Review: Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells

April 13, 2013 Review 7

Review: Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha WellsEmilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells
Published by Strange Chemistry on April 2, 2013
Genres: Historical, Steampunk, Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
Source: NetGalley
Sexual Content: None.
Reviewed by: Julia
3 Stars

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.

An adventure of the purest form, EMILIE AND THE HOLLOW WORLD has stowaways, mysterious lands, foreign strangers, saboteurs, and intrigue, all flavored with just the right amount of magical steampunk technology.  Though the pacing was choppy in the first few chapters, alternating between action and large chunks of exposition, once Emilie finds her place on this crew of adventurers and scientists, the story takes off.

Reminiscent of GREAT EXPECTATIONS or TREASURE ISLAND, Emilie is an intrepid youngster making her own way through the world.  Emilie, however, very quickly takes a central role in the action.  Believably or not, this heroine solves mysteries, plans jail breaks, and keeps pace with the adventurous adults around her.  As much as I enjoy adventure for it's own sake, I need some romance or character growth to keep me anchored in a story.  Though Emilie is brave and resourceful, she doesn't change much from the adventurous girl who ran away from home at the book's opening.  And while Emilie is sixteen-years-old, this book reads more like juvenile fiction than YA.

Age and romance have little bearing on this story, focusing instead on the politics and personalities of the various crews that collide.  This intermixing of competing adults was one of my favorite aspects of the story, if only because it lent some much needed credibility to the way Emilie integrates herself on the ship.  Despite face paced adventure, the resolution of the action plot alone wasn't enough to get me invested in these characters, and that lackluster connection ultimate brought my rating down to 3 bats.  EMILIE AND THE HOLLOW WORLD is perfect for younger readers, however, and anyone who can appreciate a good adventure all on it's own.

Series Titles:


More Reviews:

The Book Smugglers - 4/10
Birth of a New Witch - 4/5
Book Yurt - A-

Similar Titles:

All Men of Genius by Lev A. C. Rosen - 5/5
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

7 Responses to “Review: Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells”

  1. Bibliotropic

    I keep seeing so many mixed and less-than-happy reviews for this book. I haven’t read it yet myself, but from everything I’ve been reading, it seems like it won’t hold up to other things that I’ve read by Wells, and that’s a shame. I had such high hopes for this novel. Still going to read it, but at least I know better what to expect when I do.

    • Bibliotropic

      Yeah, I hold off on reading reviews until after I’ve written mine (it’s a fun calibration check, and I love finding someone who sees something I missed), and my impression from the mixed reviews is that this is solidly a juvenile novel. I think we’re used to YA books that resonate on an adult level, but this is a fun adventure story that is 4 stars for kids but 2 or 3 stars for grown ups.

  2. Chris

    You had me at the comparison to TREASURE ISLAND, Julia. Definitely picking this one up for the kid. Plus that cover is gorgeous!

  3. julia

    I shouldn’t comment before my coffe, that was me replying up above, not Biliotropic holding a conversation with herself.

  4. James Ramsey

    I’ve heard mixed reviews about this one. Maybe it has to do with the choppy start you mentioned. Thanks for the new perspective. I recently found your site and love the layout and honest reviews. Looking forward to more.