Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells0
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.
The cover of this novel is extremely beautiful. It looks so old in the way that it is designed, it reminds me of an old globe that my parents own and the sketches seem to fit in the era as well. It was actually the cover, I'll admit, that first drew me to the book in the first place. I'm the type of person that tries really hard not to judge a book by its cover but I end up doing it all the same. Most of my reviews have some sort of commentary on the covers that each book has. Well, it depends on whether I like it or not. Most covers seem to display some sort of art that depicts a key point of the plot and the reason I like this one is because it not only does just that but it also shows the story as well.
Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells is the story of Emilie (of course) as she runs away from her uncle's house in the hopes of finding a way to her cousin who lives in a big city. But nothing goes according to plan as her attempt to sneak aboard a passenger steamer is interrupted and she is forced to find a different ship that will hopefully take her to where she desires to go. Sadly, the ship she finds herself on isn't headed to another city but rather to another world entirely. A world within our world. Magic abounds as she takes this journey through the sea and into a place that no one has ever dared explore before. Well, except one man, Dr. Marlende. Now it is a race against time to find him and escape a world that seems desperate to keep them there forever. Even with their allies, it seems like the odds are stacked against them. Will they be able to rescue everyone? How will they make their great escape? What are they up against? And who seems determined to keep them stranded in a world that is not their own?
Emilie is the main character of this story. Her stubborn nature and desire for adventure seems to get her into a lot of trouble while she lives with her uncle. It seems like they are just waiting for her to up and disappear just like her mother did around her age. Determined to not be stuck in a dead end life, she makes arrangements with her cousin, someone who seems to think she can help her find a better life. She acts without thought, rash in everything she does, and that leads to her losing most of the money meant to pay for her passage to where her cousin lived. That then leads to more rash decisions that end up in her diving off of one ship and swimming toward another. She finds herself stuck in a place where her rash decisions have left her without much choice. As the story continues, she seems to gain a handle on her need to act without thinking and becomes a much better planner than she was before. This change definitely was lifesaving for her. I actually love her stubbornness though, especially when during that time period women were definitely not allowed to have opinions or go on adventures. Her stubbornness is an admirable quality, something that a lot more people should have had. I can tell that she has an adventure's heart and I like to think that I have one too. Without it, I think this story would've been a lot more boring.
One character that grew on me over the course of the novel was Lady Marlende, who originally came off as a stuck-up princess type. She originally seemed like she wanted nothing to do with the young stowaway and she was solely focused on finding her father. I wasn't sure she even fit in with the story outside of being a little annoying and not worth much notice. But she seemed to grow on me as she allowed Emilie more into her circle of trust. I admire her strength in the face of trouble, how she manages to hold her head high and not look affected, and the way that she carries herself even around men. No suppression will be found while she is around, which I think also encourages Emilie to act the same. I noticed that she is protective of her as the story continues, trying to shield her from the dangers that this strange world holds. This protectiveness causes the two of them to but heads occasionally with neither one completely happy about the outcome. They end up become good friends for each other despite their similarities and their differences.
I continue to have mixed feelings about Lord Engal and his involvement in the story. I can't decide whether he was actually a good guy or just a guy who pretended to be decent so that people trusted him. Honestly, I think that some people felt the same way that I do but they had no choice but to trust him since he was their only real hope at finding the missing explorers. As the journey continues, I think he showed that he was a good man, although misguided in his beliefs about women and the usefulness of Kenar in finding those who are missing.
Kenar was introduced at the beginning of the story but he never came off as scary or anything outside of normal during his time with Emilie. She even seemed to describe him as attractive in his own non-human way which is more than I can say for most of the male characters in this story. I was kind of disappointed when I found out he was taken by another of his kind. Don't judge me but it would've made an interesting love story. Feel free to ignore my love-sick girlish ramblings. He was a very strong character that had a lot of compassion for Emilie as she struggles to find herself on this journey to a place she's never heard of with people she's never met. He is perhaps the most understanding character in the whole novel and that is what makes him so likable. Now, really I do think Rani is a wonderful woman, perfect for Kenar, and I've come to accept their relationship after the story was completed. But I will still stubbornly keep to my foolish fantasies. Anyway I think she came into the story at the perfect moment, becoming somewhat of a big sister figure for Emilie as she went through the hardest part of her journey. I admire her a lot because she isn't the typical type of woman that you expect to read about which threw me for a loop. She is amazing though and her differences is what makes her such a great character to read about.
Lord Ivers kind of seemed like some mysterious bad guy that seemed to scare people just by mentioning his name. To me, he seemed like some invisible nuisance that wasn't worth my time and energy. His story was one that I wish the book would've explored better because I always want to know the bad guy's background more than the good guy's. Bad people have more interesting stories anyway. The Mer People, in particular their Queen, were the bad guys that lived in the Hollow World and definitely caused quite a bit of trouble for the adventurers. I think they were just selfish creatures who wanted others to do their work for them instead of doing it themselves. They had the opportunity to actually be decent people but this dark desire corrupted any hope of being good.
The world itself was beautiful but I didn't really get to see much of it and I wish I would've gotten to explore that world better. Overall, I think the story was a pretty good read and an accurate portrayal of how things used to be.