Study Guide

The City of Ember

The City of Ember Summary

Meet Lina and Doon. They're your average twelve-year-olds, except for the fact that they live in the city of Ember, and lead lives that couldn't be more different from your own. Since they're graduating from school, they and their classmates are all assigned jobs. Lina draws a job in the underground Pipeworks, when she'd really wanted to become a Messenger. Doon offers to trade with her, and soon enough, she's gallivanting around town, delivering messages like nobody's business.

Her job puts her ear right up to the grapevine, so while she's out and about in town, Lina gets the skinny on all the goings on. She learns that all the citizens are afraid that the lights will go out for good, and that the food stores are dwindling. Meanwhile Doon, down in the Pipeworks, learns that the generator which powers the city is slowly degrading, and no one knows how to fix it. This stuff is a big deal because Ember is surrounded by darkness, and there's no way out of the city—nowhere to go if the lights fail or the food runs out. Yeah, this is not good.

Things aren't good on the domestic front, either. Lina's grandmother is supposed to be looking after her baby sister, Poppy, but she's starting to go senile and isn't much help with the kiddo. To make matters worse, Granny's obsessed with finding something her grandfather, a former mayor of Ember, had stored away. When a mysterious box surfaces in their home, Lina thinks its contents might be helpful in handling the city's current situation. There's just one problem: Poppy has already chewed on the paper inside.

With Doon's help, Lina figures out that the paper contains instructions for the city's Builders on how exactly to exit the city and head for safety when the time comes. The kids also discover that the mayor, aided by an unscrupulous clerk named Looper, is stealing and hoarding rations. When the mayor tries to have the kids arrested for their accusations, Lina and Doon have a decision to make: what should they do with their information about how to leave the city?

In the end, they opt to take a chance and get the heck out of Dodge. They head out into the darkness with Poppy in tow, and plan to leave directions on how to exit the city for the other residents to find. After a trip by river, they ascend to the outside world, and discover that Ember has actually been underground this whole time. They also discover a journal written by one of the first residents of Ember, which warns of impending disaster and calls the city a last resort. There's definitely more to this story.

Seeing the sunrise for the first time is mind-blowing. And trees—who knew the natural world was so beautiful? The kids stumble upon a crevice and throw their directions down into the city below. Mrs. Murdo, who has been taking care of Lina and Poppy since Granny's death, finds the instructions, but that's where it all ends, leaving us to wonder what will happen next.

  • The Instructions

    • The main builder and the assistant builder of Ember have a chat once the city is finished, but before anyone's living in it.
    • According to the main builder, the citizens will need to stay in the city for at least 200 years, which will hopefully be long enough (for what? We don't know exactly).
    • The residents of Ember will be provided with instructions on what to do when the time is up. The chief builder proposes giving the instructions to the city's mayor, who can keep them safe and pass them onto the next mayor until the time is right to actually, you know, follow them.
    • The assistant builder expresses some skepticism that everything will go according to plan, but the main builder answers that nothing is certain—there's no guarantee that the people of the city will survive for two hundred years, or have a safe place to go to.
    • The first few mayors do a good job of safeguarding the box, but the seventh mayor grows desperate when he falls ill. He thinks the box might contain a secret that could save him, so he brings it home and tries (unsuccessfully) to open it. Selfish, much?
    • The mayor dies before he can put the box back in his office or tell the next mayor about it. The box sits in his closet for years, until the timed lock opens on its own.
    • No offense, Mr. Mayor, but you stink at mayoring.
  • Chapter 1

    Assignment Day

    • The sky is always dark in Ember. The only lights are attached to the buildings, and they're turned off between 9pm and 6am. When the lights are out, there is seriously no light anywhere. None at all. Creepy.
    • Obviously the lights are only supposed to go out at night, but every once in a while, they'll shut off in the daytime, leaving people stranded during their normal activities, unable to see a thing.
    • Normal activities, for kids, include going to school until they reach the age of twelve, when they graduate.
    • Sounds young, right? But that's just how it goes in Ember. 
    • And speaking of which, the twenty-four students who are about to graduate from the Ember School are sitting in their classroom on Assignment Day.
    • Everyone's nervous. See, the job you're assigned is completely random, and some of them just plain stink. Plus, you have to keep yours for at least three years before you can ask for another one. So yeah, getting a plum position is pretty important.
    • Lina Mayfleet is one of the students. She's got long dark hair and is fidgety (probably thanks to the nervousness).
    • Doon Harrow is another student; he's got dark messy hair and a serious look on his face because with a name like Doon Harrow, you can't exactly be smirking now can you?
    • Both of them are wishing very hard that they get their dream jobs. Lina's picturing herself in a red messenger jacket, and simultaneously saying goodbye to the classroom, which is filled with books about the history of Ember.
    • Mayor Cole shows up to oversee Assignment Day. He makes a so-so speech, then has the students draw the names of jobs out of bags.
    • Lina's friend Lizzie draws Supply Depot clerk, which makes Lina feel bad for her because it's boring. Other kids make their choices, and finally Lina gets up.
    • She gets… Pipeworks laborer, ugh. That means she'll be stuck underground all the time, when Lina truly wants to run the streets of Ember as a Messenger.
    • Doon is the last to draw, and he gets Messenger. He's not happy about it, crumpling the paper and throwing it on the ground. Apparently that's a bit of a no-no in Ember, so the mayor reprimands him for bad behavior.
    • The mayor makes another boring speech about how everyone needs to do their part for Ember to prosper. But Doon ain't havin' it. So he says (loudly) that living conditions are getting worse. Bad move, kid.
    • Lina's confused by all this; life in Ember is the way it's always been, isn't it? Why get so upset?
    • As they all leave, Doon asks Lina if she wants to trade jobs. Overjoyed, she says absofreakinlutely.
    • Then she's confused: who'd wanna be down in the Pipeworks? Doon explains that he'd wanted electrician's helper, but the lucky kid who got it wouldn't trade. Pipeworks at least puts him close to the generator that powers the city, so he can investigate it.
    • Sure, whatever—all Lina cares about is getting to be a messenger: she loves to run, and now her job will be to run all over the city, delivering messages for people and exploring. Excellent.
  • Chapter 2

    A Message to the Mayor

    • Lina runs home, taking a different route as usual. Passing a particular street, she notices that a bunch of lights are out and haven't been replaced. Hmm. That's odd.
    • There have been rumors of shortages, but they've never been completely out of light bulbs before. Without light bulbs, nobody would be able to see. Could Doon be right that something's seriously wrong with the city?
    • Lina shakes off those dark thoughts and keeps running, thinking about how lucky she is to have her job. She used to be friends with Doon, until an awkward moment when she'd laughed at him when he was embarrassed. But she's so grateful to him now, maybe they'll become friends again.
    • When Lina gets home—her grandmother's yarn shop—she tells Granny the good news. Lina's little sister Poppy is around two years old, so not quite old enough to understand all this.
    • Turns out that two years ago, Lina's father had died from a coughing sickness going around the city, and Lina's mother had died a few months later giving birth to Poppy.
    • Now, Lina takes Poppy up to their apartment, which is above the shop. It's absolutely crammed with old stuff, because the people of Ember don't throw away anything that they can still use. They're not hoarders, they swear.
    • Among the many things decorating the walls are pictures that Lina drew, of a shining city where the lights are always on. She's only seen the place in her imagination, but she's convinced that it's a real place. (It's called Vegas.)
    • The next day, Lina goes to the messengers' headquarters. There, Captain Fleery instructs her in how to be a good messenger. Basically, Lina has to repeat back a message anyone gives her to make sure she's getting it right; she has to wear red so people can identify her; and she can only deliver the message to the person it's intended for.
    • Lina spends the morning delivering messages for people about mundane things (dinner plans, etc.). But hey, at least she learns a little more about the city and its inhabitants each time.
    • One guy who wants a message delivered is a little strange looking (big teeth and bushy hair). He wants her to tell the mayor that a delivery will be ready at eight from Looper.
    • Lina goes to the mayor's office, which is in Gathering Hall (at the town's center). An assistant guard admits her to a waiting room, but since she's bored, Lina goes up on the roof of the hall. It's fun waving at the people down below until she gets in trouble with the guards.
    • The mayor is also annoyed, until Lina delivers the message. Then he smiles and lets her go without any trouble.
    • As Lina leaves the Gathering Hall, Doon considers saying hi, but doesn't. He'd seen her on top of the roof during her shenanigans. But he's dirty from his day at work, so he decides to talk to her later.
  • Chapter 3

    Under Ember

    • Doon had been super-excited to go to the Pipeworks that morning. Finally, his chance to do something useful.
    • The whole place is damp, so Doon's issued some rubber boots and other gear for his work shift. A girl named Arlin shows him around and pairs with him on his first day in Tunnel 97.
    • Once they reach the Main Tunnel, Doon is surprised to come face to face with the river (he knows what the word means, but he's never seen one before).
    • It's a huge loud rush of water that powers the generator of Ember.
    • Arlin walks him through fixing a particular pipe that's leaking, and then she has lunch with her friends. Doon uses the time to check out the generator room, where he's not supposed to be without permission.
    • It's too loud to hear anything, and the old man Doon talks to just shoos him away. Doon is humbled—he's spent his life studying how things work, and the generator is clearly way beyond him.
    • He tries to talk to the old dude at the day's end, asking how the generator works. The man says nobody knows how it works, only how to try to fix it when it breaks down.
    • This is what Doon's thinking about when he sees Lina on the roof. He doesn't get how she can be so light-hearted, so he just trudges home.
    • He lives with his father over his father's shop, which sells odds and ends. Doon goes upstairs to their apartment and broods, like the budding teenager he is.
    • The more he thinks about his situation—how eager to help and smart he is, but without any clear idea of what to do—the more upset he gets. Angry, Doon hurls an old shoe heel at the door, because throwing stuff always solves problems (said no one ever).
    • At that moment, his dad opens the door, and gets hit in the ear with the heel.
    • Doon's father asks if he wants to talk about it. So Doon complains about his first day at work, and his father advises him to pay attention to the little things, and maybe he'll figure something out.
    • After their chat, Doon goes to his room, where he observes the worm he's been keeping in a box (Doon thinks bugs are cool and likes to study them).
    • Doon talks to his dad about the worm, and his dad encourages him to keep notes, and to look for interesting new bugs in the Pipeworks. Doon remains determined to accomplish something important there.
  • Chapter 4

    Something Lost, Nothing Found

    • Lina comes home from her messenger job one day to find the apartment torn apart because Granny's looking for something.
    • Problem is, Granny doesn't know exactly what she's looking for—only that it's important.
    • As Lina starts to clean up, she asks where the baby is. Granny forgot her down in the shop.
    • Lina finds Poppy tangled in a hank of yarn, and rescues her. Not good. Granny is still riffling through things up in the apartment.
    • Granny explains that her father had heard her grandfather (the seventh mayor) saying that something was lost and he couldn't find it. Lina chalks it up to the ramblings of an old man.
    • The next day, Lina stops at their neighbor's place. Mrs. Murdo lives alone, and doesn't work anymore since her shop closed. She's a kind woman, so Lina asks her to look in on Granny and Poppy while she's gone, and Mrs. Murdo agrees.
    • Lina has to carry a message to the greenhouse, which makes her sad because that's where her father worked before he died.
    • Clary, one of the greenhouse workers, has always been friendly to Lina, so they talk a bit (not about happy things, but about the fact that a bunch of potatoes are dying mysteriously, and potatoes are a staple of Ember's cuisine).
    • Suddenly, they hear a strange sound, like someone wailing. It gets louder, until a man stumbles out of the darkness.
    • They recognize a guy named Sadge, who works in the Supply Depot. Between sobs, he tells them how he went outside of Ember, to see what there was in the darkness.
    • He basically had a panic attack out there and ran back to Ember before he could get lost or fall in a hole or get eaten by monsters.
    • Clary calms him down and sends him on his way. Lina has heard of similar ventures out into the Unknown Regions, all of which have failed. Part of the problem is that none of the lights in Ember are portable; they're all fixed to buildings.
    • Lina asks Clary what she thinks about the Unknown Regions, and whether Ember is the only light in a dark world.
    • Clary answers that she doesn't know, but that she does know that life comes from inside a seed somehow, so they (the people of Ember) must have come from somewhere, too. They may not have the answers yet, but those answers have to be somewhere—maybe even outside of Ember.
    • Before Lina leaves, Clary gives her a little bean seed and tells her to put it in dirt and water it. There's life inside the seed, which will emerge as it grows, so maybe that's some kind of clue to help Lina get thinking.
  • Chapter 5

    On Night Street

    • Granny continues to get more confused, and spends more time searching for the unknown lost item. Mrs. Murdo spends more time at the house, keeping an eye on things.
    • Every worker Lina's age gets Thursdays off, and one Thursday, Lina goes shopping. She hears some people talking about a shop that has paint and colored pencils, which she wants to check out.
    • Lina brings Poppy with her to the shop on Night Street. She's supposed to use her money for a new coat for Granny, but it's been forever since she's had any colored pencils, and she's excited to look for them
    • While they're walking, they see Sadge (the guy who'd run into the greenhouse sobbing) ranting on the steps of the Gathering Hall about the Unknown Regions being filled with darkness and monsters. People try to calm him down.
    • The shop is run by Looper—the funny-looking dude who'd given Lina the message to give to the mayor on her first day on the job.
    • Lina puts Poppy down so she can look at the colored pencils. She decides to buy two even though they're really expensive. Right after the transaction, Lina notices that Poppy has disappeared. Uh oh.
    • As soon as Lina reaches the street, the lights go out. Lina can't see a thing, so she's not sure which way to go. Poppy is still lost, which just makes Lina feel guilty about lingering over the colored pencils.
    • After a few minutes (which seem like an eternity), the lights come back on. Lina runs around looking for Poppy. Someone hears the description and points her toward a shop.
    • Turns out Doon had found Poppy and taken her inside his father's shop. Lina thanks Doon, and then leaves with her sister.
    • When Lina gets home and puts everyone to bed, she looks at her pencils, but feels ashamed.
  • Chapter 6

    The Box in the Closet

    • Normally people talk about blackouts, but this one just leaves people shocked and silent. It's the longest power failure anyone's ever experienced: seven whole minutes.
    • The next day, the mayor summons everyone to a town meeting. The sound system has deteriorated so nobody in the back can hear what he's saying, and people have to repeat his words to the rest of the crowd.
    • It's basically an empty speech about how they're seeking—and finding--solutions. Um, what solutions? The crowd is angry and on the verge of a riot when Lina decides to make like a banana and split.
    • Doon is also there, with his father. Doon's angry at the mayor for lying, and his father notes that Doon seems to be angry a lot lately. The old man reminds him that anger can have unintended consequences (like hitting your dad in the head with a shoe heel).
    • Lina runs out of the town square, trying to push the speech and people's reactions to it from her head. She can't wait to get home and draw with her new pencils.
    • She finds Granny taking apart a crammed old closet. Poppy's nearby, playing with a small box.
    • The box has some kind of mysterious lock, but it's open. And it's empty.
    • Poppy is sitting next to the box and chewing on some paper. The scraps of paper on the floor around her are covered in tiny, perfectly printed letters.
  • Chapter 7

    A Message Full of Holes

    • Lina extracts as much paper from Poppy's mouth as possible, gathers up the rest of the scraps, and carries them all to her room. The printing is so weird. People can't write in such perfect neat letters anymore, so it could be really, really old.
    • After Lina puts Granny and Poppy to bed, she arranges the scraps of paper to form a whole. There are enough pieces missing, though, that the message is unreadable except for fragments of words and phrases.
    • She can make out enough of the title to tell that the paper must be instructions for something. But what? Something to help the citizens of Ember, perhaps?
    • Lina glues down the scraps so they don't blow away, and spends the rest of the night thinking.
    • She decides that she needs help deciphering the message, so she asks Captain Fleery (the head messenger) to come to her place after work the next day.
    • Captain Fleery agrees that it's probably very old, but it's most likely a recipe or assignment—nothing very important. She goes on to tell Lina all about the Believers, a group of citizens who believe that the Builders will return and solve all their problems.
    • Lina tries to be polite, but she doesn't see how waiting around will help anything.
    • She decides to go see her friend Lizzie after she gets off work at the Supply Depot. While waiting, she overhears conversations about all the shortages: food, needles, and so on. Lina remembers that it didn't used to be that way; there always used to be enough of everything.
    • Lizzie agrees to hang out with Lina, but mostly she complains about work. She mentions a secret, too, but doesn't tell Lina what it is.
    • Lina tries to show Lizzie the scraps of paper, but Lizzie has no interest in it, so Lina gives up, and they just hang out and talk until Lizzie goes home.
    • Lina has a new idea: she writes a letter to the mayor explaining that she found what seems like an important document. But after waiting a few days, there's still no reply.
    • She spends a little more time trying to decipher the message, and finds a word that's clearly a fragment of "Pipeworks." That confirms that it's about something important, at least. There's also something about a riverbank and a door… maybe a way out of Ember?
    • Lina decides to ask Doon for help with the message, since now he's working in the Pipeworks and might know something useful.
  • Chapter 8


    • Doon wanders the Pipeworks by himself a lot, now that he's gotten the hang of getting his work done quickly.
    • He finds interesting bugs, like his dad had suggested he might…but then he accidentally squishes one of his new finds when the other workers make fun of him for collecting bugs, causing him to angrily leap up and shout back. Gotta love those unintended consequences.
    • While exploring, Doon finds a roped-off tunnel, but goes in anyway. There's nothing but a locked door, and a hatch in the ceiling he can't reach. He finds some mysterious grooves on the riverbank, too, almost like writing.
    • Frustrated at his slow process in the Pipeworks, Doon decides to try working on a kind of moveable light. He goes to the Ember Library to look for information on fire.
    • People in Ember didn't have much experience with fire; occasionally a cloth left near an electric stove might erupt in flames, but that was about it. Very few people knew how to make a fire on purpose, or what to do to keep it burning.
    • Doon doesn't find much on fire, but he does find an interesting book of old phrases. Words like "hogwash" are a complete mystery since no one in Ember knows what a hog is or why you'd want to wash it, for example. Being "all in the same boat" makes no sense because no one knows what a boat is, either.
    • That's when Lina comes in.
  • Chapter 9

    The Door in the Roped-Off Tunnel

    • Lina says Doon's father had told her that he was in the library. She has tracked him down because she has something important to show him.
    • Doon tags along with Lina backs to her home. Mrs. Murdo is watching Poppy, since Granny had gone to bed earlier.
    • Doon is intrigued by the box with its complicated latch, and as soon as he sees the message, he agrees that it looks important. He says that he's seen some closed off tunnels, though they're not near the river (the word "river" was there in the message).
    • Lina asks if she can come check it out with him, and he agrees to let her into the Pipeworks the next day after everyone leaves at quitting time.
    • Doon hands Lina a slicker and some boots when she arrives, and together they slog through some tunnels.
    • When they come to the closed-off tunnel, Lina can feel the doorknob to the locked room for herself (there's no light in that tunnel, so there's nothing to see).
    • Suddenly, they hear someone coming, They retreat to the lit tunnel and hide, looking around the corner and listening.
    • There's a scraping noise and a thud, followed by slow footsteps. A key turns, a latch opens, and at that point Doon and Lina try to take a peek.
    • They get a glimpse of someone's leg, a dark coat, and messy hair. Then he vanishes back into the darkness.
    • Lina and Doon leave the Pipeworks after that, discussing who the mysterious person might be and how he got a key. Both remain a mystery.
  • Chapter 10

    Blue Sky and Goodbye

    • Lina sleeps badly that night. When she goes in to wake Granny, she finds that the old woman has come down with a fever.
    • The town doctor comes to check on Granny at Lina's request, and tells Lina to stay home to take care of Granny that day, make her soup, stuff like that.
    • During a lucid moment, Granny asks Lina whether they'd found "it." Lina assures her that they have—whatever that means.
    • Lina stays home the next day, too. In order to keep Poppy occupied, Lina suggests that they draw.
    • As usual, Lina draws the city she sees in her mind. Since she has colored pencils for once, she decides to color in the sky and make it blue—which is strange, since everyone in Ember knows that the sky is black.
    • During the night, Lina hears Granny calling her. She goes to her, and holds her hand and strokes her forehead. At some point, Granny tells her that she's okay, and Lina can go back to sleep.
    • Lina wakes up again at six, when the lights come on. She finds Granny's body, empty of life.
  • Chapter 11

    Lizzie's Groceries

    • Mrs. Murdo takes care of the girls the day after Granny's death, giving them good meals and a chance to rest.
    • As Lina gets ready to go to work the next morning, she and Mrs. Murdo talk about the Singing, which is coming up soon. Both of them are looking forward to it, this time once a year when all the people of Ember gather to sing the three great songs of Ember. Sounds fun enough.
    • Before Lina leaves, Mrs. Murdo tells her that she and Poppy should come live with her, since they can't be on their own, and she has an extra room anyway.
    • That sounds good to Lina.
    • Lina delivers messages for the next few days, and is grateful for her new home and her plum job.
    • One afternoon, she sees Lizzie coming out of the Supply Depot. Weirdly, when Lina calls out to her, Lizzie doesn't stop or slow down. How rude.
    • When Lina catches up, Lizzie is acting strange: she says she got groceries after work, even though Lina saw her come straight out of her job. And she seems too distracted to care that Lina's grandmother died. So much for friendship.
    • Instead, Lizzie starts talking about her new boyfriend. Then she trips, and a bunch of cans spill out of her bag.
    • Lina helps her gather them up—but then she notices that the cans are full of special foods, and things she's never heard of (like applesauce). Lizzie says she found them in a backroom in storage, and she tells Lina to keep the cans she'd picked up.
    • That night, Lina brings home creamed corn and peaches, which are a rare treat. Mrs. Murdo asks where she'd gotten them, and Lina just says "from a friend."
    • The next day, Lina decides to ask Lizzie where she got the cans. Lizzie finally says that they're from a storeroom worker named Looper, who found small stashes of the rare things.
    • Lina remembers Looper from the time she delivered a message for him. Lizzie seems to like him—and he must like her back, since he's sharing the loot with her.
    • Lizzie offers to share some of these things with Lina, like pineapple (which she's heard of, but never had before). Lina is totally tempted. but then she realizes that it's unfair to keep the nice things for only a few people to enjoy.
    • Since it's wrong, in Lina's mind, to hoard the good things and keep them from the rest of the city, she tells Lizzie that she doesn't want any of Looper's stuff.
    • The conversation is over.
  • Chapter 12

    A Dreadful Discovery

    • The next week, Doon finishes fixing a leak in the Pipeworks and decides to go to the secret tunnel again to look for clues.
    • When he comes to the locked door, he's shocked to find a key in it. Not so locked anymore, huh? Doon quietly opens the door, peers in, and sees a brightly lit room packed with things: jars, boxes, packages, clothes.
    • There's a table set with all kinds of food, and a person dozing in a chair. Doon gets a glimpse of the person's bulky body and chin before he ducks out.
    • Lina, in the meantime, is carrying a ton of messages that day. Most of them are short and have to do with people canceling commitments, preferring to stay home instead—maybe because of all the weird stuff going down in Ember?
    • As she's heading home, Doon finds her and tells her that he saw inside the locked room. He describes it, and then comes the big reveal: the guy snoozing in the chair? That was the mayor. They realize that when he was telling the people of Ember that he had a solution, he meant a solution for himself, the jerk.
    • The kids go to a bench to talk, noticing a bunch of Believers singing sappy, annoying songs. But there are also a few people carrying signs to protest the mayor's lack of solutions.
    • Lina tells Doon about Lizzie and Looper stealing food from the storerooms, and together they figure out that Looper is the one stealing stuff to supply the mayor's room.
    • That makes sense—the first time they'd been near the forbidden room in Tunnel 351, they'd heard a scraping sound, which must've been Looper coming down from a hatch that connects to the storerooms.
    • They decide to tell the guards about the mayor's stealing, and so they leave a note to one of the assistant guards, who seems eager to help.
    • Lina also tells Doon that her grandmother died, and he's really sympathetic. 
    • But he thinks that the Builders' instructions may not be worth anything after all, which bums Lina out.
  • Chapter 13

    Deciphering the Message

    • Lina decides to go to Clary for help with the instructions. 
    • She also tells Clary about the mayor's deception, and Clary says that everyone has darkness inside them—unfortunately, the mayor's darkness has gotten too big for him to control. 
    • That makes sense to Lina—it reminds her of the longing she'd felt for the colored pencils, even though she knows it wasn't right to buy them.
    • Clary comes with Lina to her room, and sees that the bean seed has started to sprout. Then Clary points out something very important: the fragment "Egres" in the title, which Lina had assumed to be a name, is actually the cut-off word "Egress."
    • Which can only mean one thing: the document is titled "Instructions for Egress." As in, a way to exit Ember. Looks like they've really hit the jackpot.
    • Lina runs to find Doon at his father's shop so she can share this news with him. He returns with her to her home so they can work on figuring out the rest.
    • They figure out that the instructions have to do with finding something at the river's edge, going down a ledge, and finding a door. There might be a door marked with an "E" down in the Pipeworks, which Doon says he'll look for.
    • Doon has trouble sleeping that night. His dad asks what's wrong, and Doon chooses not to tell him about everything on his mind, hoping that his father will be proud once the mayor's treachery is revealed. One step at a time.
    • At some point during the night, Doon remembers the rocks bordering the river in the Pipeworks that seemed to have strange creases on them.
    • Hmm… maybe those are the letters he's supposed to find.
  • Chapter 14

    The Way Out

    • The next day, everyone is let out of work at noon to rehearse for the Singing. While Lina is chilling by herself, Doon runs up and grabs her, saying he found the place on the riverbank they were supposed to look for.
    • Since everyone's gathering for the rehearsal, the two of them sneak into the Pipeworks.
    • They find the rock marked with an "E" (for Exit, duh) and when they look around, then find a ladder leading down to a ledge next to the riverbank.
    • Despite the fact that it's scary to climb down a tiny ladder over a big roaring river, they both go for it. They find themselves on a ledge, which connects to a hall.
    • At the end of the hall is a door. They open it using information from the Instructions on where to look for a panel.
    • It's dark inside, but they find two boxes and bring them back out to the light. One is labeled "Matches" and the other "Candles." Neither kid knows what they are, but through enough fiddling around, they figure out that the matches create fire, and the candles can hold the fire.
    • Using the light from the candles, they explore the room, and find a thing called a boat and things called paddles. The next room is stocked with equipment. It's all kinds of awesome.
    • Interpreting more of the instructions, Doon and Lina realize that the boats are something they're supposed to use to travel on the river. 
    • And that can only mean one thing: the river is the way out of Ember.
  • Chapter 15

    A Desperate Run

    • Doon wonders how they're supposed to get everyone out with just one boat? They decide to look around a little more, and they discover another door in the room. This one leads to a large room with more boats.
    • All the boats are the same, stocked with paddles and metal boxes—probably supplies.
    • So… they did it. They found the way out. And they hatch a plan to deliver the good news during the Singing tomorrow.
    • Once he's home, Doon is tempted to tell his dad what he found, but he doesn't—he wants to save it for the big reveal.
    • He packs a pillowcase for the trip, sticking in some of the candles and matches, but also some food, and supplies like a blanket and knife.
    • Before he leaves, he looks at the worm he's been keeping in a box: it had wrapped itself up in threads a few days before, and now it's beginning to break out of the woven shell.
    • Yep—the thing has transformed into a moth, and Doon watches it fly into the air. He thinks of the word egress, and feels like he witnessed a marvelous transformation.
    • He's about to close his window when he notices some guards come up to his building and ask Nammy Proggs, an old lady, if she's seen Doon. Apparently, he's wanted for spreading vicious rumors. Uh oh.
    • Luckily, Nammy Proggs, being an awesome lady, lies and says he went off to the trash heaps. So Doon takes the opportunity to escape without being seen.
    • Clearly, the guards are in on the storeroom scam. Oops.
    • Meanwhile, Lina also couldn't sleep the night after their discovery of the boats. All she can think about is how people would react to the escape plan, and how she'll keep Poppy safe through it all.
    • Doon interrupts their breakfast the next morning, and tells Lina in private that they'll be coming for her, too. Lina tells Mrs. Murdo that they need to leave for some emergency work.
    • The kids run to the school to find shelter, and on the way see posters saying that there's a reward for anyone who brings the two of them to the mayor's chief guard. Not good. So not good.
    • While they hide out, Doon suggests that the two of them leave by river ASAP. He's got a bag packed and all. And hey, they can leave a note for Clary explaining how to follow the instructions and find the way out. That way at least the others will have a chance to escape, too.
    • Lina doesn't really want to go along with this plan, but Doon convinces her that they should be the first ones to reach the new city, because they discovered the way. Plus, Lina agrees that it's too dangerous to take Poppy on the river now. She knows Mrs. Murdo will take good care of her until they follow.
    • So Lina goes to deliver the note to Clary, while Doon will wait for her. But a bunch of guards spot Lina, and Doon watches helplessly as she tries to outrun them.
  • Chapter 16

    The Singing

    • Lina books it, but the guards catch her and bring her to the Gathering Hall. She's thrown in a room to wait.
    • The mayor comes in, looking bigger and badder than ever. He makes a boring speech about how she's disobedient, and children cannot understand the complex reality of the situation. He threatens to lock her in the Prison Room for a long time. Um, dude, she's twelve. Maybe you should chill.
    • Lina looks around the room, planning her escape, and right then, the lights go out.
    • She makes a dash for the stairway door, and climbs the stairs to the roof. The lights come back on, and when Lina reaches the roof, no one has come after her yet.
    • She can see and hear the people of Ember singing the three great songs of Ember: "The Song of the City," "The Song of the River," and "The Song of Darkness." As Lina listens, she reconsiders her decision not to take Poppy with her. Maybe she's made a mistake.
    • Then the lights go out again—and they stay out, for a very long time. Lina thinks about shouting at the people gathered below her and telling them the truth, but when she makes up her mind to do it, she hears the sounds of panic, as though a riot is starting.
    • No one would be able to hear her over all that ruckus—and none of it will matter if the lights don't come back on. She's stranded on the rooftop, unable to see a thing.
    • That's when she sees a lonely, flickering light in the distance—it's Doon with his candle, walking toward the Pipeworks. Lina wants to join him, and she has an idea. But first the lights have to come back on…
    • Lina hopes and wishes, and sure enough, they do. She climbs down from the Gathering Hall roof, and hides before anyone else can see her. As soon as she finds Mrs. Murdo and Poppy, she can follow her new plan.
  • Chapter 17


    • Worried sick about Lina, Doon makes his way to the Pipeworks, where they'd planned to meet.
    • He feels lonely, and so he leaves a note for his father, only saying that they'd found the way out, and it was in the Pipeworks, and everyone will know about it tomorrow.
    • Suddenly the lights go out, but Doon remembers that he has the candle and matches, so he can light his own way.
    • When he reaches the Pipeworks, the lights come back on. Doon waits for Lina, and he's starting to straight up freak out. What if she doesn't come?
    • Finally, she runs up, with a bundle hugged to her chest. It's Poppy. Yikes.
    • They go inside the Pipeworks, and Lina fastens Poppy to her chest for the climb down the ladder. They make it onto the ledge and into the room, and try to maneuver one of the boats toward the riverbank. The boat's light, so they manage.
    • Somehow, they figure out that they need to use the ropes on the riverbank to lower the boat in. They get the boat into the river, and Doon hops in. Lina hands Poppy to him, and climbs in herself.
    • As soon as they loosen the knots in the rope, the boat shoots forward in the water. These three are in for a wild ride.
  • Chapter 18

    Where the River Goes

    • The boat ride is rocky and scary at first. Finally, the current slows, and they continue to pass along the river, in pitch-dark.
    • When the water's more calm, Doon lights a candle, and they see that they're in a high-ceilinged cavern.
    • Then the current picks up again, and they try to use the paddles to direct the boat. After a while, they reach a pool where there's no current at all, and the river doesn't seem to continue on anywhere.
    • The two bigger kids wade ashore, where they find a path. When Poppy is brought ashore, she finds something—a packet wrapped in some weird material. It turns out to be a book.
    • They sit down to eat some of Doon's food, and talk about what happened in their rush to escape. Lina realizes that she'd forgotten to give the note explaining the exit route to Clary—doh.
    • But there's nothing they can do about it now, so they decide to follow the path.
  • Chapter 19

    A World of Light

    • At the entrance to the path is a sign. It contains a written message from the Builders to the citizens of Ember, welcoming them. It warns them to be prepared for a rough climb that will take a few hours.
    • And boy does it. The trio climbs for hours before they reach the top, especially since Poppy needs to be carried quite a bit.
    • At some point, their candles go out, and they realize that they're not in total darkness. Hmm. That's new.
    • They reach a passageway.
    • Lina was expecting to see the city from her dreams, but instead she sees a wide, open space, unlike anything she's ever seen before. The sky is black, but studded with little lights, and there's one giant circular light in the sky too.
    • The beauty of this place totally blows them away. It's amazing, and nothing could've prepared them for it.
    • As they gape, the sky slowly starts to get brighter. It even turns blue. Then the sky fills with insects, which they recognize, and other, larger, flying things, which they don't.
    • They decide to share a meal, and read from the book while they do.
  • Chapter 20

    The Last Message

    • The book contains a journal entry, written by an old woman who talks about having packed her suitcase for the trip. They're not supposed to bring anything that shows the world they came from; no photos or maps.
    • She's determined to chronicle her journey, though, in case someone needs to know about it in the future. Good move, lady.
    • They spend a long time on the train. The trip is supposed to ensure the future of humanity in case disaster strikes. This is all sounding not so good.
    • There are fifty men and fifty women in their group, all above sixty years old. They're randomly paired into couples, and each couple gets two babies to adopt.
    • She pauses the journal entry because the babies are being brought in.
    • The writer has a baby girl on her lap, and Stanley (her new mate) has a boy on his lap. They name the children Star and Forest.
    • They have a long journey underground, to where the boats wait. The writer finishes up her journal entry, hoping that no one notices.
    • The journal entry ends there. Lina and Doon wonder what the disaster was that was supposed to have happened. Then they wonder if there's another way to get back to Ember, since the boats won't let them return up the river.
    • As they're looking around, they see a strange and awesome-looking creature (they have no idea what it is, but from the description we can tell that it's a fox). 
    • Because the creature was eating something that looked like a wrongly colored peach, they decide to look for some of those fruits because they're probably safe to eat.
    • Next, they discover a tunnel. When they explore it, they find a sheer ledge that drops into the darkness. But it's not completely dark—far below is a cluster of light. It's Ember.
    • The kids realize that Ember has been underground this whole time. Maybe they can still get a message to the people if they drop it down through this crevice.
    • Lina takes the note she'd intended to deliver to Clary, and adds a section about how they've found this new place where light comes from the sky, urging everyone to join them.
    • Then they wrap the message and a rock in Doon's shirt, and throw it into the city below.
    • Mrs. Murdo is out walking when the bundle falls at her feet. She begins to untie it.