The original review can be found at The Founding Fields, here.
Shadowhawk reviews Martha’s latest for Strange Chemistry.
“This is an action-adventure novel that is very reminiscent of Jules Verne’s classic, A Journey To The Center of The Earth. Hence, my conclusion is that the novel is a work of genius.“ ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
Emilie & The Hollow World is one of the most exciting novels I’ve read in a good while. It is extremely fast paced, and the characters are a sheer delight to read about. It is not often that a novel has me giving it high praise, and Martha Wells’ upcoming novel is one of those rare few novels. At its heart, the novel is an adventure to an unexplored world, with lots of magic and a dash of Victorian steampunk thrown in for good measure.
Martha Wells begins the novel right in the middle of the action as we meet Emilie along the docks, hoping to stowaway on a ship headed to the Silk Harbour, where a cousin resides and with whom she expects to live a better life than she has had under the tyrannical grip of her Uncle Yeric. It is kind of how things might have happened had Harry Potter left the Dursleys behind and gone on to his adventures without any ties to them. From there on, we are treated to one rapid-action scene after another as she finally manages to stow away on a ship, but not one headed to the Silk Harbour. This one is headed to the Hollow World, a world hidden from the normal world (the repetition there is unfortunate on my part), and this is when the narrative kicks into Journey To The Center of The Earth mode. New sights, new sounds, new people, new environment; quite simply put, it is a pleasure to read as things unfold, mysteries are revealed, and we are treated to some non-stop action-adventure in a world beyond Emilie’s own, but yet a part of it.
Emilie & The Hollow World is a novel that has no cons to it, everything is in its favour, beyond the fact that sometimes Emilie comes off as someone much older than she is meant to be, but that is a very small point that I do not hold against the novel.
To start off, the characters are all excellent. We have Emilie herself, the protagonist. Accompanying her are Ms. Marlende, Lord Engal, Kenar, Dr. Barshion and several others. They are all part of an expedition headed into the Hollow World to save the lives of Dr. Marlende, the father of Ms. Marlende, and his crew members who encounted unexpected troubles within the other world. Emilie happens to be an unscheduled passenger on the trip, and her age and status both mark her out from the rest of the cast. What I really loved about the characters was that they were all realistic, believable, and they behaved as I would expect them to behave. There were no stupid moments in the book, no moments of inexplicable irrationality. The book is told from a third person point of view, and I think that this fit the nature of each of the characters. Emilie is always the main viewpoint character regardless, and so we see things coloured from her perspective, which makes for some rather interesting commentary throughout the novel.
The world-building is quite good. Given the other-worldly nature of the Hollow World, I wanted there to be unexpected dangers for the crew of the relief ship, for them to meet strange and new people, a new culture that none of them had any experience with. And that is what I got out of the novel! Kenar in particular made for a really great character, being the crew’s guide into the Hollow World since he is a native, one of the Cirathi (a culture of explorers). With both him and Emilie, we see a lot more of the Hollow World than would have been possible otherwise I think, and I enjoyed every moment of it.
As I’ve said, the pacing is non-stop and there is constant action going on in the novel, and lots of mysteries converging at the same time that make Emilie & The Hollow World a really great read.
Also, as a final point, another thing to love about the novel is that the magic system never requires a length of explanation. Most of the characters take it as an accepted fact, and the reader is never bogged down with long info-dumps on how it holds the world(s) together. It is also not the typical wizardly/witchy magic, but something more different, something that is a mix of both pure magic and science, which is where the steampunk elements come in to add more depth and diversity to the world.
In short, this is an excellent novel, a sure-fire hit, and I recommend it quite highly.
More Martha Wells:
- Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion #1: Razor’s Edge (Review)