The People of Sparks

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The People of Sparks
First edition cover
AuthorJeanne DuPrau
CountryUnited States, Canada
SeriesThe Book of Ember series
GenreChildren's literature, post-apocalyptic, Science fiction
PublisherRandom House/Yearling
Publication date
May 25, 2004
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)
LC ClassPZ7.D927 Pe 4
Preceded byThe City of Ember 
Followed byThe Prophet of Yonwood 

The People of Sparks is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer Jeanne DuPrau, published in 2004. It is the second "Book of Ember" in the series, and a sequel to The City of Ember; other books in the series include The Prophet of Yonwood and The Diamond of Darkhold.

The Playtone Company (the production company that released the City of Ember film) also purchased the rights to The People of Sparks, but after the box office failure of the first film, plans for the sequel were shelved.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

The story resumes after the evacuation of Ember, an underground city, which has been cut off from the surface for more than 200 years. The 400+ refugees from the city cannot return, as the city's resources are nearly depleted, and have no idea how to survive on the surface. After following a road for three days, they arrive at the village of Sparks, exhausted and hungry. The leaders of this village, Mary, Ben, and Wilmer, reluctantly agree to take in the refugees for 6 months, theoretically long enough to teach them to survive independently. They are allowed to stay in the abandoned and decrepit Pioneer Hotel. Tick Hassler, a former hauler of carts in Ember, organizes a series of projects intended to improve their quality of life and chances for the future, but which tend to be more grandiose than practical.

Concern soon arises about whether there is adequate food for everyone in Sparks; if food stocks are insufficient for the winter, it would be disastrous for both groups. The Emberites have little knowledge of the surface (having been deliberately deprived of such knowledge at the founding of the city, so they would not try to leave), and their ignorance annoys the people of Sparks. Vandalism against the people of Ember heightens the anger on both sides. The resultant reduction in the quality and quantity of food provided to Emberites only makes them angrier. Sparks' leaders vote 2-1 to stop having Emberites in homes for meals, as was the policy before, and instead have them pick up food to eat elsewhere. Then, Ember's people learn that they will be ejected from the village in the middle of winter, which they had not understood. Finally, Torren, an unhappy boy from Sparks, destroys a large amount of tomatoes in a furious rage, for which the two groups each blame members of the other.

Meanwhile, Lina leaves with a roamer who travels to old cities to find treasure, hoping to find the city she has been dreaming of and drawing. There she finds not a beautiful city like she expected, but a crumbling ruin of a metropolis (San Francisco after the Disaster). She returns to Sparks after more than a month, disappointed, and is very surprised by the deteriorating political situation.

After the people from Ember are deliberately inflicted with itchy rashes by an unknown person, at a time of extreme heat, angry Emberites start to gather in the town square. Tick Hassler urges them to attack the market stalls, seize food, and run, which some of them do. That evening, the village leaders meet and vote (the same) 2-1 to order all former citizens of Ember to leave immediately. When the people of Ember try to decide what to do, Tick organizes a group of people to fight back if the people of Sparks try to make them leave by force or continue to deprive them of adequate food.

In the morning, this group enters the square, followed by the rest of the people of Ember. Ben, who voted to order them to leave, brings the "Terrible Weapon", which is a machine gun built before the "Disaster", from the town hall basement. Ben threatens to 'fire' on them, but Tick and his men charge at the gun, not knowing what it is. When Ben tries to shoot them, Mary forces him to fire over the crowd by kicking the front upward. As Ben tries to lower it and shoot at the crowd, the age and poor storage of the machine gun and its ammunition cause it to explode. The explosion starts a fire, which engulfs a large tree in front of the town hall and threatens to destroy numerous buildings. The Emberites watch passively as the people of Sparks try to extinguish the fire: some hope for the fire to spread, but most of them are simply too afraid, of the fire and their fellow Emberites, to do anything.

At this point, Lina decides to help the people of Sparks fight the fire. As this happens, Doon Harrow sees that Torren is trapped in the burning tree by the building, rushes in, and bravely saves him before he catches fire. These acts cause most of the people of Ember to gradually join the firefighting efforts, until the fire is extinguished.

This turns around the spiral of resentment, and with everyone thinking more clearly and less parochially, it is discovered that Tick Hassler perpetrated the vandalism against the Emberites to gain support, and the tomato incident is resolved. The two groups decide to cooperate, with Mary declaring that "we are all the people of Sparks" to the partial resentment of the Emberites. At the end of the book, Doon manages to construct a simple electric circuit, based on a science book found in an old heap of books.


A review by Publishers Weekly noted that this second book shifted the focus of the story onto a different set of characters, but that the novel contained a positive message.[2]


  1. ^ 'City of Ember': Down Town
  2. ^ "The People of Sparks (review)". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 28 February 2014.