For me, I found the style of writing changed, and maybe not for the better. DuPrau seems to aim for an older audience with this book, rather than the younger more adventurous approach she used with the previous two books. I have already read the fourth book, and I believe this book shouldn’t be part of this series. I know this is a prequel, but the actual “prequel” happens in the last few pages.
We follow an entirely different set of characters in this book. We follow a young Nickie, who is very impressionable and looks up to some of the shady characters. She follows the rules set by Brenda Beeson, the woman who interprets the local prophet, Althea Towers. Nickie is told to seek out what might be considered wrong. However, as the story pushes on, we see that the rules and dictation set by Mrs Beeson may not be so right after all.
Grover is the other main character we follow. He is a down-to-earth, grounded, sort of person, who wants to do what’s right, but also sees when something is wrong. He is also under Mrs Beeson’s thumb, but will it last for the entire story?
We finally get a third storyline, with the characters Otis (a dog) and Amanda Stokes. Although, not main characters, they do play a role in the final chapters of the book.
There are a lot of topics in this book as DuPrau tried to do too much. The first theme I’d like to discuss is religion. Now, religion is heavily featured in The Prophet of Yonwood. We have the prophet, Althea Towers, who has a vision from God of a world in the future. We also have a church, which kind of gets hijacked by Mrs Beeson. In the name of God, many rules are decreed (and not all of them good). The people of the town shun those who don’t follow the rules. My thinking here is that DuPrau is completely against religion. I may be wrong, but the message she sends to children is evident.
Another theme I’d like to discuss is what is right and what is wrong, i.e. morality. This will touch the religion issue, as we have defined our morals from religion (and improved). In the book, DuPrau shows how one can abandon your sense of morality for a superior (godly) sense. If you’re doing something in the name of someone else, you’re not doing the wrong thing, right?
Finally, the last theme I’d like to discuss is love. Whether it is the love of a pet or the love of another human, we all need it. We want to feel needed or wanted. In this story, Nickie finds out what it is like to be loved. Maybe it is not in the way she wanted, but she still reached her goal.
If you liked the previous book, I could safely say you’ll want to skip this book. It has almost nothing to do with Ember and almost doesn’t explain why it came to be. If you want a fresh change from the previous two books, then maybe this could be your thing. I have rated the book lower than all the others in the story as I felt the audience was different and the story doesn’t align with the rest of the books.