I really loved City of Ember and The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau so I was looking forward to the prequel to City of Ember, The Prophet of Yonwood. I was almost finished with the book when it had several unresolved issues, and it was nowhere near setting up or connecting to the City of Ember and I started the think DuPrau must be planning to write another book leading up to the City of Ember. I was wrong; a whole novel’s worth of information was just squashed into the last few pages in a chapter titled “What Happened Afterward”.
11-year-old Nickie travels with her Aunt to her late great grandfather’s home in Yonwood to prepare it to be sold. Nickie secretly has three goals in mind: 1. To convince her family not to sell the house and move there with her parents 2. To fall in love 3. To do something good for the world.
Nickie is surprised to learn that Yonwood is not the picture of tranquility she imagined. Before her arrival a local woman had a fiery vision of the future of the world. The woman was terrified into a dreamlike state. The townspeople began to call the woman the Prophet because she had seen the future and most of them did their best to follow her mumblings. A local busybody, Brenda Beeson, appointed herself as the Prophet’s mouthpiece and did her best to translate the prophet’s mumblings into orders for the townspeople. Many of the people believe the vision was a warning from God and if they can surround themselves with a shield of goodness, they will be safe from the eminent war with the Phalanx nations. Nickie follows the prophet’s directions. She tries not to be a sinner and gives up things like singing. She even spies on other people and reports them to Brenda, until the prophet says no dogs. Nickie is not willing to give up the dog she’s been hiding at her house, and she begins to question whether helping Brenda Beeson was the right thing to do.
The book is thought provoking, especially when discussed long with current events, but it is not as well rounded as the other two novels in the series.
On an interesting side note – I listened to this book on CD and it wasn’t your average reading; it included sound effects. If Nickie was outside you heard birds chirping in the background, and if she went through a door you heard it open. They drove me crazy at first because I was just trying to concentrate on the words and I feel like some things should be left to the imagination, but I’m sure other people would enjoy it.