*I received this book as an eARC from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
Author: Martha Wells
Year Published: 2013
Synopsis: 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.
Review: This book really surprised me. I mean, the description sounded really interesting to me, so I was already looking forward to reading it, but I got so much more than I expected from it. Emilie is not the strongest heroine out there, but over the course of her journey she grows so much and matures into a fairly strong young women. All in the course of a month or so! But I thought Wells did an excellent job with her development - it didn't occur too quickly and Emilie adapted very well to all of the situations thrown at her.
I really enjoyed the descriptions Wells gives about the Hollow World. I think it's so cool that there's a world with in a world (world-ception?), and the inhabitants of one world don't really believe that there are people who live in the other one. And then the two worlds collide, and it's super cool. I wish I could travel through aether currents and discover such exciting new things. Even as dangerous and scary as it was.
Steampunk novels have not really been my thing, and I don't actively seek them out. But I really though that this one was done very well. The steampunk parts are there, but they aren't overwhelming and in your face. Elements of steampunk are present in the science portion of the aether and the ships, but they serve as enhancements more than the main focus of the story, and I really appreciated that. Plus there's a little magic and sorcery thrown in, and I do love my science mixed with magic.
This was a super easy read. The plot chugs along at a pretty constant pace, and I never felt like anything was dragging or any descriptions were too long. It's a fairly simplistic story, and pretty predictable, but it was a nice change of pace from all of the epic adventure fantasy dystopian novels I've been reading recently. I do wish we had had more minor character development, but I know there's only so much you can have in a standalone. I think it would be easy enough for a younger audience to read, but that it's also engaging enough to keep an older audience engrossed in the story.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of science fiction/fantasy, and to people who are looking to get their feet wet in the steampunk genre. I think even fans of steampunk would like this book, even with its minimal steampunk content. I would give it a 3/5.