Title: The People of Sparks
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Genre: young-adult, post-apocalyptic
Series: The Books of Ember #2
Pages: 338 (paperback version)
Published: May 2004
Jeanne DuPrau's second of the Books of Ember series continues the trend begun in the introductory novel, The City of Ember. Compulsively readable, lively and easy, The People of Sparks was a novel mostly on-par with the levels of excellence from its impressive predecessor. By drastically changing the setting, as well as introducing new characters and ideas allows for an entirely different kind of novel than the first; the author makes a story replete with familiar characters feel fresh and vivid. Surprisingly violent and tense, The People of Sparks is a careful exploration of the nature of conflict, brinkmanship and the idea of community. Interpersonal conflict, intercommunity conflict as well as self-conflict are each explored in various ways through various characters throughout the story. It is a deft and simple examination of conflict, prejudice and the results of such depravity upon the human community.
As "Ember" was a symbol for the dying population of the city, "Sparks" is a reference to the fledgling town itself - one that is barely beginning to prosper and survive. The village represents more than just food and lodging; it is a chance for a new start, to begin again fresh. A spark of life in a wasteland of death and destruction, Sparks is the only stable community for the Emberites after their mass exodus from underground. With tensions and fears between Sparklers and Emberites high and running, this seems far more emotional and volatile a novel than before. There is a constant back-and-forth from both camps, with allusions and hints of serious trouble down the line for two strange people trying to acclimate to one another's ways.
More crucial and previously withheld information is supplied on the mysterious and warlike past of this world. "The Disaster" referenced so fearfully in book one is revealed as four epic wars and three plagues that wrecked havoc and nearly ended the species of man. Beyond that, not much detail or history is expounded upon. Don't look for the same character development as found in book one, either; this sequel concerns itself mostly with the plot and not the characters. Sadly, neither Lina nor Doon really grows or changes from the experiences in this novel. I didn't mind that much - I was far more caught up in the drama of the clashing communities. They're also kept apart for much of the events of the tale, which further limits the easy atmosphere of the previous novel. Lina's adventurous side does appear, and she is in fact the only character to give the reader a glimpse of the "world" beyond Sparks. Through her journeys, the devastation is made plain; this is a world that has torn itself apart with hatred. So how can the people of Sparks and the people of Ember change history and keep the peace?