Quite a while ago now I read Martha Wells' most famous novel Death of a Necromancer and I was totally blown away (if you haven't read Death of a Necromancer stop reading this and go and buy it now!). I just wanted to exist in the world she created, and I was so devastated that her other books were not a direct follow-on (I think she has written some about the children and other descendents of the characters, but it's not the same...) I didn't read anything else by her, figuring I'd come back to her later. Well now I finally have and I am very pleased to report that I love her work as much as ever.
Emilie and the Hollow World is the first of two books I've read recently that have an exploratory maritime theme, both of which have been awesome. It is a fantastical re-imagining of Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth - the events and characters are largely different but the gist and feel of the story are the same. If you enjoy the great old Victorian adventure stories (Haggard, Verne and Conan Doyle) then this is definitely a book for you. It has all the rollicking adventure with none of the inherent sexism and racism that the Victorian stories unfortunately bring to the table.
Emilie is a 16 year-old runaway who accidentally boards a ship heading for the centre of the Earth. She is a fantastic character - vulnerable without being pathetic, capable without being unrealistic - somewhat like Phoebe in Vacant Graves. She was my favourite character, although I also liked Miss Marlende - the fiercely intelligent scientists daughter at the centre of the expedition to rescue her father.
Martha Wells creates a fabulous world, both on the surface and at the centre of the Earth. The journey accross the ocean at the centre of the world brought to mind The Odyssey and Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I particularly liked the ruined cities in the sea as I have a penchant for abandoned buildings!
When I reached the end of this book I didn't want to put it down and read something else, just like Death of a Necromancer I wanted to remain in this world. Martha Wells is a great author, and this is a great book which I highly recommend.