EMBER was a gripping novel. As soon as I finished it, I emailed the author begging to know what happened next. She wasn't telling, of course. "You'll have to wait for the sequel," she said. Man, was it worth the wait. I rarely tell people that they have to buy a book, that they must not let another week go by without reading a particular title. Literature is very subjective, after all. What I love, another reader may find uninspiring. SPARKS is an exception to this.
Three chapters in, I was literally teary-eyed at the lyricism of Duprau's writing. Six chapters in, I couldn't put it down. I lost SLEEP to finish this book - my ultimate testament to a really good read.
THE PEOPLE OF SPARKS is a post-apocolyptic view of the world, after wars, plague and famine have wiped out most of the human race and the few people left are struggling for survival. In the first book, THE CITY OF EMBER, the City Builders have constructed a small city deep underground and stocked it with supplies in vast storerooms, then sent 100 couples with two children each to live there. The Builders know the wars, etc. are coming, and this is how they will save us all. After 200 years, the city infrastructure is crumbling and the city leaders are corrupt, supplies are running out, and the massive generator that keeps the lights on is failing, about to doom the Emberites to permanent darkness, but two young people find the way out, the way to the surface.
This leads us to book two in the series. The kids have dropped a message back down to the people of Ember telling them the way out, but will anyone come? They do. And they inundate a small settlement, falling on the mercy of the people who live there, a bedraggled lot, starving, exhausted, unable to move on, and without the skills to be useful members of the new community, the tiny village of Sparks. The Emberites have never seen trees, you see, or birds, or large fields of cabbages, or adobe houses, and fire is a terrifying thing.
What ensues is a fantastic story of generosity, deprivation, jealousy, and violence that may lead to the destruction of both communities. The lesson: there are no winners in war, and making peace means taking giant risks. This book has been haunting me for the two days since I finished reading it. If there were a world-wide cataclysmic event, who would survive? Would anyone? Will we ever learn that war only leads to war, violence only to more violence? Can we do something that will take us off the course of self-destruction? Is there hope for the human race?
Buy this book. Buy a copy for your local library. Buy a class set and donate it to your kids' school. It's that good.(...)