The Prophet of Yonwood
First edition cover
|Series||The Book of Ember series|
|Genre||Young adult, Science fiction novel|
|May 9, 2006|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ7.D927 Pro 2006|
|Preceded by||The People of Sparks|
|Followed by||The Diamond of Darkhold|
The Prophet of Yonwood is an apocalyptic science fiction novel by Jeanne DuPrau that was published in 2006. It is the third "Book of Ember" of the series, and a prequel to The City of Ember. It is set about fifty years before the Disaster and the establishment of Ember, and approximately three hundred years before the events of The City of Ember, The People of Sparks and The Diamond of Darkhold.
The story begins with a young girl named Nickie traveling with her Aunt Crystal to an old house in Yonwood, North Carolina. Nickie's great-grandfather has died, and the house where he lived, known as Greenhaven, is inherited by Crystal and Nickie's family, who plan to sell it. Nickie's mom is working in Philadelphia and her father is assigned to a secret government project (The City of Ember) and communicates with Nickie via short postcards.
In Yonwood, a local woman named Althea Tower sees a vision of the future with the world in burning flames and smoke, and subsequently spends months in a dream-like semi-conscious state, in which she mutters indistinct phrases and words. Brenda Beeson, a woman in the town, calls them instructions from God and requires townspeople to comply with her interpretation of the words, and insists that the entire city quit their "wrong" ways and start to be good people, so God would be with them. As a prominent community leader she directs the police in the town to enforce the 'war against evil', Althea's ramblings as admonitions from God. Those who fail to follow God's words are fitted with buzzing bracelets and ostracized. Mrs Beeson's interpretations gradually become more and more strict and unreasonable: beginning with 'no sinners' and 'no singing', they progress to 'no lights' and eventually 'no dogs'. It is later realized that Althea's visions are not rules from God that the citizens should obey, but warnings about what civilization will be like after it has been destroyed by the disaster.
During this time, Nickie has discovered a girl and a dog living in the third floor nursery of Greenhaven. When the girl, Amanda, leaves to take care of Althea, Nickie keeps the dog and she falls foul of Mrs Beeson's ban on dogs. A local boy, Grover, whom Nickie has befriended is also a target of the war against evil and the majority of the book deals with Nickie's struggle with her own desires to be 'good' and do what is 'right'.
The book features a fierce under-current outlining the verbal conflict between the U.S. and the 'Phalanx Nations'. Fears that the Phalanx Nations are sending terrorists and spies to the U.S. results in the imposition of a deadline for action against the enemy and preparations for the coming crisis (i.e. war).
Through Nickie's actions, Althea Tower is brought back to her senses and the actions of Mrs Beeson are overthrown. The story concludes with Nickie returning to her parents who are moving to California to be near her father's work.
In the final chapters it is revealed that Nickie's father is one of the builders of Ember and that eventually Nickie, in her sixties, is offered a place as one of the founders of the city. On her way to Ember, Nickie writes a brief journal that she hides behind a rock for someone to read in the future. This is the journal Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow find in The City of Ember.
- Nicole (Nickie) Randolph - An eleven-year-old girl visiting Yonwood with her aunt to prepare for the sale of Greenhaven. She eventually becomes one of the founders of The City of Ember.
- Grover Persons - A local boy with a love of nature (especially snakes) whom Nickie befriends.
- Althea Tower - Seeing a vision at the beginning of the book she is referred to as 'The Prophet'.
- Brenda Beeson - A community leader who interprets the words of The Prophet and implements them in Yonwood as 'the war on evil'.
- Crystal - Nickie's aunt who is keen to sell Greenhaven and leave Yonwood as soon as possible.
- Amanda Stokes - The former carer of Greenhaven's owner who Nickie finds hiding in the house. She is later sent by Mrs Beeson to look after The Prophet.
- Otis - A dog being kept hidden by Amanda and is later cared for by Nickie.
- Hoyt McCoy - An astronomer opposed by Mrs Beeson.
Community Crisis. As with all books in the Ember series, there is an underlying crisis within the wider community, nation, or, in the case of The Prophet of Yonwood, world. The tension between the US and the "Phalanx Nations" is a major contributing factor to the behaviour and motivations of the characters, especially Mrs Beeson and Hoyt McCoy.
Loss of Civil Rights. The coming crisis (i.e. war) serves as justification to implement Mrs Beeson's "war against evil." The book explores how rights can be voluntarily given up in the name of a safer community, even to the point of creating a rigid, dictatorial society where individual rights are subordinated.
Outsiders. In addition to Nickie, Hoyt McCoy is seen as an outsider. His position differs from Nickie's in that he regularly voices his opposition to the "war against evil." Both Nickie and Hoyt are, however, able to see the error in the way Yonwood is governed and it is through their actions (i.e. the actions of an external party) that the community is reformed. McCoy's actions are credited with providing the impetus to avert the coming war.
Absent Parents. Again, in common with the rest of the Ember series, the protagonist is deprived of at least one parent. Nickie is in the temporary care of her aunt, Crystal, and as with DuPrau's other lead characters, she develops a surrogate parental relationship in order to obtain support and guidance.