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Publisher's Summary

The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she's sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever! This stunning debut novel offers refreshingly clear writing and fascinating, original characters.
Don't miss Lina and Doon's other adventures in The City of Ember.
©2003 Jeanne DuPrau (P)2004 Random House, Inc. Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group

Critic Reviews

"DuPrau's first foray into fiction creates a realistic post-apocalyptic world where everyone has lived underground for so long that they assume it has always been that way....DuPrau's book leaves Doon and Lina on the verge of the undiscovered country and readers wanting more." (USA Today)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Story

Good story; annoying narrator and background sound

The story is the only thing that has kept me listening to this audio book. The narrator tries too hard to come up with different voices for characters, and so felt she had to include lip-smacking and other irritating mannerisms to differentiate character voices. Some listeners might consider this a great performance, but I was ready on several occasions to shut off my mp3player and just go get a paper edition from the library. There is also background noises and music occasionally, which was sometimes distracting.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Tom
  • Vienna, VA, USA
  • 04-22-10

How do you know what you know?

How do you know what you know? If your entire experience is one context; if your community's entire shared and accumulated knowledge is one unvarying existence; can you be responsible for what you do not know outside your own world? What reasons would you have to look for new knowledge about your world?

Very good opportunities in the book to discuss lessons with the kids and to think about implications for yourself. What would life be like without telephones? What if electricity came on only at certain times? This is how many people in the world live today.

Excellent book to listen to with the family on a road trip. The prologue hooked the kids and the story never let up. The kids are already asking to listen to the sequels.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Wonderfully Done

I really, really, really enjoyed this story. It was quite hard to put down and we really enjoyed the narrating with all the different voices for each character. Yes, the mayor was a tad wheezy, but it fit him perfectly. We've enjoyed listening to this story several times all ready!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Carolyn
  • New Berlin, WI, USA
  • 01-25-09

A new family classic

My 9 year old son and I choose a book every month to listen to when we travel to and from places. He heard great things about City of Ember. We were both at the edge of our seats. Excellent book!! Enjoyable for all ages.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Alan
  • Holt, MO, United States
  • 05-15-11

We loved this story!

My 12 year old son and I read together. We settle down to read and, often, to listen, as well as to read a good book together nearly every night. We love the time we spend together and the storys we discover together. This story was well written, exciting and very thought provoking. We had fun imagining such a world and way of life.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

LOVED the story, though not the narrator

Any additional comments?

Ember is a city that was built to ensure that humans survived some disaster and the city is powered by electricity from a mysterious generator. I am fascinated by the controlled environment in which the people of Ember have lived. They get the power from a source they don't really understand and rely on the dwindling contents of storerooms full of items they cannot truly understand (i.e. canned food – the storerooms fascinate me). The society absolutely fascinates me. The kids go to school until they are twelve and then pick out of a hat the job they will be doing. This Assignment Day ritual fascinates me too. (I suppose I must declare the book “Fascinating!”)
I must mention here that the narration was inferior and the assignment day scene is a perfect example of why. The mayor who runs that ritual is fat. The book flat out tells you he is big and fat. It doesn't say he is wheezing and gasping like he is on his last breath, but every time he says anything it sounds like the narrator is on her death bed. I like her cheery sounding Lina, but Doon sounds too silly and kid like. Not that our hero and heroine aren't kids, being 12, but in that society they are really functioning as adults, so let's lay off the whiny little boy voice.
There are a lot of coincidences and things that cause one to need to suspend disbelief To me, the concept was interesting enough to make me want to read the book and overlook implausibility or flaws.
I liked one thing about Lina and Doon though. They are kids, despite being working members of society and this is clearly shown in the naivety they display at various points. It never occurs to them that the world isn't fair and that not everyone would react as they would. I thought it was well done and believable.
I was interested in how the people dealt with their dwindling supplies and Lina's reaction to a colored pencil was great. I am not sure I fully understand why the founders of Ember felt so much ignorance was necessary or how they could have missed the consequences that that could have over time. Maybe this will be addressed in the sequel. I am willing to overlook a lot of the little flaws in the book but it seems to me that Ember wasn't exactly perfectly placed to survive this huge disaster, whatever it was (it’s just down a hole). And the builders really set these folks up for failure with all the stuff that had to be figured out. But then again if it were all straight forward there wouldn't be the fun of solving the mystery. While Lina and Doon try to decipher the instructions to escape Ember I really wished I had a physical book so I could try to figure out the message along with them. It was just about impossible with an audiobook though so I didn’t even try.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Lisa
  • Whiting, IN, United States
  • 07-26-04


There is nothing really wrong with this book. It's an interesting idea. Humans are placed in an underground city to live for a couple of centuries to avoid some un-named disaster. A culture emerges in that city, where the people lose the instructions their "builders" have left on how and when to leave the city. A couple of precocious kids figure out how to leave the city and eventually lead the people to the surface. The reader is adequate and the production quality is good.

Except there is no soul to the story. We don't care about any of the people, their lives or their troubles. It all comes to a predictable conclusion with a resounding thud.

Sorry... wish I had something better to say...

12 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

excellent book for 4th to 9th graders

This is book 1 of 4 in the "Ember" series which describes a post-apocalyptic earth in hopeful terms. I like that part of the series' approach, though the overall style can be a little pedantic (in my adult opinion) for moral lessons. However, the target audience is juvenile readers so I think the clarity and overt description of moral connections is likely appropriate. All middle and elementary schoolers I have spoken to about this book have really enjoyed it.

This book has both a female and male protagonist, making the book likely equally appealing to boys and girls. How the two relate to each other and their dying city of Ember, and how the two work to to solve problems is a nice exploration into egoism, altruism and ultimately, humility.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Bev
  • Alton, IL, USA
  • 09-26-07

This story will hold your attention

Living in blackness, depending on the ingenuity of the "builders" electricity to keep the impending darkness at bay is Lina Mayfleet, just graduating from school and looking forward to her new job as "runner". Lina's world is an interesting one and you'll find yourself picturing her landscape and images in your mind. But, what happens when the lights run out? Go with Lina and her friend Dune as they unravel of the puzzle of their world, and the world beyond.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great story. Well written

Both my 11 year old daughter and I found this to be a fascinating story. We could hardly wait to get in the car to hear the next installment. The characters are likeable, except for the bad guys, who are despicable. The storyline is fresh and different, except as usual the poor parents have been killed off before the story even begins. We are definitely downloading the sequel.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • N.
  • 04-22-12


I am three quarters of an hour into this audio book, and struggling. Irritating sound effects at the beginning, and the narrator appears to have just graduated from the 'Let's exaggerate every voice' school of acting. An old woman is unbearably quavery - she has given the Mayor an infuriating gasp/shriek in most sentences - children must have high squeaky voices.

Wendy Dillon has a good voice when not putting her slant onto the characters. Perhaps someone could point out to her that we ordinary listeners have our own imaginations too, and we quite like to concentrate on the story, not the reader.

  • Overall
  • Simon
  • 04-06-11

Great story

A really good story, characters and keeps you wanting to listen to the end.

  • Overall
  • Ricky
  • 10-29-07

A must

My daughter (12) listens to this trilogy again and again. Imaginative and well read Brilliant value