The Diamond of Darkhold: A satisfying, but not thrilling, conclusion

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDiamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau childrens fantasy book reviewsThe Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau

When the Roamer, Maggs, drives her carriage into the small town of Sparks, she finds a desperate people with nothing to trade. Sparks used to be reasonably flush for a post-apocalyptic society, but absorbing the refugees from Ember just before winter has used up almost all of its resources. People aren’t starving, but they might be soon. Maggs is about to leave when Doon and Lina spot an old book in her carriage. Doon wants the book, but Maggs has been using the book as fuel for her fires, so she insists that Lina pay at least one match for it.

The book turns out to have been written by the Builders for the people of Ember — probably to help them after they return to the surface, reasons Doon. Only eight pages remain, but they inspire Doon to return to Ember in order to find whatever the Builders left for them — and to scavenge any food that might still remain in the subterranean city.

Doon expects Ember to be abandoned, but he and Lina instead discover that it has been transformed. Washton Trogg and his family have renamed the city “Darkhold.” It’s a dark place, so they burn books from the library in the town square and they wear special helmets that hold candles in order to see. Though dark, Darkhold is remote and reasonably safe. The generator still provides power — now and then — and the power pumps fresh river water into the city for them to use. They have also found stores of food, which they claim as their own.

The Diamond of Darkhold, which picks up where The People of Sparks ends, is the final entry in the BOOK OF EMBER series. In some respects, it offers what readers might expect from a concluding entry: it comes full circle by taking Lina and Doon back to their beginnings; it brings its motifs (such as electric light) to a satisfying thematic conclusion; and it offers us an extended glimpse into the futures of our young heroes.

Unfortunately, The Diamond of Darkhold does not meet the standards set by the first two novels of the series. Not only does it not up the stakes, it does not even have very compelling stakes: When Trogg finds Doon, he claims him, too. Lina escapes, but Doon is put in shackles and told to work. Trogg is a jerk, but Doon escapes him fairly easily. And while a final entry in a series is allowed to have a long falling action, The Diamond of Darkhold too strongly recalled the unending final hours of Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King for my taste. I also felt that The Diamond of Darkhold lacked the thematic depth that made The City of Ember and especially The People of Sparks stand out to me. (The People of Sparks contains an epigraph that quotes Martin Luther King, Jr.; The Diamond of Darkhold does not even have an epigraph.)

I mostly found The Diamond of Darkhold a disappointment next to the first two novels in the series. (After reading The Prophet of Yonwood, I felt that the prequel could be skipped. I still feel that it can be skipped.) On the other hand, I was still glad to go on one last adventure with Lina and Doon. And I was grateful to have a chance to say goodbye to Ember.

Ember — (2003-2008) Ages 9-12. This series is finished and has been made into a movie. Publisher: 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.

Jeanne DuPrau review Ember: 1. The City of Ember 2. The People of Sparks 3. The Prophet of Yonwood 4. The Diamond of DarkholdJeanne DuPrau review Ember: 1. The City of Ember 2. The People of Sparks 3. The Prophet of Yonwood 4. The Diamond of DarkholdJeanne DuPrau review Ember: 1. The City of Ember 2. The People of Sparks 3. The Prophet of Yonwood 4. The Diamond of DarkholdJeanne DuPrau review Ember: 1. The City of Ember 2. The People of Sparks 3. The Prophet of Yonwood 4. The Diamond of Darkhold

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RYAN SKARDAL, on our staff from September 2010 to November 2018, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.

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  1. It sounds like the way to go with this series is to read the first two.

    • The first two are definitely the strongest entries, but I’m still glad I read Darkhold. It might not be as good as the first book, but it’s not much of a time commitment either.

  2. My daughter is enjoying this series. We’re skipping book 3. Thanks, Ryan.


  1. This week’s round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (2/15/15) « Teens Update - […] The Diamond of Darkhold, by Jeanne DuPrau, at Fantasy Literature […]

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