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Monday, July 03, 2006

THE PROPHET OF YONWOOD:The Third Book of Ember

Prophet of Yonwood
Jeanne DuPrau has given us a prequel to the City of Ember, her book about an underground city built in times of trouble in the world, to provide a means to continue human life on earth.
This city was planned to last more than two hundred years. There was a set of instructions for after that time - to help the inhabitants return to Earth's surface and begin anew. The Prophet of Yonwood: the Third Book of Ember is really the story of the person who leaves the book Lina and Doon found as they escaped from Ember. It is a journal, with an explanation of how Ember came to be and why, found wrapped in a green cloth. It is the story of Nickie Randolph, the daughter of one of the builders of Ember and the beginning of the end of life as she knew it growing up - leading to her being one of those chosen to be among the people to occupy Ember at it's beginning.

Nickie Randolph sets three goals for herself as she visits Yonwood with her Aunt Crystal. They are there to see to the sale of her late great-grandfather's home, known as Greenhaven. These goals are to keep her greatgrandfather's house, to fall in love (Nickie is eleven years old), and to do something helpful for the world.

Yonwood is a rural town, quite different from Philidelphia. There is a CRISIS in the world, with war about to break out at any moment and everyone is tense. In Yonwood there is a "prophet" who has seen a vision. Althea Tower had a "vision of the future" that is supposed to be terrible. She is now in a semi-comotose state with another Yonwood resident, Mrs. Beeson, interpreting what Althea is saying. Most of the town believe God is communicating through Althea Tower, instructing them to give up things, directing their morals, and in return Yonwood will be safe. Mrs. Beeson is in charge, and soon Nickie is trying to root out evil with her.

Nickie learns how people can be controlled through the power of suggestion. She also learns an important lesson about the differences between what is right and what someone with power says is right.

At the end, when Nickie is an old woman, she begins to keep a journal while on her way to be one of the first inhabitants of the City of Ember. Being afraid the leader would catch her writing the journal, she wraps it in a green rainhat and ties it with a belt. Nickie then hides it behind a rock where Doon and Lina find it over two hundred years later as they leave the City of Ember.

This story does stand on its own in many ways, especially as a commentary on believing what those in power say, and the dangers inherent in "following the crowd." I would have liked to have read The Prophet of Yonwood before I read The City of Ember and The People of Sparks. I would have understood more of those stories, having had the background. It is still a good read as a prequel.

Want to know more about the first book of Ember? "Unshelved" has posted a short, graphic review of The City of Ember here.
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