- TITLE: Emilie and the Hollow World
- AUTHOR: Martha Wells
- PUBLISHER: Strange Chemistry
- PUBLICATION DATE: 4th April 2013 (UK)
- RATING: ★★★★★
This book appeared on my anticipated list and for good reason: steampunk-ish adventures with magical technology and different worlds? Oh, yes; yes please.
Wells does not disappoint: Emilie and the Hollow World is a neo-Vernian adventure that is as imaginative as it is well-crafted. Emilie comes to life as a bright and energetic girl who has been put down, but has not bent. It’s fantastic to see a female character with an upsetting past (but not too tragic and despairing) who is not shaped by it in a negative way. All throughout her aunt and uncle’s harsh treatment and admonishments, Emilie remains true to herself.
(This is a good thing; too many female characters are broken by harsh treatment and it is simply not true to life. My sister is one of the strongest people I know, and it’s completely unfair that women keep being misrepresented—it’s not just irritating to women, we guys kind of hate it too. Here’s an idea! Let’s write women like people, hey? That’ll cut it. /rant)
This, in the end leads to her running away and that’s when the story begins; with Emilie hungry and desperate to gain passage onto a ship that will take her to her cousin’s school, where she hopes to stay and evade her aunt and uncle. She’s not running away to do anything lewd, despite what she knows they will think. She’s her own person and if they can’t understand that, Emilie will make them.
But before she knows it, Emilie is involved in something quite alarming and dangerous. What was supposed to be her sneaking onto a ship turns out to be an expedition to a whole other world—the world inside their own—reached through means of sorcerous technology and aether engines. Though Emilie knows something about this from the Philosophical journals, she knows nothing about magic and its uses to give her any insight into this strange new adventure.
Once she’s adrift with the crew and as trapped as everyone else, searching for Dr Marlende—the only person who can help them, and who happens to be missing—Emilie unwittingly demonstrates just how cut out for adventure she is: she’s bold and daring and loyal to people she’s barely met for five minutes—all things that put her at home on a crew of adventurers.
But, as ever, nothing is quite as it seems. With strange new landscapes staring back at Emilie out her cabin window and a crew of men determined to prove they have all the answers, Emilie finds herself somehow at the centre of absolutely everything. She must be smart and savvy if she’s to help Miss Marlende find her father and get out of the pressing danger alive.
By the time she’s spent a few hours in this alien place Emilie begins to worry she will never make it back. Something is amiss and she can’t quite put her finger on it: the fact that Dr Marlende is missing is bad enough, without a strange and powerful Mermen Queen suddenly causing trouble. Emilie is quickly getting lost and it’s not a feeling she appreciates. But if she is to return home she must find the missing doctor and his crew.
Emilie and the Hollow World is like nothing so much as an effortless nod to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. But it’s also so much more: it is steampunk and it is adventure. It’s a fantastic offering that makes me so desperate to read more of Emilie’s adventure—because she simply must have more.
Wells has struck pure gold with this exciting and elaborate story that has no limits on its imagination—it perpetually surprises and entertains and keeps the reader guessing. Filled with warmth and danger and plenty of suspense, Emilie and the Hollow World is such a good, honest, real adventure that just…hits the spot. It’s just so good.
I seriously hope there are more Emilie books, because I know for certain that Emilie can’t possibly be content with having just one adventure.
Brilliant, fun and imaginative.