Why do you love stories?
(I know. There are too many reasons to count.)
For me, one good reason is food, of course. And dragons. But one constant throughout all the great stories I’ve heard – and hopefully told – is that they feel truthful. Deep down, there’s a thread running through all of them that resonates with my own experience of what it means to be human. And there’s beauty and grace in that struggle which is immeasurably rewarding to discover.
In a recent post for Story Warren, I talked about old stories, the kind we all grew up with, stories which offered a picture of a world in flux, good struggling to triumph against evil, heroes committed to courage against desperate circumstances. To me these stories aren’t just words contained within the pages of a book, they’re like arrows which point us to something deeper, the real Truth, the “One Story of love prevailing and death undone.” Those are the kind of stories worth hearing, re-telling, and sharing with friends.
S.D. Smith’s Ember Falls – a story we’ve been anticipating around these parts for quite some time – is exactly that kind of story. It has deep roots, tapping the bedrock of our shared experiences, giving young readers new horizons to explore and new questions to wrestle with. And that, my friends, is a cause for celebration.
Okay, so you want specifics. You’re wondering whether Ember Falls:
a) Delivers on its predecessor’s cliff-hanger ending
b) Invests readers further into the lives of main characters Heather and Picket
c) Delves deeper into the mythology of the world of Natalia
d) Adds more awesome weapons and gadgets to the #rabbitswithswords arsenal
The answer is “Yes!”
(I guess, technically, the answer is “All-of-the Above.”)
From a story standpoint, Smith’s execution is skillful. I found myself shaking my head again and again at the brilliantly-timed reveals and plot reversals, grinning while I pictured young readers’ jaws dropping open, all the while muttering, “They’re going to love this.” And I truly believe they will.
So, yes, Ember Falls is a page-turner. But, as with The Green Ember, it’s the rich thematic stuff which really has endeared Ember Falls to my heart. Long after I turned the last page, I was still chewing on the story’s central dilemmas and questions.
I think so much of the beauty of this book lies in the fact that Smith doesn’t shy away from taking readers to a place where hope teeters on the precipice, where characters find themselves quite literally with their backs against the wall. And, to me, this shows a great deal of respect for the hearts and minds of his readers. Smith understands that his young readers already know there’s darkness in the world, and it’s the power of stories to offer a hopeful, redemptive response. As Neil Gaiman’s adaptation of Chesterton’s famous saying goes, “Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” In Ember Falls, the evil is real, but it can be defeated.
I can’t think of higher praise for Ember Falls than to say that it’s a story that will become generational in a way that all the great ones have. It’s thrilling and truthful, and I can’t wait for you to read it.
For now (and until June 11), you can order your copy of Ember Falls here: