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Book of Ember #3

The Prophet of Yonwood

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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?

A prequel to the modern-day classic The City of Ember. This highly acclaimed adventure series has captivated kids and teachers alike for almost fifteen years and has sold over 3.5 MILLION copies!

An alternate cover for this ISBN can be found here.

289 pages, Paperback

First published May 9, 2006

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About the author

Jeanne DuPrau

24 books1,784 followers
Jeanne DuPrau spends several hours of every day at her computer, thinking up sentences. She has this quote taped to her wall: "A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people" (Thomas Mann).

This gives her courage, because she finds writing very hard. So many words to choose from! So many different things that could happen in a story at any moment! Writing is one tough decision after another.

But it's also the most satisfying thing she knows how to do. So she keeps doing it. So far, she has written four novels, six books of nonfiction, and quite a few essays and stories.

Jeanne DuPrau doesn't write every minute of every day. She also putters around in her garden. She lives in California, where it's easy to grow everything from apples to zinnias.

Jeanne DuPrau doesn't have children, but she has two nephews, a niece, and a dog. The dog lives with her. His name is Ethan. Jeanne and Ethan get along well, though their interests are different. Ethan is not very fond of reading, for example, and Jeanne doesn't much like chasing squirrels. But they agree on walks, naps, and trips in the car to surprise destinations. Ethan also likes to help in the garden.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,617 reviews
Profile Image for Kimberly.
226 reviews9 followers
February 2, 2008
This book was horrendous. The whole time I was reading it, I kept asking myself, "This is really the prequel to the City of Ember?" I can't believe that the editors at Random House actually allowed Jeanne DuPrau to be so self-indulgent. That's what it felt like, reading this book, as though DuPrau was less interested in telling the story of how Ember came to be and more about forcing her political views down the reader's throat. DuPrau spouts off during the whole book about random nonsense. OKAY, we get it already, WAR IS BAD.

Reading these books as an adult, I realize the allegory. I realize it and I understand it, and in The City of Ember and The People of Sparks, I appreciated it. There were times when I felt that DuPrau was overstating things; issues were presented simplistically, whatever. I understood that because I also understood that these books were written for an upper-elementary school reading audience. However, The Prophet of Yonwood, also an allegory, was ridiculous. None of the characters were likable. Nickie and Grover seriously pale in comparison to Lina and Doon.

Nickie was an immature and annoying main character. She's eleven years old and one of her goals at Greenhaven is to fall in love?! I don't buy it. Compared to Lina, Nickie is a wishy-washy brat. She blindly accepts Mrs. Beeson's request to spy around and report back anything bad. Nickie supposedly has a thirst for knowledge, but apparently is confused as to what to do with this knowledge and can't handle making a decision on her own as to whether or not people are good or "evil." I couldn't even force myself to feel sympathetic when Otis is taken away along with the other dogs because DuPrau was busy trying to force me to feel sympathy. I can't drum up sympathy for a character I don't like and think was only getting what she deserved.

The utter randomness of this book was also off-putting. Random teenager and her dog lives in the attic. Why? Nickie finds a picture of Siamese twins who visited Greenhaven. Why? Nickie's great-grandfather's journal mentions a mysterious vision. Why? Nickie finds a letter written in a strange manner, as though to conceal portions of the message, or to conserve paper? Why? Some people in Yonwood are condemned to wearing noisy bracelets. Why? There is an albino bear in the woods. Again, why? DuPrau takes the reader on these absurd sidetracks with no explanation. Why is any of the above important? Why am I supposed to care about any of it? Stop wasting my time.

I would feel comfortable allowing the students with whom I work (middle school age) read the first two novels in the Ember series, but there's no way that I would recommend The Propet of Yonwood. Children can't separate DuPrau's prejudices against religion from the story. Children can't come away from the story and form their own educated opinion. I, however, can, and I thought this book was utter crap. I've heard there will be a fourth book of Ember and that it will return to Lina and Doon's story. I will probably pick up a copy and start to read it, just because I like Lina and Doon, but if DuPrau starts going off on her pointless tangents, I don't think I'll force myself to finish it like I did with Yonwood.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Caroline.
78 reviews2 followers
October 11, 2007
Meh. I really enjoyed the first two (last two?) books in DuPrau's trilogy, and was excited about reading this prequel. I have to say, though, I felt like I was reading something that had been written by a liberal Democrat frustrated with the takeover of the evangelical right and defense contractors in modern American politics. And I say this as a liberal Democrat who is currently frustrated with the takeover of the evangelical right and defense contractors in U.S. politics. But YA fiction is not the space to pontificate; it should be a place where young and not-so-young adults can exercise their brains by leaving behind their preconceived notions. The strengths of Duprau's first two books were suspense and paradigm-shifting, if I can use the cliche. Yes, the books are mysteries of a sort, but they're also glimpses into a world that is very much OUR world, but a world where people understand social and political rules very differently than we do. That's what made the books so interesting. If I wanted to be brainwashed, I'd watch Fox News or read the Slate.

The Prophet of Yonwood, as other reviewers have mentioned, fell flat. The story was okay for awhile, but quickly devolved into a small-town dystopian nightmare. Not quite the same thing DuPrau's first two books had going for them. It would have been stronger had DuPrau not abandoned the themes she'd already established in favor of a more presentist-minded discourse about terrorism, fear, violence, and evangelical-military groupthink. Not that I think she's all that far off the mark...it just wasn't terribly successful as a prequel, in my opinoin. And the Afterword was terrible. I'm sorry, but finishing off a trilogy with an Animal House ending doesn't do it for me. Glad to know that Grover became a famous snake guy. Glad to know that Nickie survived the nuclear holocaust 50 years down the road. But so what? What happened to making a new world?

All that said, the Otis storyline was really cute...and then really powerful. If she had focused more on that, this would have been a better stand-alone book.
Profile Image for Sara.
1,406 reviews69 followers
September 14, 2008
I read this because I'd read the first two books in the City of Ember series and enjoyed them; this is the 3rd book and a prequel to the events in Ember, so I expected a good story about why the city of Ember was built and how it all began. Instead, this book introduced eleven-year-old Nicki, who moves to her great-grandfather's old mansion in the city of Yonwood and discovers there is a woman regarded as a prophet living there, whose words are interpreted by another woman and the city follows her instructions accordingly, trying to be so "good" that "evil" wont come to their town.

The writing in the book is about the same as it was in the previous books - that is to say, it is light, easy, and has a good tone. I liked Nicki as the main character and I sympathized with her wanting to be good and do good. I even thought the plot was decent: the country may be on the brink of war, and everyone hopes that by following the prophet, they will be saved from destruction. However, this book felt barely connected to the earlier two book in the Ember series. It's not until the last two pages of this book that we find out how Nicki and her story tie in to Lina and her story in Ember. In that regard, it's not much of an installment in the series.

Rounding out my complaints about this book is the fact the some of the most interesting aspects of the story are not fully developed. For example, while exploring the mansion, Nicki finds old photographs and letters and even her great-grandfather's old notebook that he recorded strange observations in. These were interesting to read about, but we never get to find out their purpose or what, exactly, her great-grandfather was recording or who the person he mentions in his writings is. I wondered, what was the point of even mentioning these things if they go nowhere? Just to pad the book and add another layer of "charm" about the mansion and area? Futhermore, while I thought the story itself was decent, it was almost too much of a parable about religion and politics at times, and I hate reading fiction that the author uses as a venue to project his/her political views, no matter what the view are (unless, of course, these views are seamlessly intertwined with the narration and serve only to strengthen it - which is not the case here). The author's views are certainly present in The People of Sparks, but I overlooked it there in favor of the good story it encompassed. In The Prophet of Yonwood, it is almost too much, and I was not able to get lost in the story enough to ignore it. So, that was pretty irritating too. One more complaint: Nicki goes to Yonwood with one of her goals being to fall in love. What?!? She's 11! I kinda rolled my eyes every time this was mentioned.

Overall, this was a decent installment in the "series" (and I use that word lightly because, as I mentioned earlier, it barely ties in to the other books...) but nowhere near as enthralling as Ember or even Sparks. If you're a fan of the series and want to keep reading, go into this book not expecting its plot to really coincide with the others. This would have been so much better if it'd focused on the events right before people went to Ember (this book takes place 50 years earlier!) or even focused on the first people who went into Ember and how they coped. This book ends (in the epilogue) where it should have begun...
20 reviews
December 12, 2007
Too preachy and the connection to the other books is just tossed in at the end.
Profile Image for Kirstin.
738 reviews9 followers
September 25, 2014
Even if you like the Ember books you should skip this one. I had several problems with this book:

1. I was expecting some explanation of why and how the "Builders" decided to hide away a group of people for 200 years. This book instead is more of a stand alone story about a girl who happens to grow up the be the journal writer from City of Ember From this book we learn that it was built because of fear of war and the cave was in California. Two very trivial bits of info.

2. Jeanne DuPrau brings up several ideas then goes nowhere with them

a. Nickie receives coded messages from her father. Groves like to enter sweepstakes contests including some that involve solving puzzles. Do they collaborate together like Lina/Doone? Of course not! Instead at the end we get a very flip 'oh yeah I figured that out already' And really, her father risked sending a coded message and all it said was the name of the state he was in. How dumb.

b.Nickie's great-grandfather leaves a notebook with strange writing but despite all the time spent on it the writings are never explained. Again I was expecting to learn about the relationship of the great grandfather with McCoy. Perhaps even opening up a relationship with Nickie and McCoy.

c. Related to b., Hoyt McCoy is involved in something mysterious. The explanation if too strange and too short for something that appeared to be a major plot point. I really didn't get it. Did he really open up communication with aliens and that scared the "Phalanx Nations"???

3. Nickie is 11 years old and one of her goals is to fall in love. You have to be kidding me.

4. The overt anti-religious/political message was very off-putting for a YA book. The idea that the "Believers" in City of Ember were dumb/naive/gullible was an irritating side story but it is the major theme of this book.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Alexa.
96 reviews1 follower
October 30, 2011
It was a mistake to write a prequel to The City of Ember books. Or maybe it was a mistake to go back as far as DuPrau did. It could have survived the abrupt change of cast if it had at least taken place in Ember, perhaps during the earliest years. There are so many interesting questions to ask of the first generation of Ember: How did they organize their government? Handle money? Assign jobs? Deal with outcasts or criminals? None of this is answered, though, because the prequel takes place before the city is completed and the main character is the daughter of one of the builders. The book ends just as it's about to get interesting: when, as an older woman, she is handed a baby and a new husband and sent underground.

I read the beginning and the end, and skipped the vast majority of the middle. Maybe I'll try again one day, but at the time I had the final book in the Ember series waiting for me, and there was no way I was going to wait to get back to the characters I loved in order to read a prequel that basically had nothing to do with the rest of the series.
Profile Image for AziaMinor.
471 reviews58 followers
July 2, 2023
Overall Rating : F

I wish I could have liked this even just a smudge better, but what can you do? 😕

A prequel that was never needed that explained virtually nothing. Besides the very last chapter, I would have never known it's part of a series.
Profile Image for Karen.
190 reviews
October 2, 2007
This prequel was actually disappointing in comparison to The City of Ember and The People of Sparks. It was too disconnected to these two books to be considered a prequel for my tastes. The story line was not nearly as interesting as the other two books. It does raise some interesting questions about blindly following the prophesies(dictates) of someone else because you think that person must be right instead of trusting your own instincts.
Profile Image for E.F. Buckles.
Author 1 book20 followers
January 15, 2023
The following review has SPOILERS. Lots of 'em. I can't talk about it without them, so consider yourself warned.

I read this because it was part of the series, but finished it not understanding why it needed to be written at all. I'd say there's no point to it, but that's not entirely true. There was a Point. A really big Point it was trying very hard to get across. Whether or not that Point needed to be made or if the book was successful in communicating it... well, let's talk about that.

While looking at reviews before beginning the book, one of the biggest complaints I saw is that it's preachy and leans towards being anti-religious. Having read it myself, I can say it is indeed preachy and I understand why some readers feel that it's anti-religious. The plot revolves around a woman (the titular Prophet of Yonwood) having a vision of the world being destroyed in fiery explosions. She passes out, and then her half-conscious mumblings are interpreted by the people of Yonwood as messages from God about the things they should or shouldn't be doing to protect the town from impending doom and create a "shield of goodness".

Mrs. Beeson, (who had nothing more to her personality than a desire to dictate everyone's morals), is the one who does the majority of the interpreting...or rather, GUESSING at the meaning of the mumbled words of the prophet, which she claims range from instructions like "no sinning" to "no singing," and also, "no lights," and "no dogs." (Note that the first two came from a single mumble that sounded like "no sinnies" but they went with both interpretations just to be safe.) When not using the Prophet's mumbles to determine wrongdoing Beeson sometimes decides someone is doing wrong because she thinks they have a "feeling of wrongness" about them whether any of the many religious texts she reads specifically says that thing is wrong or not. She and the police punish those people of the town who are stubborn about giving up the forbidden things by strapping unbreakable bracelets on them that hum constantly, driving them insane, until they give in and do as they're told. And she never allows herself to truly question what she's doing because, to her, faith means unthinking, blind obedience to anything she chooses to believe is from God.

It is stated explicitly that the conflict going on in the world of the book is caused by different groups fighting over their various "truths" (implied to be their beliefs about God) to the point of threatening the existence of the human race. While no individual religion is named outright, the people in Yonwood are heavily implied to be Christian since they have their standard Christian church-type set up in a small town in one of the Bible belt states (North Carolina). And, when our main character Nicki visits Mrs. Beeson's house, the one book she specifically notes that Beeson owns is one with a black cover and gold lettering. (Interesting that this is the ONLY book Nicki specifically notices since Beeson is stated repeatedly to pour over multiple texts from multiple religions.) In addition, every time the President (a stereotypical white-haired older man) comes on the news for a report about the "Crisis" he tells people to pray for God's favor in the situation, though Nicki notes that he doesn't sound as if his heart is in these statements.

Meanwhile, "terrorists" are running rampant in America to the point the people of Yonwood are determined one is living in the woods, even though no one's ever seen anything of this person aside from a random glimpse of white. There's also one mention of a news report saying terrorists somewhere have taken a group of people hostage and won't let them go until they convert. (The religion they're supposed to convert to isn't stated.)

Despite all of this, I can't say that the book is specifically anti-religious because it never actually states or implies that God doesn't exist or that people shouldn't believe in anything. In fact, Nicki eventually rejects Beeson's version of God because Nicki can't believe that God would be so petty as to make people give up beloved pets because they supposedly "suck up love" that should all be focused on God instead. A specific quote from the book features Nicki leaving some precious belongings in the wood and saying to herself, "It’s for my God, the god of dogs, and snakes and dust mites and albino bears and Siamese twins, the god of stars and starships and other dimensions, the god who loves everyone and makes everything marvelous."

It also turns out that the Prophet wasn't mumbling instructions from God, she was just repeatedly seeing her vision of the earth being destroyed and mourning all the things that were destroyed with it, thus the mumbling about "no dogs," "no singing" etc, etc.

So, what is it this book was trying to say? While it never outright states that "God is dead" it DOES heavily imply that it doesn't really matter which version of God is the real one. It also implies that all religions are somehow believing in the same God. And it all but outright states that if we could all stop fighting and focus on more important things, like exploring this beautiful, wonderful world we live in, there would be peace. (This actually happens for a few decades in the world of the book. People stop fighting because of some big scientific breakthrough and excitement over exploration, only to eventually start fighting again.)

Even if I agreed with everything being stated or implied in this book (I don't), the messaging of this story was handled in a very heavy-handed manner that only frustrated me more and more the further I read. I also kept wondering why the author or publisher thought this was an appropriate prequel for an otherwise enjoyable and unpreachy series?

Even ignoring the preaching, it's not an enjoyable or well-written story. All the characters are flat, with Mrs. Beeson being the worst of them all as there is literally nothing more to her than her obsession with enforcing her *cough* I mean "God's" will on the people of Yonwood.

Nicki herself was flat, uninteresting, and unlikable to me, which was a problem given that she was the main character. She had three goals in life: 1) keep her grandfather's old house that her family wants to sell. (Okay, that's a realistic enough goal for an 11 year old). 2) Change the world (Yeah, okay, she lives in a tumultuous world. Wanting to make it better is reasonable) 3) Fall in love. Uh... interesting goal for an 11 year old. And there's never a reason given for her deciding she wants to fall passionately in love besides... she just does. And she literally analyzes *every* boy she meets to decide if they'd be worth falling in love with. She also looks through adult romance novels she finds in the mansion as if they're instructional booklets on love.

My eye was twitching over all that, but I maybe could have let that go if she hadn't also been so easily manipulated. She goes through 3/4 of the book believing literally anything she's told by basic strangers, to the point of becoming Mrs. Beeson's "special helper." She does this simply because Mrs. Beeson asks her things like, "Do you love God? If you do, you should help me report wrongdoing in the town so we can create a shield of goodness that will protect us from war and bombs! How do you know what wrongdoing is? Well, it's something that just FEELS wrong!" And Nicki goes, "Well, I never really thought about it before, but that sounds like a positive thing, so yeah! I'll totally do that." Yet, we're given no reason for her being so easily manipulated by talk of God and morals given the fact that it's STATED that her parents don't take her to church and there's no indication that her family has a background of faith for her to care about loving God or not. The people of Yonwood are no better since they also buy anything Mrs. Beeson tells them with little more thought than Nicki, even when Mrs. Beeson says completely ridiculous things like insisting that a splotch of blood on a cloth is a message from God because she thinks it looks like a letter. *eye roll*

Truly, I reached a point where I skimmed most of Nicki's chapters because I was so annoyed with her thoughtlessness. When I wasn't annoyed, I plain didn't care about her playing with the dog and other such mundane things. The only times I didn't skim was when she was discovering things about the history of the house and her grandfather, or solving the codes in her father's letters to her and her mother, all of which were far less important to the plot than the idiocy going on in Yonwood. To Nicki's credit, she did finally reject the manipulations, but only after her behavior negatively affected the people she cared about. And her dog. Really, she cared more about the dog being taken away more than anything else.

Nicki's aunt was also completely flat. There is nothing more to her character than the fact that she's been married twice, is looking for husband number three, and is shockingly unconcerned about what her niece does during the many hours Nicki spends ALONE in a dusty old mansion. She's also completely oblivious to the fact that Nicki has been running around town alone and acting as spy for Mrs. Beeson until such time as Nicki tells her these things.

The only character I didn't get annoyed with was Grover, a funny, industrious, and determined kid whose chapters I actually enjoyed reading. But even his qualities and motivation in life all revolved around his fascination with snakes.

I don't give out many one-star ratings and I don't enjoy doing it. In fact, this is only the second I've ever given since I normally DNF the books that qualify for one star and I don't rate things that I didn't finish. But I truly didn't enjoy reading this book. I have nothing against prequels, I really don't, but WHY make the focus of the prequel for "The City of Ember" a heavy-handed preach-fest?

We could have focused on Nicki's father building Ember and sending his family letters with codes to tell them where he was, but that got pushed to the side as barely important. (In fact, the codes he sent didn't even matter in the end because his family was ultimately told he was in California before Nicki even told her mom that she'd figured the codes out.) We could have focused on Nicki's Grandfather's belief in other universes and crossovers between time and space, or Hoyt Mcoy's scientific discovery that was so amazing it ended the Crisis and pushed the nuclear destruction of the world back by decades. (It seems it has something to do with seeing a space ship?)

Nope! Those things were not nearly as important as turning religious people into caricatures and beating a Message into the reader's heads. Even the addendum at the end of the story showing that Nicki was the daughter of one of the Builders of Ember, grew up to be one of the first inhabitants of the underground city, and wrote the journal that Lina and Dune discover many years later when they lead the people of Ember back to earth's surface, was NOT enough to make wading through the preach-fest worth the headache, nor is it enough for me to raise my rating to two stars. So, one star it shall remain. I believe I will be giving my copy of this book away as I will never read it again.
Profile Image for Helen.
37 reviews1 follower
November 23, 2008
This should be called "The prophet of Yawnwood". I can overlook flaws in a book if the story and characters are interesting enough, but this was pretty boring and the main character was annoying. My biggest problem is that as a prequel to "The City of Ember", this book should have given us a clearer picture of the world before people decided to go into a city underground to save themselves from disaster. The first two books hint at wars and terrorism and I was hoping that this one would give us more. In this book we still only get vague descriptions of war and terrorism. The author could have done so much more with this considering all the problems that our world could potentially face and the events in this book should have been much worse in order to set up the City of Ember scenario. Instead this story centers around the life of an eleven year old girl and the small town of Yonwood which has been swept up in a wave of religious fundamentalism due to the visions of an elderly lady they call the prophet. A few church leaders in the community have placed themselves in charge of interpreting the prophet's words and they end of making some pretty ridiculous laws for the town. Nickie, the main character wants to be a good person and starts out thinking that this means obeying the laws, but throughout the book she does some soul searching and learns to think for herself and finds her own personal spirituality not based on organized religion. This is a good message, but a message in a book only works if the book is actually good. I think "Ember" and "Sparks" were more successful because the author had more limitations placed on her in creating the worlds presented in those books. Within those confines she was able to paint very detailed pictures of what those worlds were like. In "Yonwood", the setting is basically our world maybe 20 years from now. It's a much bigger world to imagine and there were a lot of places she could have gone with it. She tries to go too many places and ends up going nowhere. How disappointing!
Profile Image for Angela.
194 reviews49 followers
May 27, 2009
When I finished this book, I was left feeling a bemused combination of "huh?" and "so what?" - feelings which had been growing on me since the beginning of the book.

In the first two books of the Ember series, there are deep and thoughtful morals that can be drawn, but this book's message was glaringly overstated. The heavy-handed moralizing in "Yonwood" made for a plodding pace and an anticlimactic conclusion. Worst of all, while there were several interesting "clues" throughout the book (her great-grandfather's notebook and the mysterious vision he had and his references to "M", the "sky splitting open", Nickie's father's mysterious post scripts, etc.), there was absolutely none of the engaging, endearing detective work and puzzling that I loved so much in the rest of the series. These clues either never lead to anything (the notebook), lead to nowhere (the sky splitting open), or were solved without the reader's having the privilege of following the characters as they worked out the clues (the post scripts).

Finally, I never really cared for Nickie because she didn't seem real to me. Grover was a little more interesting, but I was disposed to dislike him because when we first meet him he is something of a braggart. The wrap-up at the end felt rushed, and was a pretty lame tie-in to the rest of the series. All in all, this book was a huge disappointment.
Profile Image for Steven.
15 reviews
November 30, 2007
I was hoping for a book about the people who built Ember and why they decided to not teach them any technology or nation rebuilding skills. This isn't that book. This is the author's treatise on why the Iraq war is a big mistake and how religion only makes people fight. There is more hope in science and studying the stars than in saying prayers. The story was engaging, but I'm getting tired of the religious being treated as zealots and mindless sheep looking for any type of leader. This book was a disappointment.
Profile Image for Kate.
261 reviews50 followers
November 22, 2016
Summary From Goodreads:
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?
At first, I was mildly bored with the lack of action, but the farther in the story I got, the more fond of it I grew. In a way, you could consider this realistic fiction, which I normally hate, but I ended up really liking this. It was just such a fun and short read. However, the plot was not that strong in itself, this was more of a character driven story. But seriously, this story didn't have ANYTHING to do with The City of Ember. It turns out that Nickie's dad was one of the builders, and eventually Nickie was a builder too. So basically only 5 pages of this book was related to the rest of the series. That didn't really take away the enjoyment in the least bit.
The characters were... okay I guess. I liked their innocence and silliness, but they were just a bit immature for me. It was fun being in their mindset, but they were only 11. Also, Mrs. Beeson was the WORST person ever. She called herself a Christian when she had gossip patrols that judged people and if they ever sinned according to her, she put bracelets on them that were super loud and blaring like an alarm.
Overall & Recommendations:
As a story itself, this book wasn't that great. But it was just so fun! I don't even know why, but i enjoyed it immensely. I really like this series, and it's perfect for children and middle graders. This might have been a bit to young for me (I'm 13), but it was none the less enjoyable.
Quotes I Liked:
“The idea seemed to be that if you prayed extremely hard--especially if a lot of people prayed at once--maybe God would change things. The trouble was, what if your enemy was praying, too? Which prayer would God listen to?”

“It’s for my God, the god of dogs, and snakes and dust mites and albino bears and Siamese twins, the god of stars and starships and other dimensions, the god who loves everyone and makes everything marvelous.”

“Kept talking about how she's studying every holy book she can get her hands on, aiming to understand God's word. I quoted St. Augustine to her. 'If you understand it, it isn't God.' Gave her a cup of chamomile tea.”
Profile Image for Alexandra.
1,309 reviews3 followers
September 3, 2016
I enjoyed this story, although at times I found it a bit slow.

I think it put the dangers of blind acceptance and obedience to a self-proclaimed prophet, forced adherence of others to those who claim to speak for God, (and how not everyone who claims to speak for God actually does), in terms a child could easily relate to.

I think this could give kids good food for thought in a world where there are places where people live under this kind of religious tyranny today, even in some communities in the West, and there are those who strive to place the rest of us under it. And about the importance of thinking things through for yourself.

I am a conservative, and a Christian - so that you'll know I'm not just speaking here from a liberal and/or anti-Christian bias. The author may have been, I don't know. But I see much here that would be good for conservatives and Christians also to discuss with their children. And not only about false prophets, religious tyranny, but other totalitarian efforts as well, such as Nazism, etc.
Profile Image for Barbara.
340 reviews
June 20, 2009
This book is a "prequel" to the City of Ember. I did not like it. This book is not essential to reading book four, which is again about Lina and Doon, so I would recommend just skipping book three. There is only one reference to book three on the last couple of pages of book four, and you don't really loose anything by not reading book three.

In a prequel to The City of Ember, I would be interested to learn more about the City of Ember and the Builders. I would like to know more about why the decision was made to create the city and conflicts surrounding that choice. In this book, no mention is made regarding the City of Ember until the last two pages. So, this book was a disappointment to my wishes.

Another reason I disliked this book, is the tone with which it addressed God and revelation. Religious fervor leads people to do many things, and this can be an interesting study in human behavior, but this book eventually seemed to treat the idea of God and modern day revelation as something only crazy people get caught up in. Not appealing to me. It was not an obvious theme, but considering I was already bored with the storyline, its dealings with prophecy bothered me greatly.
Profile Image for Sara Saif.
544 reviews224 followers
August 18, 2018
I feel dangerously close to being cheated. This book was not what I was anticipating. The whole book read as a warning of what was to come, since this was a prequel and we know what the world is like in The City of Ember and The People of Sparks. But it was a whole lot of...nothing. Absolutely nothing. The book creates such tension and nervous excitement and that is what keeps you glued to it, just waiting for everything to blow to hell, literally, but nothing happens. In a super anti-climatic way, things get normal and life goes on until the last two pages when the connection to the sequels is made.
The talk of the existence of multiverses and the impending war that would supposedly destroy most of humanity comes to nothing. I was so sure this would be important but nah. The warring sides just happen to listen to a guy ramble about universes and knowledge and they just, stop the war because of that?
Maybe this was a sort of a heads up for the final book? I don't know. It better be or this would be the most pathetic plot device ever.
The suspense and anxiety that drives the book definitely wins and because of that I was able to enjoy the otherwise mundane plot.
Profile Image for Amy.
361 reviews77 followers
December 8, 2008
I listened to this out of order in the series - my daughter read the second book and was ready for the third one, so we listened while we cleaned her room.
Luckily for me, this book happens to be a prequel, and is only slightly related to the storyline in the other two books.

The prophet of Yonwood, Althea Towers, is a lady who has a terrible vision of a horrible future. The vision is so horrible, she becomes very sick. Mrs. Beeson, the town busybody, attempts to find directions from god in the prophet's vision - don't eat hot chocolate, don't own dogs, don't sing. The country is on the brink of a massive international war. Mrs. Beeson is convinced that she needs to root out evil in the community, interpreting the prophet's vision for guidance. This will ensure god is on their side and help them survive the upcoming conflict. Mrs. Beeson uses the local law enforcement to root out those who fail to follow the words of the prophet, subverting the rule of law in the interests of fighting terrorism in the community.

Nickie, a young girl visiting from the city, at first wants to help Mrs. Beeson 'make the world a better place' and reports on the potential evil-doers around her. As Nickie comes to understand her neighbors better, she realizes they are different and unusual, but not evil. Unfortunately, her friends are already caught in Mrs. Beeson's expanding net of wrongdoers.

Eventually, this small town is returned to normal after Nickie talks to the prophet. Turns out that Mrs. Beeson took descriptions of the vision as a call to specific action. Once the prophet explained this, everyone went right back to following laws and lived happily until the next international crises, which was much worse and led to the establishment of Ember.

This book made me think of life in small towns, children growing up, the current fearmongering in the war on terror, and the rise of Hitler.
I kept thinking that the author was too heavy handed in her approach - it all seemed so obvious. But then I realized that what's obvious to an adult might not be obvious to a child - and Nickie is a child. She's also a relatively unsupervised but idealistic child, and so is susceptible to Mrs. Beeson's influence.

Some other aspects of the book did not feel quite right initially. The nation was on the verge of war - yet it was something that was happening far away, with only minimal connection to people's lives. Again, this might just be an attempt to show a child's perspective.

Also, the book seemed to portray modern America - and although cell phones were everywhere, computers were not. I felt like the importance of technology to everyday life, even in small towns in America, was ignored completely.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Eldon.
78 reviews9 followers
May 14, 2010
Do not read this book as a prequel to the Ember series. Four paragraphs do not a prequel make. There are two more installments that should be added between this one and The City of Ember: Nickie's dad's story (same 50 year time frame as The Prophet of Yonwood) and an actual prequel beginning where The Prophet of Yonwood ends.

Read this as a stand-alone story. It will be more enjoyable if you aren't constantly looking for how it ties into the first two books. Also be prepared for tangents that go nowhere, things that are interesting but are never followed up on. Specifics withheld but you'll know what I mean when you've finished and they never really meant anything and you wonder why the author even mentioned them. Maybe just trying to create atmosphere?

Complaints aside, I liked this book, maybe because of my experiences with certain interpreters of righteousness (Yonwood is ruled/terrorized by one of these so I was eagerly hoping for her comeuppance.) Your mileage may vary but take this one out for a spin.
Profile Image for Wong.
6 reviews
May 2, 2011

I like books from Jeanne DuPrau. Though her books are intended for younger people, I couldn't help but notice that her books are filled with messages of humanity, peace and the need for us all to break the cycle of hatred. I think that her books suit current situation very well.

I would say that I could agree with 90% of what she's writing in her previous two books. I would definitely ask my future children to read the first two. As for this one, maybe when they are older.

In this book, through allegory, she tried to convey to her readers that there are only two options: 1. There's no God or 2. There are many gods fighting for control. All simply because there are many versions of 'truth' and everyone is claiming that theirs are the true one.

I won't agree with that even if you cut my hands. Yes, I am a Muslim.

Religion it seems, for DuPrau, is a list of rules that are unbendable, rigid and limiting. Religion, for me is a collection of principals, that can be bent according to situation. As in Islam, there is no specific things say on how to rule a government. But there are certain principals that must be fulfilled for a government to be considered 'Good government'.

Though may be unintentional on her part, it seems clear to me that any flaws in the followers of a religion shouldn't be attributed to a religion as a weakness.

Yet I commend her work as entertaining and full of good messages. For instance the danger of religious fanaticism, forgiveness, thirst for knowledge and how rationality may (a big may) be used to gauge what is evil and what is good.

I honestly think that secularism is not the answer to our human condition. I've established within myself that there is God. And I have in my consciousness, that if there is God, there must be some sort of guidance for us in this world. And I find the Quran and the Hadith a perfect guidance for mankind.

6 reviews1 follower
November 27, 2010
Having previously read DuPrau's "The City of Ember" and "The People of Sparks" and thoroughly enjoying both, I was really looking forward to reading "The Prophet of Yonwood" and I had very high expectations for the third book! However, I was very disappointed.
I found all the characters in "The Prophet of Yonwood" to be quite flat and the storyline was random and unrelated to Ember. I was eager to find out the history of Ember and the Builders, as this is the prequel to the series, but it actually had nothing to do with the creation of Ember, except for the last chapter- maybe 15 pages or so. The story also leaves the reader with many questions and cliffhangers- but absolutely not in a good way. DuPrau will begin to discuss one topic, such as Nickie's grandfather's journal or the ghost in the bedroom, but we never do get an explanation. Many characters, like Hoyt McCoy, are also undeveloped and leave you wondering why they were even needed in the story in the first place.
Overall, a very disappointing book. I had high hopes for the "Ember" prequel, but nearly every element of the story- characters, plot, setting- fell flat and left me confused, let down, and unsatisfied.
Profile Image for Zaz.
1,577 reviews56 followers
August 3, 2018
Be nice with yourself, skip this one, it's uninteresting and useless in the series.

Well. I enjoyed very much the first two books. The Prophet could be pretty much summarized by "boring". The main characters were once again a boy and a girl, which was appreciated, but none of them was interesting to follow, the events they were involved in being quite flat, except for the fact there were pets. The story was set in a future not really distant from nowadays, so nothing new here, and it was focused on a town with a prophet. While the world was facing threats, the town went crazy interpreting the things a "prophet" said, so the story was heavy with religion and "(odd) things you must do to show god you love him so you'll be saved" (for someone not at all into catholicism, it was pretty annoying and not something I'd like to share with kids). The book was sold as a prequel to Ember but it was just vaguely related to it near the end, so it wasn't satisfying as a prequel. And neither satisfying as a fiction or a dystopia or a children book. I'll forget I read it.
Profile Image for Nancy.
205 reviews2 followers
May 11, 2009
I quit reading a third of the way through. I haven't liked it so far, and scanning through the rest, here seems to be nothing worthwhile about the book; no reason to keep going. I was expecting it to tell about how the City of Ember came to be, but it is only very distantly connected to that story, so my curiousity was disappointed.

This series is creative and entertaining despite the predictable heavy-handed anti-war moral, but I am getting quite tired of how it continually puts down religion and faith and prayer. In the first book, it could be overlooked, but in this one the foolishness of religion, the quackery of "prophets," and the blindness of believers is the entire point. Most of the adults in the book are portrayed as gullible, silly, and hysterical. That seems an awfully manipulative, even underhanded, message to put so strongly in books written for tweens.

Although I liked the City of Ember a lot, my copy of this prequel is going in the trash.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
2,232 reviews33 followers
December 15, 2008
I'm afraid that DuPrau has fallen into the all-too-common pattern of writing a series: great first book, a good second, by the third.... meh.

The real problem here is that this isn't an Ember book. It's billed as a prequel, but it's really a pre-pre-pre-prequel. I kept reading, waiting for this to all tie in somehow, but that doesn't happen until 2 pages from the end. Yes, 287 pages of waiting and anticipation just didn't cut it for me. What's more, the book is even more heavy-handed than its predecessors. I never ever would have read it without the tie-in (which I'm sure is why it's included as part of the series), and now I sort of wish I hadn't.

The main message is good - question authority, don't follow blindly, be wary of blind faith - and one I want children to take in, certainly. But you have to wade through a lot of obscure *stuff* to get there.
Profile Image for Kevin Wood.
44 reviews3 followers
August 2, 2022
معمولا آدم ریویو بنویسی نیستم چون همون تایمی که کتاب رو می‌خونم شاید یه سری افکار در موردش داشته باشم و حتی به روز و ماه نکشیده، نظرم عوض شه چه برسه به سال! ولی وقتی یه چیزایی می‌خونی که هم‌راستا می‌شن با اتفاقات دور و برت نمی‌دونی که مسئولینِ کتاب نخون واقعا کتاب نمی‌خونن یا یه کسایی رو دارن براشون ایده‌های کتاب‌ها رو در بیارن (!) ناخودآگاه می‌بینی داری می‌نویسی!

اگه کنجکاوید بدونید در مورد چی حرف می‌زنم، صرفا از این‌که یکی توی کتاب به میل خودش یه سری دستورها در قالب خدا می‌داد و مردم هم اطاعت می‌کردن لجم گرفت. مخصوصا که رای داد باید سگ‌ها رو جمع کرد و تو جنگل ول کرد که بسیار شبیه قانون‌گذارها و قانون‌گزارهای مملکت به نظر می‌رسید!

تمام کشورهای در حال جنگ می‌گویند که خدا طرف آن‌هاست. چطور ممکن است خدا طرف همه باشد؟
نیکی فقط می‌توانست این‌طور فکر کند که یا خدایان متفاوتی وجود دارد که چیزهای مختلفی به افراد می‌گویند یا اصلا خدا با مردم حرف نمی‌زند و یا مردم وقتی چیز دیگری می‌شنوند فکر می‌کنند که خدا با آن‌ها حرف می‌زند.

ص ۲۵۹
Profile Image for Kelly.
871 reviews113 followers
January 27, 2023
I was quite engaged with this one and found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading it. It really only slightly qualifies as a prequel, and a more traditional prequel about Ember's Builders would have been a more welcome addition to the series by most readers, I assume, but nonetheless I still enjoyed this book.
Profile Image for Shepard.
100 reviews
December 17, 2014
*sigh* why do I do this to myself? I saw the multitude of 1-star ratings...I considered them...and I chose to read this travesty of a book anyway. Uuuuuhhhh...
I don't know what DuPrau was smoking when she wrote this crap, but it wasn't the same awesome stuff that created the first two. This was crap. I skimmed so much of it, after trying really hard to read thoroughly, and I still was able to grasp the basic, ridiculous plot. I didn't even have to try! There was no excitement, no thrill, no mystery... It's just a girl who comes to temporarily live in a town where religious cultists are using the people. Wow. That certainly doesn't describe a few dozen books.
Pretty much, this book is just DuPrau's rant on how people can use religion to hurt others. She doesn't even consider the possibility of good religion. Essentially, by the end, all the bad people are gone, the girl grows up and completes her very generic bucket list (which pretty much included enjoying life and getting married), and Ember is vaguely mentioned on the last page. There is nothing else to know about this novel.
It teaches nothing positive (unlike the last two). The characters are incredibly flat and unknowable (unlike the last two). The plot is stale, slow, and has no significant rise or fall (unlike the last two).
Pretty much, if you want a good book that has some effort put into it that isn't just an angry person's rant about religion, read the last two.
February 11, 2015
{February 10th, 2015} MINI-REVIEW

2.5 stars (which is rather generous of me).


“The idea seemed to be that if you prayed extremely hard--especially if a lot of people prayed at once--maybe God would change things. The trouble was, what if your enemy was praying, too? Which prayer would God listen to?”

This book.... *sighs* ...was the boring way for the beginning of the end of the world to happen. There's 'terrorists' hiding in the woods, the prophet is very ill but has seen untold horrors, things must be done to stay the sinners' advancement to help the world end--something must be done.

Unfortunately our main protagonist, Nickie, is really too young so she's left out of this loop unable to do much of anything. After the first two chapters, the majority of the book felt bland. Boring so to speak. I didn't particular care for most of the characters and it felt like nothing really *did* happen until the much later chapters. You can look at my status updates and decide for yourself.

All in all it's the ending that saves me the most. And this starts when .

Going to see if I can get my hands on the final book, I'm assuming, at some point.

Not sure when, but hopefully it redeems this series for me.
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