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.
As the summary states above, Emilie has run away from home and blundered her way onto a magic-ish ship traveling the Aether (which is apparently a thing? I’ve read it in YA before). I liked the descriptions of the Hollow World more than anything (being a bit of a Jules Verne homage), and I liked the adults in the novel for being reasonable and fair (to an extent, of course). I also liked Emilie, because she doesn’t make a lot of stupid mistakes and she figures things out on her own. But for a really long time, I thought Emilie was maybe twelve or thirteen, a good age for a MG protag, but no, she’s sixteen. Her voice is very young, and the tone seems like it would work more for younger readers than the average YA crowd (this seems to be a common problem amongst adult authors making their YA debuts for some reason). Emilie also had very little personality, besides knowing when to shut up and being generally cautious and smart. She has no likes or dislikes; she just observes from a distance. (It reminded me of Wizard of Earthsea, which I hated, because it was all story, no character focus AT ALL.) This book was less about Emilie and more about the journey and the ships and the Aether, in my opinion. It seemed to be more about Dr. Marlende and Kenar than anyone else. Despite all that, I liked it, and I’ll read the next in the series, Emilie and the Sky World, when it comes out in 2014.
This one is a fast read, and the way the ships work sort of fascinated me, along with all the races of creatures they met along the way. I’d gotten through half of it before I realized it, and the plot never really suffers or slows down. The flow is very good. The only thing that suffers in this novel is character development and depth. Maybe that will change in the second novel. I’m willing to give Wells the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard for me to really give you the plot summary without spoiling things, so it’s better to read it yourself. It’s less than 300 pages, so get on it!