Review: Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells


Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publishing Date: March 2014
ISBN: 9781908844538
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2.5/5.0

Publisher Description: When Emilie and Daniel arrive in Silk Harbor, Professor Abindon, an old colleague of the Marlendes, warns them that she’s observed something strange and potentially deadly in the sky, a disruption in an upper air aether current. But as the Marlendes investigate further, they realize it’s a ship from another aetheric plane. It may be just a friendly explorer, or something far more sinister, but they will have to take an airship into the dangerous air currents to find out.

Review: I like the cover art. Gives it that old timey big top feel reminiscent of the Steam Punk genre/era.

The character development was scant in this “adventure”. Pedantic dialogue and petty emotions on display did little to develop the characters. About the first 40% of the novel is finding a mystery airship in the aether, flying to mystery airship, and boarding mystery airship. In between this slow boat to china, are the inner thoughts and emotions of Emilie. Emilie is about as deep as a kids wading pool. She runs around in awe of everything and then suddenly goes Bettie Davis on her brother. At no time are we lent a sense of processing that occurs at a deeper emotive level. Its all hyper-reactive, sudden and brash. You get no sense of the characters intent. The same can be said for most of the characters. There is this outward emotive quality that resides in negative form without developed qualities. Professor Abidon is a prime example. She is abrupt, negative and haughty. There is some history between her ex-husband and daughter, but no reasoning as to the emotions that boil. Put simply the characters lacked depth.

Emilie and her cohorts get lost in the aether and end up the targets of exiled aether beings whom can inhabit a human and influence the minds around them. As they are searching for their comrades on a derelict dirigible of alien design, they are shifted into a composite world with one of the remaining aliens. This alien resembles a walking plant with flowers, whom Emilie dubs “Hyacinth”. Hyacinth was fascinating in every aspect. From the form to it’s thought processes. This alien was the highlight of the novel. Now the bad news. Although the technical ability of the author is really good, the story-line for this particular installment was diminished by the lack of scope. The only analogy I can come up with is the movie “Speed 2: Cruise Control”. Somehow the author tries to create all this tension within the bounds of dirigibles and a place in the aether that is an amalgamation of other places. You can have all the crash, boom and banging you want, but if it resides in or around sedentary objects, it becomes overly complex because it lacks scope and movement. Take the Romulus Buckle series. Here we also have dirigibles but with movement to other places which translates to adventure. There is never this limiting presence of stasis. Even when Buckle is engaged in battle, the scenes shift constantly to expand the scope of the event, which summarily draws the reader in.

This was a real frickin’ snooze-a-thon. The target audience should be around 10-12 years old and not Young Adult. The author uses Emilie and her brother as a tool to engage the YA reader, but it is a scant attempt at an embedded genre where many authors are successful in the development of this panged age class.

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