Monday, October 10, 2011

The Prophet of Yonwood

Title: The Prophet of Yonwood
Category: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Grades: 4-8
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Publisher: Random House
Date: 2006
Pages: 289

Hundreds of years before Ember, years before the world was destroyed, there was the town of Yonwood, and a little old lady who had a terrible vision of what was to come.  By the time young Nickie Randolph arrived in town to help prepare her grandfather’s house for sale, the entire town has embraced the elderly Althea as a prophet and her loyal caregiver Brenda Beeson as her interpreter.  Nickie wants nothing more than to live in Yonwood in the big old house, but soon discovers that the cult of the Prophet has created some strange goings on in the town at odds with its peaceful-seeming demeanor.  Though few have set eyes on Althea since her strange vision, Brenda is very visible, and makes increasing demands on the townspeople to follow the strange mumblings of the Prophet as orders from God, and to cleanse themselves from sin.  Nickie wants to help, and begins bringing news that might be sinful to Brenda’s.  Too late, Nickie discovers that her actions may have terrible consequences for the people who are fast becoming her friends, and even for Nickie herself as the nation hurtles toward war and the townspeople become paranoid with fear.  And beyond all this, what IS going on in that terrible Hoyt McCoy’s house?  For surely he will spell their doom… or their salvation.

The books which tell the story of Ember have been well-written, with believable characters, and a complex plot which carried the people of Ember above and into their new lives.  Taken with the fourth book, the first two make a complete and satisfying trilogy.  Prophet of Yonwood was, to this reviewer’s mind, an unnecessary distraction.  It adds nothing to the Ember chronicles, reveals nothing important about the events that lead to the building of Ember or the destruction of the world, and would not have been missed by its omission.  The fourth book makes a small attempt to connect Yonwood to its overall story arc, but fails to give this installment any meaningful reason to exist—even though Nickie is later revealed to be the author of the journal Doon and Lina found during their exit, the journal was unimportant in that book and its status never changes. Further, this story, while a great example of the way mob mentalities and fear can cause people to behave in ways they might otherwise never consider, had a weak and rambling plot.  The town followed someone they perceived as a prophet; the town was lead astray; the town changed its collective mind. Hardcore fans of Ember may read it simply to complete the series; but those who wish to skip it will not miss anything important. 


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