Book Review – The City of Ember

Lyra Thompson, Staff Writer

This review was originally published on my blog on September 22nd, 2022.

Book Synopsis:

Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness…

But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them?

My Review:

5/5 stars. This book was so charming. I absolutely loved the worldbuilding. The characters were kind of simple, but I still felt attached to them. There were a few things about the writing style I wasn’t a fan of, but that doesn’t make my review less than 5 stars because I just got so into this story and the world.

Like I said, the best part of this book was the setting and worldbuilding. I love dystopian books because of the setting, and this book is no different. From the first chapter, the reader learns about the usual order of things in Ember – once you turn 12, you graduate and get a job. In an effort to decide what jobs she’d be okay with, Lina describes many of the jobs available in Ember. This lets the reader know more about how things work in Ember and allows for some exposition about the lights. When Lina goes outside and gives a description of what the city looks like, I can easily picture it. I just felt so immersed in the world of this book.

On to the characters. The two main characters, Lina and Doon, are pretty simple on the surface, but still have lots of characterization, like Doon’s struggle with his temper and Lina feeling protective over Poppy. I really enjoyed reading about these two and hope they get more characterization in the next books in the quartet.

The actual plot of The City of Ember doesn’t have any plot twists or mind-blowing moments, but I enjoyed it. It started off kind of slow, but really picked up about halfway through when Lina and Doon started to uncover secrets about Ember. Once I got into it, I had to keep reading and couldn’t wait to read each new chapter.

One complaint I have about this book is that sometimes things are overly explained or repetitive, but I just blame that on the fact that it’s a middle grade book with a lower reading level. I’m not really the target age for this book. There were a lot of moments when a character would come across a problem and wonder “what should we do?” then soon think “maybe we need to do this”. The book then describes them doing exactly what was just said. It felt a little redundant at times.

One other small thing that’s common in middle grade is that the kids did all the work. I thought it was slightly unrealistic that two 12-year-olds were able to figure out everything by themselves.

I wasn’t expecting this book to end on a cliffhanger, but it was done well. I want to read the next book as soon as possible to find out how the story continues.

This book reminded me of the first Harry Potter book or The Mysterious Benedict Society, another series I’ve read part of. It was a nice, charming adventure story with likeable characters and nothing to make you super sad or angry.


Check out all of my reviews on my blog: