Emilie & the Hollow World by Martha Wells

7/10 A lightweight YA story set in a really cool world with plenty of action.

Emilie & the Hollow World by Martha Wells is a well written fast paced book, very similar to a Jules Verne or H.G. Wells type of story. It has a "coolness" factor with airships and aether engines, and it is set primarily in the Hollow World - a world that lies hidden deep inside the surface world. It has cat-people, it has mer-people, it has sunken cities, and it does a very interesting take on day and night. It has all the ingredients that should make for a great story, but it just didn't work for me.

The story follows Emilie, a young girl who has run away from home and plans to live with her cousin across the other side of the sea. When she is spotted trying to stowaway on a cruise liner, she runs, eventually finding shelter on board a very large and unfamiliar ship. This is no ordinary ship though, and before Emilie can disembark the ship sets sail, raises some sort of bubble shield, and starts diving deep into the ocean. Their destination - the Hollow World, a world that exists on the inside of the planet. Their mission - save the professor and his crew trapped in the Hollow World. So much for living with her cousin.

This was fun, light, and easy to read, but there were two issues I had with this story. The first was that I struggled to empathise with the main character Emilie, who spent much of the book on the side-lines as events unfolded around her. I just didn't like her, I didn't like her motivations, and I didn't really care whether she got through to the end or not. That said, not liking a character is a completely personal thing and I think if you are able to identify or empathize with Emilie, you will really enjoy this book.

The second issue I had was that this book struggled to build an atmosphere, struggled to build suspense, and struggled to maintain tension. This may be a side effect of not liking Emilie, but I think it also had something to do with how short and fast paced the story was. Plot points just flew by with very little time spent to process the consequences of what just happened, or think about what might happen next.

Emilie & the Hollow World is a lightweight YA story set in a really cool world with plenty of action. I think young teenagers / tweens who are fans of action / adventure stories will probably get a good kick out of this story, but older teenagers and adults will probably be craving a little more depth and complexity in this story.

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