Monday, December 29, 2008

The Diamond of Darkhold: The 4th Book of Ember

The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau, was a book that intrigued me when I first read it last summer (see my review of it HERE). I enjoyed the mystery that surrounded this dark city, and the post-apocalyptic nature of the book. Not to mention that it was wholly appropriate for elementary aged students (9-12 years old). Even the sequel, The People of Sparks(see my review HERE), was interesting. Although The People of Sparks was very similar in many ways to The City of Ember, it had something of socio-political intrigue, and continued the story of Lina, Doon, and the Emberites, which seemed to captivate many of my students (I read The City of Ember with my class, and four of them have gone on to read The People of Sparks).

I have still not had a chance to read the third book in this series, The Prophet of Yonwood, which is actually a prequel. So when I saw that The Diamond of Darkholdwas available at the library, I knew that I could read it without needing The Prophet of Yonwood as appropriate background material.

Right off the bat, I found myself captivated by the idea of this great mystery still hidden in the mountains, and wanted to read on to find it. I also found out, very quickly, that Jeanna DuPrau seemed to be unnaturally extending the story in The Diamond of Darkhold to make me want to keep reading, or to meet a minimum page requirement from her publisher. Whatever the case was, it felt very contrived. This book is by far the weakest of the series so far (out of the three that I have read). The protagonists, Doon and Lina, have been fully developed as literary characters since The City of Ember, and at this point, there's nothing left to be said about them other than that they single handedly save their people time and again, and seem to be the only people in the world who ever encounter adventure and peril.

It was nice to see familiar characters continuing a familiar story with (slightly) new twists in their familiar world. This is very important to remember when handing this book over to students who have read the other books. Sometimes a book like this is just what your students may be looking for. It doesn't require any great leaps of chance, not knowing what the book is about. For the timid reader who may have enjoyed the other books, this is a perfect choice for them.

But as far as this book being a great read all around, having great plot devices, nice character development, and value as a read aloud, it's slim, there's not much here. Pick up The Diamond of Darkhold and put it in your classroom, because it's part of the series, but that's about it. I wouldn't get too excited about this book, but it is a worthy addition to the series that will be enjoyed by many. Its reading level is right on par with the others (around a 5.5 or middle of fifth grade), but the fact that it doesn't require any new knowledge of setting, plot, characters, or anything else along those lines, for the student who has read the other books in the series, it could end up being maybe a 5 or so). Basically, if your students could read the other Ember books, they'll have no problem here.