the opportunity to move presents itself, Nickie seizes it. But her new town of Yonwood, North Carolina, isn’t what she’d anticipated. It’s a place full of suspicion and mistrust, where one person’s visions of fire and destruction have turned the town’s citizens against each other. Nickie explores the oddities around her–her great-grandfather’s peculiar journals, a reclusive neighbor who studies the heavens, a strange boy who is fascinated with snakes–all while keeping an eye out for ways to help the world. Or is it already too late to avoid a devastating war?
There seems to be some disagreement with whether or not this is the 3rd or 4th book. Goodreads has it marked as the 3rd, but in my set The Diamond of Darkhold is the third installment and Yonwood doesn’t even have a number. I can kind of understanding putting the prequel in the midst of the series to have readers reflect on how the world arrived at this point while the resolution to the narrative is still up in the air, but I see better advantages of reflecting when the original story is full told.
Regardless, The Prophet of Yonwood wasn’t nearly as engaging as the other books. This is disappointing since the lead up to what caused the conditions prompting Ember’s construction could’ve been a gripping tale. While I didn’t finish it, it seems like the author’s focus was on prophesy and proselytizing instead.
The main character Nickie is the daughter of one of Ember’s engineers, which is the “secret mission” her father is off on. She’s currently living with her aunt in her (Nickie’s) great-grandfather’s house. I left off reading not long after she discovered a young girl and her dog Otis living in the attic.
Nickie was pretty bland as a character unlike Lina or Doon who were vibrant from the start. Her main goal is trying to convince her aunt to not sell the old Yonwood property, and I’m assuming she either makes some headway or something happens to keep them there long-term.
I was hoping for a book about the elusive and mysterious Builders since Yonwood takes place in their time. I was also hoping to see the rise of political unrest (as much as a mid-grade novel could show it) that led to the idea of Ember even being a viable option. There were only 200 original inhabitants of the city though. Two hundred people is hardly a speck in global or even US population. How would the rest of society be preserved? Were there plans to design other underground cities to harbor humanity? If there weren’t, why? Was the Ember plan deemed too dangerous? Costly? Unknown? While there’s some explanation in the first book for why no information was given about the outside world, DuPrau could’ve made a stronger case for it here, since it’s a problematic point. The Builders knew Ember wouldn’t last forever, and people would have to emerge back into the world, yet they decided to leave them no information about the world, past technologies or how to rebuild. Maybe they thought telling them this would just lead to the same consequences that caused the need for Ember in the first place.
Glancing at the Goodreads reviews, DuPrau chose to use this novel as a way to further showcase her derision with religious zealotry, which is blatantly obvious in her first book with the “Believers” (people who believed the Builders are coming back to save them from Ember’s dark fate). I don’t have a problem with that as it sends the message that you should should use what tools and abilities you have at your disposal to help yourself, which is what Doon and Lina do. It seems like she beat the horse dead in Yonwood, and it seems pretty pointless to waste a prequel with this when she could’ve either answered some questions and/or posed more by focusing on the Builders.
My recommendation is to skip this one of the Ember series, since it doesn’t do anything to further the overarching narrative. Lina and Doon’s story continues in The Diamond of Darkhold, and DuPrau has already established she can write compelling characters in them.