The City of Ember (Books of Ember Series #1)

The City of Ember (Books of Ember Series #1)

4.5 1480
by Jeanne DuPrau

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The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she's sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever! This stunning debut novel


The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she's sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever! This stunning debut novel offers refreshingly clear writing and fascinating, original characters.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her electric debut, DuPrau imagines a post-apocalyptic underground world where resources are running out. The city of Ember, "the only light in the dark world," began as a survival experiment created by the "Builders" who wanted their children to "grow up with no knowledge of a world outside, so that they feel no sorrow for what they have lost." An opening prologue describes the Builders' intentions-that Ember's citizens leave the city after 220 years. They tuck "The Instructions" to a way out within a locked box programmed to open at the right time. But the box has gone astray. The story opens on Assignment Day in the year 241, when 12-year-olds Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow draw lots for their jobs from the mayor's bag. Lina gets "pipeworks laborer," a job that Doon wants, while Doon draws "messenger," the job that Lina covets, and they trade. Through their perspectives, DuPrau reveals the fascinating details of this subterranean community: as Doon repairs leaks deep down among the Pipeworks, he also learns just how dire the situation is with their malfunctioning generator. Meanwhile, the messages Lina carries point to other sorts of subterfuge. Together, the pair become detectives in search of the truth-part of which may be buried in some strange words that were hidden in Lina's grandmother's closet. Thanks to full-blooded characters every bit as compelling as the plot, Lina and Doon's search parallels the universal adolescent quest for answers. Readers will sit on the edge of their seats as each new truth comes to light. Ages 10-13. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
When the builders of Ember planned the underground city, they provided a storehouse of goods for the residents' survival and a power plant to supply light to the town. Now, generations later, the supplies are dangerously low, and the lights are beginning to flicker. Ember is a socialist society, where even jobs are randomly assigned to residents. Nobody knows what lies without the walls, and everyone is too frightened to find out. Although directions on how to exit the city were entrusted to the first mayor of Ember, they were misplaced until Lina, an orphan and descendant of that mayor, finds a torn and mangled paper. Lina enlists fellow twelve-year-old Doon to aid in putting together the pieces. They are surprised to discover the missing instructions. After the teens are falsely accused of illegal activities and hunted by the police, they decide to elude capture by following the directions and leaving Ember. It will not take readers long to discover that Ember is a city-size bomb shelter and that a whole other world exists outside its walls. While Ember is colorless and dark, the book itself is rich with description. DuPrau uses the puzzle, suspenseful action, and lots of evil characters to entice readers into the story. They will find the teen characters believable and gutsy. Part mystery, part adventure story, this novel provides science fiction for those who do not like science fiction. The end of the book hints at a possible sequel. PLB
— Chris Carlson
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-DuPrau debuts with a promisingly competent variation on the tried-and-true "isolated city" theme. More than 200 years after an unspecified holocaust, the residents of Ember have lost all knowledge of anything beyond the area illuminated by the floodlamps on their buildings. The anxiety level is high and rising, for despite relentless recycling, food and other supplies are running low, and the power failures that plunge the town into impenetrable darkness are becoming longer and more frequent. Then Lina, a young foot messenger, discovers a damaged document from the mysterious Builders that hints at a way out. She and Doon, a classmate, piece together enough of the fragmentary directions to find a cave filled with boats near the river that runs beneath Ember, but their rush to announce their discovery almost ends in disaster when the two fall afoul of the corrupt Mayor and his cronies. Lina and Doon escape in a boat, and after a scary journey emerge into an Edenlike wilderness to witness their first sunrise-for Ember, as it turns out, has been built in an immense cavern. Still intent on saving their people, the two find their way back underground at the end, opening the door for sequels. The setting may not be so ingeniously envisioned as those of, say, Joan Aiken's Is Underground (Turtleback, 1995) and Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993), but the quick pace and the uncomplicated characters and situations will keep voracious fans of the genre engaged.-John Peters, New York Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This promising debut is set in a dying underground city. Ember, which was founded and stocked with supplies centuries ago by "The Builders," is now desperately short of food, clothes, and electricity to keep the town illuminated. Lina and Doon find long-hidden, undecipherable instructions that send them on a perilous mission to find what they believe must exist: an exit door from their disintegrating town. In the process, they uncover secret governmental corruption and a route to the world above. Well-paced, this contains a satisfying mystery, a breathtaking escape over rooftops in darkness, a harrowing journey into the unknown and cryptic messages for readers to decipher. The setting is well-realized with the constraints of life in the city intriguingly detailed. The likable protagonists are not only courageous but also believably flawed by human pride, their weaknesses often complementing each other in interesting ways. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers clamoring for the next installment. (Fiction. 9-13)
From the Publisher
USA Today
"DuPrau’s first foray into fiction creates a realistic post-apocalyptic world. Reminiscent of Robert O'Brien's Z for Zachariah, DuPrau’s book leaves Doon and Lina on the verge of the undiscovered country and readers wanting more."

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

"Thanks to full-blooded characters every bit as compelling as the plot, Lina and Doon’s search parallels the universal adolescent quest for answers. An electric debut!"

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
"Well-paced, this contains a satisfying mystery, a breathtaking escape over rooftops in darkness, a harrowing journey into the unknown, and cryptic messages for readers to decipher. The likeable protagonists are not only courageous but also believably flawed by human pride. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers clamoring for the next installment."

Starred Review, Voice of Youth Advocates
"While Ember is colorless and dark, the book itself is rich with description. DuPrau uses the puzzle, suspenseful action, and lots of evil characters to entice readers into the story. They will find the teen characters believable and gutsy. Part mystery, part adventure story."

The Horn Book Magazine
"The device of a hidden letter, complete with missing words, is used with such disarming forthrightness that readers will be eagerly deciphering it right alongside Doon and Lina."

An ALA Notable Children’s Book

A Kirkus Reviews Editors’ Choice

A New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing Selection

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Books of Ember Series, #1
Product dimensions:
5.66(w) x 8.53(h) x 1.01(d)
680L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Instructions
When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the Chief Builder and the Assistant Builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future.

“They must not leave the city for at least two hundred years,” said the Chief Builder. “Or perhaps two hundred and twenty.”

“Is that long enough?” asked his Assistant.

“It should be. We can’t know for sure.”

“And when the time comes,” said the Assistant, “how will they know what to do?”

“We’ll provide them with instructions, of course,” the Chief Builder replied.

“But who will keep the instructions? Who can we trust to keep them safe and secret all that time?”

“The mayor of the city will keep the instructions,” said the Chief Builder. “We’ll put them in a box with a timed lock, set to open on the proper date.”

“And will we tell the mayor what’ s in the box?” the Assistant asked.

“No, just that it’s information they won’t need and must not see until the box opens of its own accord.”

“So the first mayor will pass the box to the next mayor, and that one to the next, and so on down through the years, all of them keeping it secret, all that time?”

“What else can we do?” asked the Chief Builder. “Nothing about this endeavor is certain. There may be no one left in the city by then or no safe place for them to come back to.”

So the first mayor of Ember was given the box, told to guard it carefully, and solemnly sworn to secrecy. When she grew old, and her time as mayor was up, she explained about the box to her successor, who also kept the secret carefully, as did the next mayor. Things went as planned for many years. But the seventh mayor of Ember was less honorable than the ones who’d come before him, and more desperate. He was ill–he had the coughing sickness that was common in the city then–and he thought the box might hold a secret that would save his life. He took it from its hiding place in the basement of the Gathering Hall and brought it home with him, where he attacked it with a hammer.

But his strength was failing by then. All he managed to do was dent the lid a little. And before he could return the box to its official hiding place or tell his successor about it, he died. The box ended up at the back of a closet, shoved behind some old bags and bundles. There it sat, unnoticed, year after year, until its time arrived, and the lock quietly clicked open.

Chapter 1
Assignment Day
In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark. The only light came from great floodlamps mounted on the buildings and at the tops of poles in the middle of the larger squares. When the lights were on, they cast a yellowish glow over the streets; people walking by threw long shadows that shortened and then stretched out again. When the lights were off, as they were between nine at night and six in the morning, the city was so dark that people might as well have been wearing blindfolds.

Sometimes darkness fell in the middle of the day. The city of Ember was old, and everything in it, including the power lines, was in need of repair. So now and then the lights would flicker and go out. These were terrible moments for the people of Ember. As they came to a halt in the middle of the street or stood stock still in their houses, afraid to move in the utter blackness, they were reminded of something they preferred not to think about: that some day the lights of the city might go out and never come back on.

But most of the time life proceeded as it always had. Grown people did their work, and younger people, until they reached the age of twelve, went to school. On the last day of their final year, which was called Assignment Day, they were given jobs to do.

The graduating students occupied Room 8 of the Ember School. On Assignment Day of the year 241, this classroom, usually noisy first thing in the morning, was completely silent. All twenty-four students sat upright and still in the desks they had grown too big for. They were waiting.

The desks were arranged in four rows of six, one behind the other. In the last row sat a slender girl named Lina Mayfleet. She was winding a strand of her long, dark hair around her finger, winding and unwinding it again and again. Sometimes she plucked at a loose thread on her ragged cape or bent over to pull on her socks, which were loose and tended to slide down around her ankles. One of her feet tapped the floor softly.

In the second row was a boy named Doon Harrow. He sat with his shoulders hunched, his eyes squeezed shut in concentration, and his hands clasped tightly together. His hair looked rumpled, as if he hadn’t combed it for a while. He had dark, thick eyebrows, which made him look serious at the best of times, and when he was anxious or angry came together to form a straight line across his forehead. His brown corduroy jacket was so old that its ridges had flattened out.

Both the girl and the boy were making urgent wishes. Doon’s wish was very specific. He repeated it over and over again, his lips moving slightly, as if he could make it come true by saying it a thousand times. Lina was making her wish in pictures rather than in words. In her mind’s eye, she saw herself running through the streets of the city in a red jacket. She made this picture as bright and real as she could.

Meet the Author

JEANNE DuPRAU is the New York Times bestselling author of the City of Ember books, which have been translated into multiple languages and are a time-honored staple in elementary school classrooms. She also wrote Escape the Vortex, part of the multiplatform sci-fi adventure series Voyagers. Visit her website at

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The City of Ember (Books of Ember Series #1) 4.5 out of 5 based on 8 ratings. 1480 reviews.
Julie_Price More than 1 year ago
Great story with colorful characters. Liked it a lot and days later I still hadn't forgotten it, nor have the kids and one of them is a fussy reader. Have recommended it to everyone.
Reads_a_lot More than 1 year ago
Okay, okay, I admit it. I watched the movie first. But in my defense...okay, I have no defense. Anyway, I read the book, too, and I found both absolutely amazing. It was a fantastic book, and I can't wait to get started on the rest of the series! I recommend this book to anyone, of any age!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i loved the way the book all of a sudden just grabbed my attention! It was like i was really there with the characters and everything. It made me feel like i just couldn't stop reading(which for me is unusual)it. I just wanted to tear through the book and read even more! It held my attention so well and made me want kind of want to be there with the characters!
AnnaCatherine More than 1 year ago
in year 2012 there is a breakout of the 3 plauges and 4 wars. That is when congress meets up and decides the only way to save the human race is to build an underground city, completly cut off from the rest of the world and keep people there for 220 years with all the suplies they will need in that time and no more, and a locked box containing instuctions for a way out of ember. In year 241 the peole are running out of everything and it lies in the hands of two twelve year olds to find the long missing instrucions and save the people of Ember.
Styx249 More than 1 year ago
A great book is on selfs near you. Its none other than the city of Ember by Jeanne Duprau. This great novel follows Lina Mayfleet and Doon on an amazing journey to save the underground city; Ember. This book will easily get you into the story, and the vivid descriptions help alot.I would recommend this book for ages 10-15. See ya! ;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so good and i would highly recommend this to anyone with an imagination.This is the best thing science murder on the menu!!!Please read this you wont regret it!!!
Kbmartie More than 1 year ago
This book is unlike any other because of the setting. I recommend this to everyone especially children!
Jaylynn Valdez More than 1 year ago
I read this when i was 9 after i doind it in the library and couldnt put it down!! :)
Kelly Thompson More than 1 year ago
One of the best book I have ever read. very very good. very adventurous. love it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story takes place in the city of ember. The city in always dark, with only tall floodlamps to lead the way. While they are going through old things in a closet, lina finds a note. Her younger sister poppy has been chewing it up. She reads it. She must figure out what the words are. They are instructions for saving everyone's life and abandoning the city forever. Her and her friend doon ddecide to follow the path. They find a small stell panel in the pipeworks below their city. Behinnd it is a key, which unlocks a door on the riverbanks. They open the door and go inside. They find a boat equipped with candles, matches, and a set of padddles. They climb down a nearby riverbank ladder. They place their boat in the water and climb in. It brings them to crazy rapids. It eventually slows down, and they are lead up a long path and innto a new city, one where light comes from the sky and they dont need to worry about lightbulbs anymore. They explore it. They find a large cliff and they see their city in a big black hole. This was a very inspiring book with an insane ending. I would give it thousands of stars if i could.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great adventure read. Also it's kind of a mystery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
City of ember is an amazing book to all kids (and adults) that love THE HUNGER GAMES and GREGOR THE OVERLANDER series. Amazing characters, great plot, but some parts you have to be prepared for, are slow. Overall great book! P.S never watch the movie though, its terrible
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ithought this book was very colorful, even thought ember has no color. It took me less than a day to finish and i cant wait to read the seqel. Lina and Doon, the main charectors, have to find a escape out of their desprate city. It definatly makes u think about what will happen next. Read it!!
Ladybug246 More than 1 year ago
i love this book! it takes you through an amazeing advinture and exitment and this is comeing from a 12 year old
Desire- More than 1 year ago
I read the book The Book of Ember. This book is a great book; there are 4 books in the series. I liked this one the best. My favorite character is Lina and Doon. They are smart, optimistic characters! They look for a way to keep the electricity going away! They find something much more intriguing! I really enjoy this book! This book is super great action packed book and I think anyone would like it! I think this book was really neat! The people live underground, which I have never heard of! I like how they make it forbidden for people to leave. The mayor was kind of creepy! I thought the box that poppy ripped was super neat! I think they will get out but im not sure!! I bet the people of Sparks(the name of the next book( will be super surprised to see people coming out of the ground! I know I would be. I really hope if you get this book that you will enjoy it! Have a great time reading!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book got me going from the minute i read the back it is now one of my absolute FAVORITE books i totaly recomend this book to everybody
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really good book and i highly suggest this book. It takes a few chapters to get good but once it does you will kick your legs with anticipation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've seen some of the movie at school but it was stolen so we didn't to see the rest. I sorta liked it but wasn't convinced. Is it good???????
Elizabeth Cisewski More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing!!!! It's full of adventure! There's even a movie and this book is part of a series read them all!!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got a hold of this title by chance in a pre-release copy, and I am very happy I did! The setting for the book is unusual (always nice to find a new kind of alternate world!) and described in detail with words that make you feel like you understand what it would be like to live there. The main characters are well fleshed out and very sympathetic, with a great supporting cast of interesting and varied characters. The plot is straightforward but not predictable, with just the right kind of twists and turns. I very much enjoyed this book. Although it is aimed at a younger audience, adults and teens might like it as well as it has a blend of fantasy, adventure, and mystery all in one. If you enjoy reading Philip Pullman, JK Rowling, and the C.S. Lewis Narnia books, you definitely want to try 'The City of Ember'. It is a great fantasy story, and I'm very much looking forward to the sequel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My teacher ms smith reading started to read me this- i liked it so i had to buy it!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book The City of Ember, written by Jeanne DuPrau, takes place in a dying town that is running out of food and energy. The main characters of the book are Lina and Doon who are young, brave risk-takers that want to save the city of Ember. In the beginning of the book Lina does not have a goal, but in the middle of the story she is determined to find the meaning of the Instructions and discover the solution to Ember's problems. On the other hand, Doon's goal is to fix the generator so there will not be any more blackouts. Their big goal is to save the people of Ember. Lina accomplishes her goal by working ambitiously to figure out the clues to her puzzle. Doon explores the Pipeworks, but is not able to fix the generator. However, he is able to help Lina find out the meaning of the clues. Doon and Lina are challenged by their selfish mayor and the stubborn people of Ember. The City of Ember is not the type of book I thought it would be; I thought it was going to have some romance, drama, and more than one storyline. Romance, to me, is when a boy and a girl show their feelings for each other. Instead of Lina and Doon having a romantic relationship, they have a very close friendship and help each other when they try to find the way out of the city of Ember. Lina and Doon talk about how they are running out of supplies and how the mayor is stealing all the food. What I would like to see in a book is more drama, for example, people growing up in tough neighborhoods or being members of gangs. Another reason why I didn't like The City of Ember is because it only has one storyline. Doon and Lina only talk about the Instructions and how to get out of Ember. They also talk about how they need more materials and how there are always blackouts. Instead, there could have been a person in a deep situation that she could not handle, like a teenager having a child at a young age. I did not like this book, but someone else may like it. I would recommend it to a person who likes mysteries and adventures.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE The City Of Ember you should buy it NOW! Don't watch the movie first it ruinds it ALL
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Verry good book. Iam on the third book. I love the series. It is verry intertaining.