Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Emilie and the Hollow World

Emilie and the Hollow World

Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells is the story of a girl running away from home who has the adventure of a lifetime. She doesn’t get along with her aunt and uncle who have been raising her since her mother left to be an actress. They don’t expect her to amount to much and she finally decides to leave and live with her cousin in the city. To get there she has to stow away on a steamer… and that’s where the fun begins.

The action starts on the docks on a misty night and almost immediately Emilie is swept up in events beyond her control. Emilie plans to stow away on a steamer as she doesn’t have the funds for passage, but when she is mistaken for a thief she is forced to flee and ends up on the wrong ship. This ship is more than it seems however… as it soon leaves port bound for the Hollow World.

Emilie makes the acquaintance of Miss Marlende, who is searching for her lost father… last seen in the Hollow World. She has enlisted the help of Lord Engal, a noble and explorer who wants to be the first to travel to the world within a world. Things don’t go entirely as planned however, and soon they are in the Hollow World… but their engines are damaged and there is no way to get home. Their only hope…find the missing Dr. Marlende, who is an expert on aetheric engines.

Along the way they make new friends and allies, explore deserted islands and discover an ancient race of merpeople. The merpeople and their city were fascinating, and I thought to myself I want to go there! There is action, narrow escapes, treachery and a few surprises. The party soon discovers they are not the only people from the surface world looking for Dr. Marlende… will they find him in time or will there be no escape from the Hollow World?

The Hollow World hearkens back to the pulp tales of yore, to Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne and the Pellucidar tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs. However the concept and execution are strictly modern. This is more steampunk than Burroughs. This book takes the hollow earth concept, adds a modern sensibility and a plucky heroine, and runs with it. The result is superb. The steampunk elements make the story unique, with airships, Victorian dress and aether currents.

Emilie starts off a determined girl trying to start a new life, but is forced to make tough choices and save the day. She’s tough and brave and doesn’t take any guff- she’s just a fun heroine all the way around. The supporting cast is great also, from the gruff but loyal Lord Engal to Kenar and Rani, two non- human allies of Emilie. I really cared about these characters at the end.  

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