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The City of Ember is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel, written by Jeanne DuPrau, and published in 2003. The novel is the first in the publication order of The Books of Ember series, with the next book to be published in the series being The People of Sparks. Chronologically, it is the second book in the series. It received several awards, including the 2006 Mark Twain Award, and was one of the recipients of the 2004 American Library Association Notable Book award.[1][2][3] It also spent several weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List.[3] A film adaptation of the novel, titled City of Ember, was produced by Walden Media and Playtone, with Saoirse Ronan as Lina, Harry Treadaway as Doon, and Bill Murray as the mayor.[4] The film was released on October 10, 2008, and it was later released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.[4][5][6]

The story begins after the construction of the city of Ember. Two of the Builders discuss what will happen when supplies run low and conditions become bad. They leave instructions for the citizens in a special sealed box which will open automatically after 200 years when it should be safe to leave the city.

The box is entrusted to the Mayors of Ember, who each pass it down to the successive Mayor as they take office. While the Mayors do not know the contents of the box they are told to keep it safe over the years and to not tell anyone else about it. However, one Mayor was not honest... and the box is lost.

The story then shifts forward to the people who live in Ember, after the box has quietly opened. The city is lit by powerful electric lights, but the rest of the world is dark. Ember is the last light of the world. Beyond Ember, darkness goes on in all directions. Ember, however, is not quite the safe haven it once was. Power cuts have become common, when the whole city is plunged into complete darkness. How long will the electric generator last?

The story focuses on two main characters: 12-year-olds Lina and Doon. They have just finished their schooling, and are now taking up jobs in Ember. Then Poppy, Lina's little sister, discovers the long-lost box; but Poppy chews up the paper. Now, it is virtually unreadable. And nobody thinks it's important...

Reader's Reviews[]


Truly brilliant! A fantastic story, with a great plot with lots of twists and turns which you don't expect. It is very well written, and is a very moral, e.g. they try to show the instructions to several adults, but the adults don't belive them. I would recommend it to anyone, even if you don't like science fiction!


A great book. Out of 10 I would give it 10! I would happily read it again!


Very enjoyable book. I read it as an adult, but I'd recommend it for 12+. Jeanne du Prau has created a fascinating city, and her two main characters are very believable. The gradual appreciation by the reader of where Ember is, and how the people got there works very well, especially the lack of understanding by the main characters of the real world. (e.g. What is a boat?)

The moral choices facing the two children are very well handled, e.g. should we tell our parents? can we trust the mayor? Sometimes they make a 'wrong' choice and regret it. The reader is left thinking 'what would I have done?' in situations where the choices are not clear-cut.


A thoroughly enjoyable read, for young teenagers to adults. Interesting themes for you to think about. Characters have to think about their choices, some of which they later regret. Adults are mainly portrayed as trustworthy and respected.


A truly amazing book! The storylines are very detailed. If you saw the movie it stinks compared to the book, Jeanne DuPrau knows how to write great. Throughout the book you had to think hard what would come next. The ending is surprisingly funny after the letter falls into Lina's neighbors hands. When the mayor finds out, his guards and him try to be the first one to land. He went so quick he didn't make it in the canoe and drowned! Which was HILARIOUS! Overall, an amazing book.


I have never read a book that I have disliked. Even so, The City of Ember is definitely a standout out of all those good books. The series is well-written and engaging. DuPrau makes Lina and Doon highly likeable characters in that, while they're moral and compassionate, they are not perfect. I wasn't sure how interested I was in the series at first, but then, I read this book, and I was hooked! Whether or not you like science fiction, this makes for a great read, and I would recommend it to anyone!


A surprisingly good book! I rarely read science fiction, but I'm glad I read this one!


It was a great book! I love the setting. But my question was: why did they abandon the surface of earth? What did they think was wrong with it? When Doon and Lina got to earth, and the sun went up, and that happened everyday, then why did the Builders go underground?


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Parental Guidance[]

  • Reading age: 12+
  • Read aloud age: 10+
  • Lexile measure: 680L[7]

Very moral novel.

If you like this you might like[]

  • Other books in The Books of Ember series. The next book is The People of Sparks.
  • Maddigan's Fantasia, also known as Maddigan's Quest, by Margaret Mahy, another post-apocalyptic novel in which the source of power for a city is the focus of the action.
  • The Day of the Triffids, which is also a post-apocalyptic novel. It is not written for children, and is therefore a more "adult" and challenging read than The City of Ember. It is highly recommended for older readers of this book.

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The Green Ember Wiki is a wiki about the fantasy-adventure Children's book series "The Green Ember" which were written by S.D. Smith.