Skip to content

The City of Ember Book Summary

The First Book of Ember

by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember

The First Book of Ember

Jeanne DuPrau


The City of Ember, a post-apocalyptic children’s novel, follows Lina and Doon, two young citizens living in a decaying underground city. With supplies dwindling and the city’s lights failing, they embark on a quest to decipher an ancient message that could lead them to a way out, facing challenges and uncovering secrets about Ember’s past and true purpose.

Table of contents

Open Table of contents

Author & Writing Background

Jeanne DuPrau is an American author known for her children’s and young adult fiction, particularly in the fantasy and science fiction genres. “The City of Ember” is her most famous work, praised for its suspenseful plot, imaginative setting, and themes of hope and resilience.

Key Takeaways

The City of Ember

A subterranean refuge created by the Builders to ensure humanity’s survival after a catastrophic event. The city was designed to sustain its inhabitants for 200 years with resources and a generator-powered electrical system.

Deteriorating Conditions

Over time, Ember’s resources dwindle, and the generator begins to fail, causing blackouts and threatening the city’s survival.

Lina and Doon

Two resourceful and determined young citizens who discover clues about Ember’s past and the possibility of escape.

The Message

An incomplete and cryptic document passed down through generations, believed to hold the key to escaping Ember.

The Builders’ Instructions

The message, when deciphered, reveals instructions for exiting the city through a hidden escape route.

Challenges and Obstacles

Lina and Doon face numerous challenges, including deciphering the message, evading the corrupt mayor, and navigating the treacherous escape route.

Discovery and Escape

Lina and Doon successfully escape Ember and reach the outside world, a surface teeming with life and sunlight.

Hope for the Future

The book ends with the possibility of Lina and Doon returning to Ember to help others escape and rebuild their lives on the surface.

FAQ about The City of Ember

What age group is this book appropriate for?

The City of Ember is generally suitable for middle-grade readers, typically ages 8-12. However, its themes and engaging story can also appeal to older readers interested in science fiction and dystopian settings.

Is this book part of a series?

Yes, The City of Ember is the first book in the Books of Ember series. It is followed by three sequels: The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold.

Are there any movie adaptations of the book?

Yes, a film adaptation titled “City of Ember” was released in 2008, starring Saoirse Ronan and Bill Murray.

The City of Ember Quotes

  • “We shouldn’t have to be heroes. We should just be allowed to be happy.”
  • “If you keep your eyes open enough, oh, the stuff you will learn. Oh, the most wonderful stuff.”
  • “All the things we do are ripples on a pond. They spread out, farther than we can see.”