This final chapter in the Green Ember series, Ember’s End, is sure to please readers. It is chock-full of exciting battle scenes, the dialogue between the characters is delightful and often hilarious, unlooked for miracles are in the offing, victory is at hand, and a mending of not only The Great Wood but also of all of Natalia truly occurs.
“This was to be a feast for the ages, and all ages were here. She gazed out over the tables and marveled to see among the endless sea of rabbits thousands of happy children. Babies strapped happily to mothers’ backs and toddlers tripping in the grass. The world was alive with life, and sunlight shone on a happy host . . .”
In his author’s note at the end of this book, Smith tells us that he wrote this book during Lent and Easter of 2019, and I think it shows in the way the story is told. We enter into this story on the heels of great pain and sadness. Throughout this 410-page story, catastrophic sacrifices pile up upon each other. And then, when it is the darkest, miraculous light breaks in, and not only wins the day, but restores much of what has been lost. This story feels like Lent leading into Holy Week, and resolving into an entire Easter season.
“I think he was afraid he might be dreaming and that he might at any moment wake up.”
“How did that make you feel?” the scholar asked, smiling wide.
“It felt like the end of the bad days. It felt . . . it was a fine day. The best of days.”
The scholar put down his pen. “It was then that the mending began for us.”
“The world was new,” [he] said, “and [he] lived to see it.”
Insatiable readers like me will love the ending because it is over 40 pages long. We don’t get a “they all lived happily ever after . . . the end” handshake on the last page or two. No. We get another story. A beautiful story. A story of hope and joy and celebration. A little like “The Scouring of the Shire,” at the end of the Lord of the Rings, there is substantial work to be done at the end of the great war. There are scars that will never be healed and losses that will never be recovered. And those need to be acknowledged. But there is also healing that is underway. There are orphans to be adopted, veterans to be cared for, and futures to be had. There is rebuilding and new building to be done. There is farming to be overseen and a new Citadel of Dreams to run. There is gratitude to be offered. There is life to be lived.
“Come on! Follow me into this last flight, my friends, and let’s together forge a brotherhood of blood that will outlive this battle and stay with us all our days. I will fight beside you . . . I will fly beside you . . . I will die beside you!”
Because I wish to avoid spoilers for readers at any stage of the series, this review will be short and to the point. This book is, in many ways, a relief from the horrors of previous books. (If you have not read my reviews of Ember Falls and Ember Rising, please know that I think Sam was courageous for writing the previous books as he did, and I think that the wickedness of evil is appropriately but gracefully included.) By the time we read this book, we are fully convinced of the need for the devastating battle that is about to begin. Evil is unleashed and cannot be tolerated. If the battle for First Warren doesn’t go well, it will be the end of free rabbits everywhere. Because we know the justness of the cause, we can enter into this story prepared for the heavy losses, and yet committed to seeing this through. And we are richly rewarded for that trust in the author and our investment into the story.
A beautiful and appropriate end to a moving and important series, this book inspires hope and teaches us how to be courageous. In his author’s note, Sam tells us that he views storytelling as a form of hospitality. He invites us into his family’s stories, and we invite their stories into our homes and hearts. “There is a generosity of host and of guest, and when both act from love, a feeling of being at home prevails for both . . . These stories belong to my family, and sharing them has been a joy . . . it’s I (through the books) who have been invited again and again into home after home, and heart after heart. Your homes. Your hearts. What an incomparable honor.” I think this is why these stories are so good. They come from love, and they lovingly inspire us to work for the mending in our world while cherishing the light.
From the Author’s Note:
You can learn more about S. D. Smith and find more of our reviews of his books here. You can purchase this book directly from Sam’s store, Story Warren, here or from Amazon, here. You can learn more about the book at Biblioguides, here. Sara has done some Green Ember bookclubs, you can find more here.