Thursday, 14 March 2013

Emilie and the Hollow World

I got an advance copy from Strange Chemistry (via Net Galley) of Martha Wells new book Emilie and The Hollow World.  I thought it would be good company for me on my usual train journey up to Norwich.  1 hour and 45 minutes later I was lucky to have got off at the right station.  

While running away from home for reasons that are eminently defensible, Emilie’s plans to stow away on the steamship Merry Bell and reach her cousin in the big city go awry, landing her on the wrong ship and at the beginning of a fantastic adventure.
Taken under the protection of Lady Marlende, Emilie learns that the crew hopes to use the aether currents and an experimental engine, and with the assistance of Lord Engal, journey to the interior of the planet in search of Marlende’s missing father.
With the ship damaged on arrival, they attempt to traverse the strange lands on their quest. But when evidence points to sabotage and they encounter the treacherous Lord Ivers, along with the strange race of the sea-lands, Emilie has to make some challenging decisions and take daring action if they are ever to reach the surface world again.

Reminiscent of Jules Verne's Journey To The Centre of The Earth, with a sprinkling of Gail Carriger, I found Emilie and The Hollow World wonderfully imaginative.  Wells' plot takes Emilie down to the depths of the sea only to pop up in a place where merpeople exist, among other interesting creatures. This brilliant story was adventurous and light hearted, but most of all a lot of fun to read. 

The introduction is fantastic, and within a few pages I knew exactly what to expect from this book, where the plot was headed and what kind of characters I would be reading about. I couldn't stop my self from laughing every time Emilie found herself in a situation more perilous than the last.

Once the action moves to the Hollow World, as a reader you have to use your imagination to interpret Wells' fantastically written creation.  It is completely different to a lot of YA titles where my brain just goes into auto-pilot because most of the plot is set somewhere that is vaguely familiar.

Yet Martha Wells' story is not all action; but there's certainly no romance either.  In fact Wells offers something more interesting all together and that's the relationship between Emilie and Miss Marlende.  An apprentice and teacher bond forms between the two, Miss Marlende being a great example of a strong women who has a career and no time for smoochies.  It was interesting and somewhat refreshing to have not one but two characters who were not completely focused on the opposite sex.  This meant that these characters could be defined in their own terms, rather than those of what would impress the object of their affection.

If you've read Jonathan L. Howard's Katya's World (another great Strange Chemistry title that is all adventure and no romance) and fancy trying a bit of steam punk then give Emilie and the Hollow World a read.  I'm hoping this is the start of what could be a wonderful series.

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