The Green Ember saga continues with desperate battles, unexpected heroism, and enough dangling plot threads to make readers eager for the next volume.
*Ember Falls (#2 in The Green Ember series) by S. D. Smith. Story Warren, 2016, 331 pages.
Reading Level: Middle grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 8-up
Picket and Heather, young rabbit siblings of this well-imagined fantasy world, have had to do a lot of growing up since their peaceful forest home was destroyed and their parents and baby brother carried away by a pack of wolves. The shadow of Morbin Blackhawk has fallen on their land, bringing terror and tyranny—and treachery, as we discovered at the end of the previous episode. Now Picket is well established as a warrior and Heather as a healer, both closely associated with Jupiter Smalson, heir to the lost throne. Ember Falls begins with the rabbit resistance gathered at Cloud Mountain, hoping to restore peace to the Mended Wood. But that desired end is by no means certain–or even likely, given the grim odds against them and possible traitors in their midst.
Like The Green Ember, the sequel starts out as pretty standard animal-fantasy fare but the velocity of the plot carry it swiftly into deeper territory. Though not advertised as Christian fantasy, the theme of good vs. evil stands out starkly against the reality of tragic consequences. Stepping up to fight isn’t a game; lives will be lost and hearts will grow faint, and beloved characters will make quick, desperate choices that may not pay off. But these heroes have a sure hope that echoes after the final page. One hint as to the author’s worldview is the character of Heather, who never succumbs to our culture’s demand that female heroes be as warlike as the guys. Her strength and fortitude are never in doubt, but those virtues are expressed in a particularly feminine way. The rabbit identity is sometimes lost in the narrative, since there doesn’t seem to be much especially rabbit-y about these characters except fur and the occasional strategic kick. Mentions of “lips” and “hands” are slightly jarring, but don’t break the narrative flow. Strong storytelling and noble themes make this a great family read-aloud.
Cautions: Violence (non-graphic but affecting when beloved characters die)
Overall rating: 4.75 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 5
- Artistic value: 4.5