The Prophet of Yonwood (Books of Ember Series #3)

The Prophet of Yonwood (Books of Ember Series #3)

3.9 345
by Jeanne DuPrau

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It’s 50 years before the settlement of the city of Ember, and the world is in crisis. War looms on the horizon as 11-year-old Nickie and her aunt travel to the small town of Yonwood, North Carolina. There, one of the town’s respected citizens has had a terrible vision of fire and destruction. Her garbled words are taken as prophetic instruction on how to… See more details below


It’s 50 years before the settlement of the city of Ember, and the world is in crisis. War looms on the horizon as 11-year-old Nickie and her aunt travel to the small town of Yonwood, North Carolina. There, one of the town’s respected citizens has had a terrible vision of fire and destruction. Her garbled words are taken as prophetic instruction on how to avoid the coming disaster. If only they can be interpreted correctly. . . .

As the people of Yonwood scramble to make sense of the woman’s mysterious utterances, Nickie explores the oddities she finds around town—her great-grandfather’s peculiar journals and papers, 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. Is this vision her chance? Or is it already too late to avoid a devastating war?

In this prequel to the acclaimed The City of Ember and The People of Sparks, Jeanne DuPrau investigates how, in a world that seems out of control, hope and comfort can be found in the strangest of places.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Eleven-year-old Nickie and her aunt Crystal have taken a trip from their home in Philadelphia to Yonwood, North Carolina, to clean up a recently inherited mansion that has been owned and inhabited by family members for over 150 years. Nickie is intent upon keeping the mysterious old house and Crystal is just as committed to sell it quickly. Viewing the trip as a life-changing event, Nickie make a list of three goals: to keep the mansion, to fall in love, and to help the world. These ambitions are somewhat overshadowed by the urgent facts that: their nation appears to be on the brink of war (Nickie's father was sent away on a secret government job months ago), and the townspeople are struggling to decipher the messages of the "prophet" in the community. Other strange things keep popping up in Nickie's path, such as the girl and the dog on the third level of their home and the disturbing humming noise she detects frequently. Themes of soul searching, calm amidst general hysteria, and the power (positive and negative) of the masses, are introduced. The author is a New York Times Bestselling author and lives in California. This book is the third in "The Books of Ember" series, a prequel to the titles The City of Ember and The People of Sparks. Recommended. 2006, Random House Books for Young Readers, Ages 8 to 12.
—Cindy L. Carolan
Eleven-year-old Nickie Randolph travels with her aunt to Yonwood, North Carolina, to catalog, repair, and eventually sell her great-grandfather's old house. Arriving in Yonwood, Nickie discovers a town under the spell of The Prophet, a woman who has had a vision of impending doom. As the story progresses, Nickie must answer serious questions. Are The Prophet's visions genuine? Are they correctly interpreted? Can the terrible vision be prevented? Will Nickie be able to convince her aunt not to sell the house that Nickie has fallen in love with? What secret project is Nickie's father involved in and what coded message is he leaving her in his postcards? DuPrau crafts a coming-of-age story in this prequel to The City of Ember (Random House, 2003/VOYA June 2003). Readers looking for a description of the building of the City or the Cataclysm will be disappointed. The City and the Cataclysm are briefly touched on in the last chapter, which feels tacked on and rushed, whereas the rest of the story is Nickie's coming to terms with herself, her world, and her first stirrings of love. DuPrau sets it against an escalating world crisis that she expertly uses to explore issues such as the use of fear to control a population and how fear can make simple eccentricities seem sinister. Despite the disappointing last chapter, this exploration and Nickie's story make the novel an enjoyable read. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2006, Random House, 304p., and PLB Ages 11 to 14.
—Steven Kral
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-In this prequel to The City of Ember (2003) and The People of Sparks (2004, both Random), 11-year-old Nickie accompanies her aunt to Yonwood, NC, to help get her great-grandfather's house ready to be sold. Months earlier, a woman in the community named Althea Tower had a vision and collapsed, muttering about fire and disaster. The townspeople interpreted it as a premonition of events since war between the U.S. and the Phalanx Nations is eminent. Althea is hailed as a Prophet and an ambitious Mrs. Beeson appoints herself Althea's interpreter. Soon she's urging everyone to give up sinful things like singing. The townspeople believe that by being virtuous they will build "a shield of goodness" around themselves and not be harmed. In her effort to be a good person, Nickie falls prey to this collective brainwashing and betrays a friend. She has her own secret. She's hiding a dog in the house. When Mrs. Beeson thinks the Prophet has said "no dogs" and forces everyone to get rid of them, the child is outraged and confronts the Prophet to demand the truth behind her pronouncements. This novel has a great deal of immediacy in light of current world events. It sharply brings home the idea of people blindly following a belief without questioning it. However, it's really more of a stand-alone title. The plot details that tie it and Ember together are only revealed in the last chapter, entitled "What Happened Afterward."-Sharon Rawlins, NJ Library for the Blind and Handicapped, Trenton Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With the U.S. teetering on the brink of war and her father off on a secret government job, 11-year-old Nickie's trip with her aunt to the small town where her great-grandfather lived and died is a welcome break from reality. Yonwood, however, is governed by a cabal who interpret for the Prophet, a local woman who has been struck insensible by a fiery vision of doom. Nickie wants to comply with the Prophet's apparent directives, but she struggles to understand how her friendships with Grover, a local boy, and Otis, a lovable mutt, fit (or don't fit) into the Prophet's plans. DuPrau effectively depicts a community in the grip of a millennial fever, the residents eager to appease an angry God in increasingly twisted ways. Less successful are subplots involving Nickie's explorations of her great-grandfather's effects and the weird research of a curmudgeonly astronomer. Thinnest of all is the connection to Ember, which is encapsulated entirely in an afterward. This will disappoint Ember's fans, but those who read this offering with no series expectations will find it a provocative read with an appealingly conflicted protagonist. (Fiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Books of Ember Series , #3
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Vision

On a warm July afternoon in the town of Yonwood, North Carolina, a woman named Althea Tower went out to her backyard to fill the bird feeder. She opened her sack of sunflower seeds, lifted the bird feeder’s lid–and that was when, without warning, the vision assailed her.

It was like a waking dream. The trees and grass and birds faded away, and in their place she saw blind­ing flashes of light so searingly bright she staggered backward, dropped her sack of birdseed, and fell to the ground. Billows of fire rose around her, and a hot wind roared. She felt herself flung high into the sky, and from there she looked down on a dreadful scene. The whole earth boiled with flames and black smoke. The noise was terrible–a howling and crashing and crackling–and finally, when the firestorm subsided, there came a silence that was more terrible still.

When the vision finally faded, it left Althea stunned. She lay on the ground, unable to move, with her mind all jumbled and birds pecking at the spilled birdseed around her. She might have lain there for hours if Mrs. Brenda Beeson had not happened to come by a few minutes later to bring her a basket of strawberries.

Seeing Althea on the ground, Mrs. Beeson rushed forward. She bent over her friend and spoke to her, but Althea only moaned. So Mrs. Beeson used her cell phone to call for help. Within minutes, four of her best friends–the doctor, the police chief, the town mayor, and the minister of the church–had all arrived. The doctor squatted beside Althea and spoke slowly and loudly. “Can you tell us what’s wrong?” he said. “What is it?”

Althea shivered. Her lips twisted as she tried to speak. Everyone leaned in to hear.

“It’s God,” she whispered. “God. I saw...I saw...” She trailed off.

“Merciful heavens,” said Brenda Beeson. “She’s had a vision.”

Of course they didn’t know at first what her vision had been. They thought maybe she’d seen God. But why would that frighten her so? Why would she be muttering about fire and smoke and disaster?

Days went by, and Althea didn’t get better. She lay on her bed hardly moving, staring into the air and mumbling. Then, exactly a week later, a clue to the mystery came. The president of the United States announced that talks with the Phalanx Nations had reached a crisis. Their leaders would not give in on any of their demands, and the leaders of the United States would not give in on theirs. Unless some sort of agree­ment could be reached, the president said, it might be necessary to go to war.

Brenda Beeson made the connection right away: War! That must be what Althea Tower had seen. Mrs. Beeson called her friends, they told their friends, the newspaper wrote it up, and soon the whole town knew: Althea Tower had seen the future, and it was terrible.

All over Yonwood, people gathered in frightened clusters to talk. Could it be true? The more they thought about it, the more it seemed it could be. Althea had always been a quiet, sensible person, not the sort to make things up. And these were strange times, what with conflicts and terrorists and talk of the end of the world–just the kind of times when visions and miracles were likely to happen.

Brenda Beeson formed a committee to take care of Althea and pay attention to anything else she might say. People wrote letters to the newspaper about her and left flowers and ribbons and handwritten notes in front of her house. The minister spoke of her in church.

After a few weeks, nearly everyone was calling her the Prophet.

Chapter 1: The Inheritance

Nickie Randolph’s first sight of the town of Yonwood was a white steeple rising out of the pine forest that covered the mountainside. She leaned forward, gazing through the windshield of the car. “Is that it?”

Her aunt Crystal, who was driving, put one hand up to shield her eyes from the rays of the setting sun. “That’s it,” she said.

“My new home,” said Nickie.

“You have to get that notion out of your mind,” said Crystal. “It’s not going to happen.”

I’m going to make it happen, thought Nickie, though she didn’t say it out loud. Crystal’s mood was already bad enough. “How long till we get there?” she asked.

“We’ll be there in twenty minutes, if nothing else gets in our way.”

A lot had gotten in their way so far. The Streakline train was closed down because of the Crisis, so they’d had to drive. They’d been on the road for seven hours, though the trip from Philadelphia should have taken no more than five. But long lines at gas stations, detours around pot-holed or snow-covered stretches of highway, and military roadblocks had slowed them down. Crystal didn’t like delays. She was a fast-moving, efficient person, and when her way was blocked, she became very tense and spoke with her lips in two hard lines.

They came to the Yonwood exit, and Crystal turned off the highway onto a road that wound uphill. Here the trees grew thick on either side, and so tall that their bare branches met overhead, making a canopy of sticks. Drops of rain began to spatter the car’s wind­shield.

After a while, they came to a sign that said, “Yonwood. Pop. 2,460.” The trees thinned out, and the rain fell harder. They passed a few storage sheds, a collapsing barn, and a lumberyard. After that, hous­es began to appear on the side of the road–small, tired-looking wooden houses, their roofs dripping. Many of them had rockers or couches on the front porch, where people would no doubt be sitting if it weren’t the dead of winter.

From a small brick shelter at the side of the road, a policeman stepped out holding a red stop sign. He held it up and waved it at them. Crystal slowed down, stopped, and opened her window. The policeman bent down. He had on a rain jacket with the hood up, and rain dripped off the hood and onto his nose. “Hello, ma’am,” he said. “Are you a resident?”

“No,” said Crystal. “Is that a problem?”

“Just doing a routine entry check, ma’am,” the man said. “Part of our safety program. Had some evi­dence lately of possible terrorist activity in the woods. Your purpose here?”

“My grandfather has died,” Crystal said. “My sister and I have inherited his house. I’ve come to fix the house up and sell it.”

The man glanced at Nickie. “This is your sister?”

“This is my niece,” said Crystal. “My sister’s daughter.”

“And your grandfather’s name?” said the man.

“Arthur Green,” said Crystal.

“Ah, yes,” the policeman said. “A fine gentleman.” He smiled. “You be careful while you’re here, now. We’ve had reports indicating there may be agents of the Phalanx Nations traveling alone or in small groups in parts of the area. Have you been spoken to by any suspicious strangers?”

“No,” said Crystal. “Just you. You seem very suspicious.”

“Ha ha,” said the man, not really laughing. “All right, ma’am,” he went on. “You may go. Sorry for the delay, but as you know there’s a crisis. We’re taking every precaution.”

He stepped away, and they drove on.

“Terrorists even here?” Nickie said.

“It’s nonsense,” said Crystal. “Why would a ter­rorist be wandering around in the woods? Pay no attention.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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