on 28 April 2013
I admit that I'm difficult to please when it comes to young adult fantasy fiction, because most new YA fantasy books tend to be boring and full of annoying descriptions about teenage love affairs between humans and supernatural beings etc, but fortunately there are books like Emilie and the Hollow World out there. Emilie and the Hollow World is one of the few recent books that have restored my faith in YA fantasy fiction.
Martha Wells is an amazingly versatile and talented author, because she writes all kinds of fantasy books. With Emilie and the Hollow World she proves that no matter what she writes about she always does it well. Emilie and the Hollow World is her first young adult book, and in my opinion it's an excellent achievement, because it's an old-fashioned adventure story which will be of interest to young adults and adults alike. I have to confess that I was impressed by this book.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
Emilie is a sixteen year old girl who escapes from her uncle Yeric and aunt Helena, because she doesn't want to live the life that has been planned for her. She wants to go to live with her cousin. Emilie wants to stow away on the steampship Merry Bell to Silk Harbour, but things don't go as she planned and she finds herself on the The Sovereign, which is headed to the centre of the planet, the Hollow World. The passengers and the crew of Sovereign search for Lady Marlende's father who ran into trouble when he visited the Hollow World...
And here's information and my thoughts about some of the characters:
- Emilie is an easily likeable character, who's just as stubborn as she is clever. She easily makes new friends and doesn't give up. She reminded me of the resourceful and courageous children and teenagers in Enid Blyton's books.
- Lady Marlende is a fascinating character, because she takes Emilie under her protection. She's an important role model for Emilie. It was interesting to read how she tried to search for her father and what she thought about several things.
- Kenar and Rani are also interesting characters, because they're a reptilian-like Cirathi who live in the Hollow World. It was intriguing to read about them.
There are also other characters, but I won't write about them, because I want to avoid writing spoilers.
I think it's brave of Martha Wells to write this kind of a fantasy adventure and tell the happenings through the eyes of a teenaged girl. Most adventure stories feature boys as main characters, so reading about the wondrous adventures of a teenaged girl felt refreshing.
Worldbuilding works well, because the author has created a wonderful fantasy world. The surface world is an alternate Victorian world, which is a bit similar to the world in the Ile-Rien books (the author has created a wonderfully steampunk flavoured world where science and magic exist in harmony). The inner world, the Hollow World, is a richly imagined fantasy world, which reminded me of The Three Worlds in Books of the Raksura trilogy (the author wrote about merpeople, Cirathi and plant-creatures etc. in a similar way as she did about the Raksura - the only difference was that she wrote about these things for young adults). This was a fantastic combination for me, because I like both series. I'm sure that other readers, who are familiar with the author's adult books, will be fascinated by this combination.
The Hollow World offers lots of lush landscapes for the readers. The author writes captivatingly about ancient ruins, oceans, civilizations and beings. The Hollow World is a totally different kind of a world than the surface world, because its inhabitants are different from humans (I have to mention that the matriarchal culture and civilization of the merpeople is simply compelling in its strangeness).
One of the best things about Emilie and the Hollow World is that the author doesn't underestimate the intelligence of her readership, but writes vividly about science, aether currents, engines and magic. She doesn't overwhelm her readers with too many details and descriptions about these things, but keeps everything interesting. She writes fascinatingly about scientific discoveries and inventions. I enjoyed reading about the aether currents and engines that are used to travel to the Hollow World. These marvels will be of interest to several readers who appreciate old-fashioned steampunk and sciece fiction stories.
I also enjoyed reading about The Sovereign and its crew. The author wrote fascinatingly about the ship, because it was almost like a combination of a submarine and a normal ship that has been converted to an aether-ship that can travel the aether currents.
One of the most interesting things about this book is that Martha Wells writes fluently about a woman's place and social structure in the Victorian society and how difficult it is for women to be who they want to be. It was interesting to read what Emilie thought about her situation and her aunt and uncle, because she couldn't tolerate the life they wanted her to live.
Martha Wells has a good sense of humour. She knows how to lighten the mood with witty and sarcastic comments. I enjoyed reading about Emilie's thoughts about several things, because her observations were often funny.
I think it's good that the author has written a fast-paced story that contains plenty of happenings from the first page to the last page. The first half of the book is fun to read, but things really get going in the second half of the book and it's almost impossible to stop reading the story, because you have to find out what's going to happen to the characters.
In my opinion Emilie and the Hollow World is almost like a tribute to Jules Verne. I've always liked Jules Verne's books, so I was very pleased to find out that the author had written this book in the vein of Jules Verne. I think that especially Verne's The Journey to the Centre of the Earth (Voyage au centre de la Terre) has been a source of inspiration to her. (I'll also mention that Jules Verne wasn't the only author that came to my mind when I read this book. It's possible that the author may also have been inspired by Enid Blyton and other similar authors.)
If I'm not mistaken, there will be a sequel, Emilie and the Sky World, which will be published next year, so fans of Emilie will soon have more to read. I can hardly wait to read it, because I enjoyed reading Emilie and the Hollow World.
Emilie and the Hollow World is one of the best and most entertaining YA books I've ever read, because it's a charming old-fashioned adventure book. It's been a long time since I've read anything like this. It's a shame that there aren't more this kind of books out there on the market.
If you expect adventure, danger, science and magic from your young adult fantasy, you'll love Emilie and the Hollow World, because it contains all of these elements in an entertaining format. It's an exciting adventure story with lots of heart and imagination.
Highly recommended for readers of all ages who enjoy good adventure stories!