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Literature / The Books of Ember

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"In Ember, the sky was always dark."
Opening lines of the first book.

The Books of Ember is a four-book post-apocalyptic children's series that follows two children as they learn more about their city, the titular City of Ember, its past, and their world.

The first book, The City of Ember, introduces us to Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow, who live in Ember. The city is surrounded by darkness in all directions and so relies on a hydroelectric generator to keep the town alight and running. However, the generator is beginning to fail, causing blackouts that are increasing in both frequency and length. At the same time, the food left in the city is beginning to grow scarce, without any way to replenish its stores. It won't be long until the entire city fails and becomes cloaked in eternal darkness. In the midst of this chaos, Lina discovers an old note that appears to tell of a way out of Ember. Unfortunately, it was badly damaged by Lina's little sister Poppy chewing on it, making the note difficult to decipher. Meanwhile, Lina and Doon have to confront a conspiracy that wishes to keep the truth under wraps...

The book was released in 2003 and became a best-seller in the world of children's literature. A sequel titled The People of Sparks was released the following year and picks up right where Ember leaves off. A prequel to the series called The Prophet of Yonwood was released in 2006 and focuses on a different set of characters. 2008 saw the release of a film adaptation of the first book, starring Saoirse Ronan and Bill Murray, as well as the last book in the series, The Diamond of Darkhold, which takes place after Sparks.

Not to be confused with the Emberverse series.

Books in the Series

  1. The City of Ember (2003)
  2. The People of Sparks (2004)
  3. The Prophet of Yonwood (2006)
  4. The Diamond of Darkhold (2008)

The book series provides examples of:

  • Accidentally Broke the MacGuffin:
    • In The City of Ember, the "Instructions for Egress" were mostly ruined by Lina's baby sister, Poppy, chewing on them; this turned what would have otherwise been a very quick and simple quest into a much more difficult and time-consuming ordeal as they tried to piece together what remained of the instructions.
    • The "Instructions for Egress" had been kept in a safe in a special place of honor for years until about fifty or sixty years earlier, then the mayor took it home and tried to open it, never replacing the safe but instead, having it shoved into a closet to be forgotten and unseen even as its timed lock opened.
      • Slightly tweaked in the film adaptation; the box was meant to be passed from mayor to mayor, but the box was lost when one mayor died while in the role, with his family inheriting the box without knowing what it was for.
    • In The Diamond Of Darkhold, Doon throws the diamond he found in Darkhold at a pack of wolves to save Lina. The diamond hits the rock that Lina is standing on and shatters into hundreds of pieces. Luckily, the diamond is only a sample. There are exactly one thousand diamonds in a hidden room in the cave. The diamonds are ancient technology that turns solar power into electricity.
  • Adults Are Useless: While most of the adults in the series aren't evil, they seem quite complacent to sit around while the city of Ember dies, they try to incite a war that could only lead to disaster, and they just accept the words of Mrs. Beeson without a hint of skepticism or critical thought. It's the children of the series who are willing to challenge the status quo and try to change the course of events for the better.
  • Aerith and Bob: The main characters are named Lina and Doon, but other characters have more commonplace names like Poppy or Lizzie.
  • After the End: The first book of the series implies that this is the setting, though exactly what type of disaster occurred remained (intentionally) ambiguous. The People of Sparks reveals that most of humanity died as a result of four wars and three plagues, leading to a severe breakdown of human society. By the end of the series, people start rebuilding on the surface and things are looking up.
  • Alien Sky: In The City of Ember, the sky is the same empty blackness as everything outside the City. This trope is later inverted when the people of Ember are surprised to discover that the real sky is blue.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Barton Snode, the chief guard, seems dim but dutiful, and appears to be willing to arrest the mayor after discovering his stealing, doesn't accost Lina, and and seems excited at the responsibility. The mayor is not arrested, though, and given that other guards are corrupt, it's unclear if Snode simply failed in his duties and fell victim to You Know Too Much (either fatally or by being locked up), or if he was Evil All Along or had a Face–Heel Turn and his excitement came from the chance to do the mayor such a service or blackmail him. Since he becomes a What Happened to the Mouse?, we never find out either way (although the film portrays him as more of a crony to the mayor who does attack Lina).
  • An Aesop:
    • The City of Ember, through its plotline with the Mayor (and its conclusion at the beginning of Sparks), shows that being greedy and selfish, and trying to take the best things for yourself at the expense of everyone else, will backfire on you in the end.
    • The People of Sparks's underlying theme is basically learning to accept people who are different from you, and that Revenge is bad.
  • America Saves the Day: Very subtle, but think about it. Americans built Ember, Americans populated it, and Americans provided the revolutionary solar-power diamonds that pave the way to the future. Perhaps one of the few non-war examples. Also ironic in that America helped cause the Disaster.
  • Apocalyptic Log: In The City of Ember, a journal from one of the first residents of Ember is found as Lina and Doon find their way out of the city. In the prequel, The Prophet of Yonwood, this log is shown to be the work of an elderly Nickie, the book's protagonist.
  • Apocalypse How: In the ending of The City of Ember, it is revealed that the eponymous city is an underground enclave built to weather a series of nuclear wars and deadly plagues. The outside world has regressed to pre-industrial levels, making this apocalypse a societal collapse on a planetary scale.
  • Artistic License – Physics: In The Prophet of Yonwood, there are batteries which are so efficient, they never run out, ever. This is literally impossible, as it would violate the second law of thermodynamics.
  • Beneath the Earth: Ember is an underground city that was built to be self-sustaining for about 200 years. It starts failing when it lives long past its expiration date.
  • Benevolent Boss: Lina's and Doon's supervisors, Captain Fleery and Lister Munk, respectively, although both are minor characters, with Lister being a bit more distant, and Fleery a bit more naive, than most examples of this trope.
  • Big Blackout: In The City of Ember, these were happening more and more frequently because of problems with the Generator.
  • Big Brother Worship:
    • Torren towards his older brother, Caspar, a roamer. Torren desperately wishes to follow in his brother's footsteps and become his traveling partner. Unfortunately, he doesn't see how unstable Caspar is, and Lina actually feels pity for Torren when she realizes that he cares for Caspar far more than the latter does for him.
    • Kenny clearly admires Doon from the start, and in Darkhold, the narration states that he sees him as a cross between a big brother and a hero.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Lina to Poppy, very much. It's stated early on that, since their parents are dead and they only have each other and their granny, Lina absolutely adores her little sister. She becomes incredibly panicked and frantic when Poppy is lost during a blackout, is consistently very protective of her, and when Lina and Doon are preparing to leave Ember at the end, Lina insists on bringing Poppy with her, even though having a baby with them could certainly make their journey more difficult and dangerous, because she realizes Ember is no longer safe for anyone.
  • Black Market Produce: Ember is out of a lot of food products and the black market ones are mostly fruit. Pineapples get a special mention.
  • Blind Obedience:
    • In The City of Ember, most people treat the mayor as a pretty infallible and sensible authority figure, which he abuses to his gain. Though their city is breaking down and the power plant to their Terminally Dependent Society is nearing failure, he manages to keep almost everyone content. The protagonists are some of the few to see the problem and fight to find a way out.
    • Up to eleven in The Prophet of Yonwood, where the main theme of the book is the dangers of blind obedience. The citizens of Yonwood take the words of Althea Towers as absolute gospel, going so far as to shun anyone who doesn't follow the least of her (rather strict) commandments. They believe that ridding the community of evil will protect them from the oncoming apocalypse, but it turns out to all be in waste. Althea wasn't even trying to give moral commandments to the community, and the war they were preparing for wouldn't happen for fifty more years.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Torren is a hotheaded selfish child who shows no sympathy or concern for the refugees from Ember. He even goes so far as to blame an innocent Emberite (Doon) when Torren himself destroys two crates of tomatoes. Why does he hate the Emberites so much? Because a few are staying in his room and in his house, and one of them (Lina) stowed away with his roamer brother, with whom Torren himself wanted to travel. He mellows out quite a bit by The Diamond of Darkhold, though, especially since Doon saved his life. He even joins Kenny and Lizzie in trying to stage a rescue for Lina and Doon when they go missing.
  • Chekhov's Gun: That guy in The Prophet of Yonwood running those weird experiments to contact aliens? He succeeded. The aliens send a spacecraft to Earth, the mysterious new star in The Diamond of Darkhold.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them:
    • Downplayed, but the people of Ember don't really have a leader after arriving to the surface, since the corrupt mayor and his followers died trying to leave the city. Because Lina and Doon (who are twelve-to-thirteen) were the first ones to find the way out and are the only reason anyone else was able to escape at all, they're regarded as heroes and leader figures by the rest of the Emberites and act as spokespeople for them after arriving in Sparks. This is later reinforced by the two of them being the first two Emberites to break the Cycle of Revenge and help the Sparks people fight the fire that one of their own leaders caused, inspiring most of the rest of the Emberites to break away from Tick's influence to do the same.
    • In People of Sparks, Tick Hassler, who's only a few years older, tries to lead the Emberites to rebel against Sparks. He gets a lot of followers for a while, until it comes out that he was actually behind most of the anti-Ember incidents that they blamed on the people of Sparks.
  • Child Prodigy: Doon is a studious child who keeps a book full of information he learns about insects and other bugs, creates a functioning generator that powers a lightbulb, and is one of the first people post-Disaster to actually learn anything about electricity.
  • City in a Bottle: The City of Ember; a small town completely surrounded by darkness on all sides. The only light the residents have ever known is the harsh glow of the town's street lights. Until the citizens find their way out and realize that the world has gone on without them.
  • Citywide Evacuation: The opening of the second book reveals that small City in a Bottle Ember underwent one between books when the means of escaping the city became known. Due to the worsening blackouts and the mayor's absence, people panicked and stampeded toward the river. About 420 people got out, but dozens or more were trampled, drowned, got knocked down the stairway in the rush, or chickened out and stayed in the dying city.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: The City of Ember received a Graphic Novel adaptation in 2012.
  • Courier: Lina Mayfleet, who becomes a messenger in The City of Ember and again at the end of The Diamond of Darkhold.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: Poppy chewed up the Instructions for Egress, making large parts of it unreadable.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: Society is a bit like this in The Diamond Of Darkhold. Of course, the events of that book take place about 200 years after The End of the World, so nobody actually has any idea what happened, and the simple farming life is all that the people of Sparks know.
  • Crying Wolf: Invoked; the mayor tried to claim to the city that this is what Doon and Lina were doing when they reported that he and Looper were stealing, stating that they were "spreading vicious rumors." However, they're telling the truth.
  • Cycle of Revenge: The People of Sparks has this as one of its Central Themes. It's discussed that this led to the Four Wars that were part of the Disaster that brought about the ruin of humanity, and the people of Ember and Sparks seem poised to repeat history. It's our two protagonists, Doon and Lina, who are able to break it, allowing the two groups to make peace and ultimately decide to live together in harmony:
    • Doon saves Torren Crane, the Bratty Half-Pint who greatly exacerbated the conflict by falsely accusing Doon of something Torren himself did, from dying in the fire caused by Sparks's weapon backfiring.
    • When it seems that the citizens of Sparks will not be able to fight the raging fire engulfing their town hall and city, and Tick Hassler and his followers are ready to just let it burn, Lina overcomes her fear of fire to do the right thing and help the fire brigade, prompting Doon and then most of the rest of the Emberites to follow suit, saving the town.
  • December–December Romance: The Distant Finale reveals that Loris Harrow (Doon's father) and Evaleen Murdo (Lina's and Poppy's Parental Substitute) hook up when Lina, Doon, and Poppy are all adults (and the former two are already all-but-stated to be together themselves), meaning Loris and Mrs. Murdo are probably at least in their 50s at this point.
  • Disappeared Dad: Mr. Mayfleet, Lina's and Poppy's dad, is stated to have died a few years before the start of the story from "the coughing sickness" that occasionally plagues Ember. In the movie, this is changed to him having died while trying to find a way to escape the city.
  • Disaster Scavengers: The Roamers in The People of Sparks and The Diamond of Darkhold, who explore and scavenge the remains of pre-Disaster cities for old items they can use or sell.
  • Earth All Along: In The City of Ember, the city turns out to be underground on Earth. Human beings lived there for centuries, but they lost the evacuation instructions before anyone even knew they existed and no one was around to tell them that the apocalypse was over and they could all go home now.
  • Eternal Engine: Ember in The City of Ember is not all engine, but between the generator and the pipeworks a lot of it is made up of constantly running machinery.
  • False Flag Operation: In The People of Sparks, several acts of aggression towards the Emberites, which are assumed to have been done by someone from Sparks and further enflames the conflict between the two groups, are revealed at the end to have actually been done by Tick Hassler, an Emberite, who was purposely trying to incite a war because he craves conflict and power, and wanted to achieve both by leading Ember in a fight against Sparks.
  • Family of Choice: Lina herself ruminates at the start of the second book at how, of the four people she considers her family, only her beloved younger sister Poppy is actually related to her. Mrs. Murdo has become "like a mother" to them, she and Doon have a strong bond for life after the events of the first book, and Doon's father is family by proxy because he's Doon's family. By the end of Diamond of Darkhold, this "family" seems to have extended to include Dr. Hester and possibly Maddy and Torren as well.
  • Firearms Are Revolutionary: Sparks is the only settlement known to have recovered a machine gun, while most other characters would have a knife or machete at most. When Ben tries to use it on the Emberites, however, he mishandles the weapon and very nearly kills both himself and his nephew Torren.
  • First Time in the Sun: At the end of The City of Ember, the main characters find themselves on the surface at night, just in time to see the sun rise.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The solar-powered diamond computers and the book which accompanies the first of them are meant to do this.
  • Freedom from Choice: The City of Ember has a bit of this, although it was shown that the lot-drawing didn't actually matter (it was touted as a sort of sacred infallible system, but people could swap their drawings). The system allowed people to get jobs they liked more, through trade, while making sure someone ended up doing the bad jobs no one wanted but had to be done.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Hoyt McCoy from The Prophet of Yonwood:
    Hoyt: I am not particularly neat or clean; I am certainly not what anyone would call normal. But I am as good as anyone else.
  • Grandparental Obliviousness: Lina's grandmother has dementia, leaving Lina with little supervision when she goes off to save the city of Ember.
  • God Before Dogma: Nickie rejects the absurd restrictions set by Mrs. Beeson on behalf of The Prophet of Yonwood, but she still believes God is good and would honor people's differences instead of marginalizing them.
  • Government Conspiracy:
    • The mayor, some of his guards, and storeroom worker Looper were secretly stealing and hording some rare items that they found in storage (which had supposedly run out long ago) rather than sharing them with the entire city.
    • The plans set by the Builders themselves could qualify. Going through all the trouble of keeping the true contents of the box a secret. Or seeing to it that no one knew the history of the world leading up to the disaster in an attempt to start from a clean slate.
  • Here We Go Again!: Doon lampshades this at the end of The Diamond of Darkhold when he and Lina once again have to put together a torn-up letter by deciphering the phrases. It sparks off their probably-ever-after.
  • Indestructible Edible: Ember has existed for 241 years but still has some canned food that was stocked there at the beginning (and is apparently still fit to eat).
  • Informed Attribute: At the beginning of the series, Lizzie Bisco is stated to be Lina's best friend, but even after Lina has grown closer to Doon by halfway through the first book, Lizzie doesn't act like much of a friend at all to her. They show some signs of being close in Ember, but even there, Lizzie shows only minimal concern when Lina's granny dies (in contrast to Doon, who's very sympathetic); then, in Sparks, they have pretty much no interaction, and Darkhold, when planning a rescue expedition with Torren and Kenny, she actually cares less about finding Lina than finding Doon, on whom she's rather-suddenly developed a crush.
  • Karmic Death: It's revealed in The People of Sparks that the mayor and his accomplices, including Looper, drowned in the river while trying to leave Ember ahead of everyone else.
  • Lost Common Knowledge:
    • In The City of Ember, the simple fact that the surface world exists becomes this trope, as does the existence of most animals, candles, matches, the sun, the sky, and many other things.
    • In The People of Sparks, the Emberites don't know that the Earth is round, and don't know about things like animals, trees, trucks, rain, seasons, and gods.
  • Maybe Ever After: A single line near the end of The Diamond of Darkhold hints that Doon and Lina might be falling in love with each other.note  It's never made explicit how their relationship turns out, but the narrative does mention that they own a house together as adults, so it's safe to assume that they did end up together.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Ember and Sparks: two places providing light in a dark, post-apocalyptic world.
    • Lina Mayfleet, a talented runner (which comes in handy when she becomes a messenger and later a fugitive). Lampshaded in the film adaptation by a comment from the mayor when Lina visits his office: “May your feet be fleet.”
    • In The People of Sparks, one of the people who helps to fuel the fires of tension between the Ember people and the Sparks people is a troublemaking Emberite kid named Tick Hassler.
    • The terrorist organization in The Prophet of Yonwood is called the Phalanx Nations.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Mrs. Mayfleet, Lina's and Poppy's mom, suffered Death by Childbirth when the latter was born a couple of years before the start of the series.
    • Then their Granny, who pretty much raised Lina and Poppy like a mother since then, dies of some kind of illness about halfway through the first book.
    • Doon Harrow's mother isn't even mentioned in the series, and her absence is never explained.
  • Mondegreen Gag:
    • In Sparks: "Remember the city, the city remember," which is actually, "Remember the city, the city of Ember."
    • The Trogg family renamed themselves after some of the biggest, grandest Pre-Disaster cities due to their pretentiousness and inflated egos, but mangle the names: patriarch "Washton" (Washington, D.C.), wife "Minny[-Apple]" (Minneapolis), son "[New] Yorick" (New York), daughter "Kanza [City]" (Kansas City), and forcibly-adopted ward "Scawgo" (Chicago).
  • New Eden: The ultimate destination for the main characters of The City of Ember: their city is dying, so they're trying to find a way for everyone to leave it and go somewhere where they can all survive.
  • The Outside World: This is the ultimate destination for Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet, recognizing that the limited lifespan of The City of Ember is winding down. It's an uphill struggle against Ember's corrupt mayor to navigate the exit sequence engineered by the city's original builders.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Lina's and Poppy's Granny has been this for them since the deaths of their parents just months apart. Sadly, she dies midway through the first book.
    • After Granny's death, their neighbor, Mrs. Murdo, takes them in, and essentially becomes their adoptive mother for the rest of the series.
  • Passed in Their Sleep: In The City of Ember, this is how Lina's and Poppy's granny dies. After she starts succumbing to an unknown illness, she tells Lina to go to sleep, and the next morning, Lina finds her body still in bed.
  • Pipe Maze: The City of Ember has the Pipeworks workers, whose job is to patch up the incredibly intricate network of pipes that brings water to the citizens. Or rather, they patch up the patches over other patches that someone else, a long time ago, put on some more patches.
  • Promotion to Parent: Lina to her little sister Poppy, as her parents are dead and her grandmother has dementia.
  • Ragnarök Proofing:
    • The system to get out of Ember still works after all these years.
    • Averted with Ember itself, which was originally designed to function for 200 years and looks like it's literally about to fall apart. There's evidence suggesting however that things were starting to deteriorate even before then.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Mrs. Beeson certainly thinks so, and indirectly cites this trope when Nickie tells her that Grover owns snakes in his shed. She concludes that because of the evil nature of snakes, anyone who owns them must be a sinner.
  • Running Gag: In every book featuring the citizens of Ember, Lina's old best friend Lizzie Bisco gets a new ill-fated crush.
    • In City of Ember, she gets a boyfriend, and it turns out to be Looper, one of the mayor's stooges who's helping him steal and hoard supplies from the rest of the city and ultimately dies along with the rest of them while trying to flee the city.
    • In People of Sparks, she gets over Looper once she falls for and gets together with Tick Hassler, a warmonger who turns out to be responsible for many of the incidents that worsened the conflict between Ember and Sparks, who leaves Sparks at the end after his plans fall apart.
    • In Diamond of Darkhold, she finally seems to wise up from pursuing bad boys and goes for someone nicer. Too bad said "someone" is Doon Harrow himself, who clearly isn't interested in anybody besides Lina. To her credit, Lizzie realizes this by the end and decides to go for Tim/"Scawgo".
  • Sadistic Choice: Sparks faces several trying to balance their own needs vs. those of the refugees from Ember.
  • Sanity Slippage: Sadge Merrall when (due to concern over his realization that the supplies are running out) he tries to venture outside the city, and gets lost and terrified in the darkness before making it back. He goes full on Mad Oracle for a while, but he seems to have gotten over it in the sequels.
  • Scavenger World: The People of Sparks takes place somewhere in the United States about 250 years after several successive wars and pandemics, where descendants of the survivors have reverted to old-style farming settlements, sending out 'roamers' to search pre-Disaster houses and such for supplies such as clothes.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Heavily downplayed since there's very little romance in the series—mostly thanks to the two protagonists being 12 -> 13 years old until the Distant Finale—but it's clear throughout that Doon's and Lina's closest bonds with people their own age are with each other and they never show interest in anyone else (as Lizzie notes near the end of Darkhold, "It was clear [Doon] liked Lina best"), and it's very heavily implied that they get together as adults.
  • Small, Secluded World: The City of Ember was built underground as a refuge from a nuclear apocalypse, but the instructions for escape were lost long ago, and now the city's supplies are running out.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: Althea Tower from The Prophet of Yonwood, who insists upon waking up that she is not any kind of prophet, but just an ordinary woman.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: When Doon and Lina, kid heroes and adventurers of Ember, go missing in Diamond of Darkhold, three of their friends from Sparks—Lizzie Bisco, Kenny Parton, and Torren Crane—figure out where they're going and decide to go help them. Since Lizzie is a follower rather than a leader and too airheaded to lead such an expedition back to Ember, and Torren and Kenny have never even left Sparks before, they ultimately have no idea what they're doing and fail miserably, and have to return to Sparks and fill the town leaders and other adults in on what's happening so they can mount a proper rescue expedition.
  • Terminally Dependent Society: In The City of Ember, the Emberites rely severely on the electrical generator, which is the only thing keeping the city from plunging into permanent darkness.
  • Thousand-Year Reign: The City Of Ember was designed to last exactly 200 years and no longer. Too bad the note meant to inform the populace of this got lost.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Ben Barlow is this to the Sparks council in the second book, but he gets better by the end.
  • Underground City: The City of Ember is set in an apocalypse bunker type of city where their supplies and power source are failing.
  • Used Future: The City of Ember portrayed a city driven by a huge dilapidated generator that was well beyond its expected life and the impending failure of the generator drives the events of the plot. Most furniture, clothing, and other items in Ember are hand-me-downs.
  • Waif Prophet: Althea Tower from The Prophet of Yonwood, whose "visions" make her extremely ill.
  • The Wall Around the World: The Emberites are kept from leaving the city by the complete darkness of the Unknown Regions. The issue is compounded by a trench that was excavated in a ring around the city, presumably to stop anyone bold enough to try and leave, which Lina and Doon discover in The Diamond of Darkhold.
  • Wasteland Elder: In The People of Sparks, the town of Sparks is inhabited by people whose ancestors escaped the nuclear war and plagues by driving a truck into the countryside. The three leaders of Sparks, Mary, Ben, and Wilmer, have a Nice Mean And In Between dynamic and struggle to balance the welfare of their people with the needs of the refugees from the underground Hidden Elf Village of Ember (something Ben voices increasing unhappiness with).
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Mrs. Beeson in The Prophet of Yonwood, who strictly enforces her interpretations of Althea's delusional mutterings because she believes that they are instructions from God, telling the world what they must do to be free of sin.
  • World War III: The Four Wars aren't given any individual names, but from what we learn in the books, they sure seem to have been World Wars. If The Prophet of Yonwood is anything to go by, the first of these wars was between the USA and a group called the Phalanx Nations, and went nuclear pretty fast. These wars, combined with The Three Plagues, are what knocked civilization back to pre-industrial levels.
  • The X of Y: The Books Of Ember, The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood and The Diamond of Darkhold.

The film adaptation provides additional examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: A plot thread is added chronicling Lina's and Doon's fathers, Raine and Loris, attempting to escape the city together. This ended in tragedy when the tunnel they were in hit the river and flooded, resulting in Raine's death.
  • Adaptation Induced Plothole: With regard to the mayor's hoard of food, the book implies that the secret room in which it's kept is actually the mayoral office, which is described as being in the basement of the gathering hall. The film shows the mayor's office and the secret room in much greater detail, showing that they are two separate places. What's more, the secret room appears to only be accessible by going through either the Pipeworks or the city storerooms, which should make it unlikely for the mayor to go down there with any frequency without being noticed.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Mayor Cole presents himself as a much friendlier and more affable guy than the strict and patronizing figure of the book, whose temper held out only so long as his authority went unquestioned. He's still just as scummy underneath it all, though.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Kind of; more like "Adaptation Pronunciation Change". The book, through baby Poppy's attempts to say her older sister's name, indicates that "Lina" is supposed to be pronounced like "Line-a" (like the last two syllables of "Carolina"), with it being, like many other names in the series, a strange name by today's standards. The movie, however, pronounces it as "Lee-na", a somewhat-common name in the present day (albeit not usually spelled that way).
  • The Artifact: The instructions being torn apart by Poppy isn't as much of an obstacle as it was in the book, as they're still fairly legible and it takes minimal effort to decipher them once Lina and Doon actually focus on doing so. Case in point: it took Lina most of the book to realize that the instructions are for a way out of the city. In the movie, Doon pieces this together the first time he sees them.
  • Asshole Victim: The Mayor has his own safe room, full of enough food to feed the entire city. When he locks himself in there and can't escape before the giant mole eats him, it's hard to feel sorry for him.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The film has some oversized insects, probably to illustrate the effects of radiation on the wildlife.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The multi-tool Loris gives Doon for his graduation. It comes in handy numerous times in their quest to escape the city.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Sul, Doon's mentor in the Pipeworks. He's portrayed as a grouchy, absent-minded old man who dismisses questions about things that aren't his job. Turns out his "job" actually pertains to maintaining the waterwheel that supplies power to the generator, which is integral to accessing the way out of the city.
  • Composite Character: The film gives Mrs. Murdo Captain Fleery's role from the book, as one of the Believers who tells Lina the Builders will come again to help the residents of Ember.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation:
    • In the book, Lina's father simply died of a coughing sickness that was going around. In the movie, he died during an escape attempt with Loris, Doon's father.
    • Mayor Cole is potentially another example of this, depending on how you look at it. He survived the first book, but the second book reveals that he, Looper, and his cronies all drowned in the river while trying to escape Ember. This differs from his death in the film adaptation of the first book, where he is eaten by a giant mole.
  • Doomed Predecessor: Sul gives Doon a helmet that belonged to a pipeworks worker who drowned and mentions the name carved into the helmet was the only thing left to identify him with. It later turns out that the worker was Lina's father. An earlier scene shows Lina and her sister sadly listening to a tape of his voice, with the tape containing a few hints that he and his friends were up to something. As Lina and Doon try to find a safe way out of the city, they realize that Lina's father died trying to do the same thing.
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: At the end of the film, Mayor Cole is eaten by a giant mole.
  • Gender Flip: The captain of Ember's messengers was female in the book but is male in the film. The inverse is true for Doon's supervisor in the Pipeworks, who the film also makes an Ascended Extra.
  • Karmic Death: The Mayor is eaten alive by a mole after locking himself in with his hoard of stolen food.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Neither of Lina's parents, who are Posthumous Characters, are ever referred to by name in the books. Here, Lina's father has a major role in the backstory of the film, and is likewise given a name: Raine.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The generator of Ember has catwalks and stairs going above and alongside heavy, dangerous, steam-emitting machinery of all kinds. And the official, government-approved method to escape the city involves hundreds to thousands of people riding a ridiculously dangerous water toboggan on tiny wooden boats that are intended to pass above large water turbines.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: The movie ends this way, with the sun showing brightly, in contrast with the constant darkness present in Ember.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The concept of a "moveable light" is not so foreign an idea to the Emberites as it was in the book, as Doon's father was able to craft a pedal-powered lightbulb in a bid to escape the city. The only thing that stopped him was seeing Lina's father die in their first attempt.

Alternative Title(s): City Of Ember, The Diamond Of Darkhold, The City Of Ember, The People Of Sparks, The Prophet Of Yonwood