Emilie & The Hollow World. Book Review

EmiliestheHollowWorld-144dpiEMILIE & THE HOLLOW WORLD by Martha Wells

Strange Chemistry. p/b. £7.99

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

Emilie’s aunt and uncle do not understand her. Just because her mother ran away to become an actress they automatically assumed that Emilie would ‘go bad’ too. Well, they were half right. Emilie is running away. Unfortunately it is not as easy as she first thought. For starters, you can’t get very far on an empty stomach, and second, you can’t fill a stomach if you have no money to buy food.

Emilie’s target is the Merry Bell, a steamer that she knows can take her away from her aunt and uncle’s assumptions and rules, away from repression, and away to her cousin’s home where there is hope of a job and a new life. But as Emilie is fast realising, her escape is not panning out as she planned. Hopes of the Merry Bell and an easy journey are whipped away and she has no option but to take her chances on a different ship.

Emilie’s plans go from bad to worse as her adventure takes her to a whole new world hidden deep inside the world she knows – the Hollow World. This is an adventure story that is easy to love, filled with strange sea creatures, aetheric currents, sorcery, locomotives, airships, mermen, betrayers, robbers, and enough excitement and grit-your-teeth moments to keep you hooked.

Emilie is a fantastic heroine given just the right blend of confidence and determination. She is practical and sensible, cunningly observant and gifted with a very quick tongue. She’s ever the optimist, always convinced deep down she is heading for something better despite the numerous difficulties and dangers along the way.  This is a take on the classic ‘girl in another world’ adventure story and Emilie’s quiet innocence adds to her appeal.

This character trait goes perfectly with the steampunk elements of the world, which are described in beautiful detail and are easy to visualise. The story is a little on the short side – good for the pace, not so good for those of us that like to wallow in other worlds for more considerable periods – but there is more than enough scope in the world and story for a sequel.