Emilie & the Sky World
There are many different kinds of adventure stories, and just as many variations to make them stand apart. In Emilie & the Sky World, Martha Wells presents a young female protagonist striking out to make her own way in life. This book is a sequel to Emilie & the Hollow World, so readers who have read that book will already know the steps that Emilie has taken toward independence. She has left the oppression of an overbearing uncle to find excitement and freedom working with a team of explorers. Through her previous adventure, she has discovered her self worth. She knows she’s capable and trustworthy, a travelling companion her fellow adventurers can rely on. But this time around, they are taking to the sky to travel to a realm plagued by mysterious, malevolent creatures, and along the way, Emilie must deal with the sibling rift between her and her brother. Through exploration, sibling rivalry and dangerous foes, Martha Wells weaves a tale that brings female adventurers to the forefront.
Now as a male reader myself, I really enjoy diving into a story where the leading characters are females. The sci-fi and fantasy stories I read are typically dominated by male casts or male leads, so it’s refreshing to see something different, especially when it’s well done. Emilie is the type of protagonist I find easy to get behind. She’s likeable, capable and courageous in just the right amounts that you can see yourself as the character. None of us our perfect, but an overly flawed character can often be too much of a hurdle to surpass. Through Emilie’s story, readers get to experience her wonder and accomplishment as she explores new realms and relationships. While this story revolves around exploration, the core of it is the relationships of the characters. Emilie must deal with the strained relationship she has with her brother Efrain. Reflecting that conflict, Emilie also notices the strained relationship between her fellow explorers. Miss Marlende and Professor Abindon quickly reveal a rift between them that mimics the one between Emilie and Efrain. Both pairs of characters notice the issues between each other which helps them recognize their own issues and overcome them. It adds a nice intricacy to the plot.
Adding some flavor to the book is the exploration element of the story. While the familiar aspects of family rifts and finding your own self-worth ground the book with something readers can relate to, it’s the introduction of the strange and bizarre that makes it all fun. Their trip to the sky world reveals weird flying vessels inhabited by fantastical beings. One of them turns into a major character in the book. Made of plants, roots and flower blooms, I couldn’t help but picture the character as Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. The coincidental characteristics really added to the fun of the character. Together, Emilie and the plant being are able to help out when things turn most dire.
Now at the risk of revealing too much, the villains of this story deserve some attention. To maintain some level of secrecy and mystery, I’ll refer to them as the ghost pirates, which is what Emilie ends up calling them in the book. The ghost pirates are used to maximum effect, disrupting the journey, throwing everyone into peril, and forcing Emilie to rise above and beyond to help her friends. It is in her pursuit to help those she cares for that she becomes the hero. She proves to her brother that she is not a helpless girl, but a fully capable and courageous adventurer. In turn, she also earns her right to be among the Marlende’s in their strange voyage. And hopefully all her hard work and accomplishments will pay off for another adventure yet to come.
As a young adult novel, Emilie & the Sky World is a book that appeals to a much broader audience. It can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Yet it’s also a book backed by a very diverse cast. With it’s cast of determined, capable women, it lends itself to the female audience. For those looking for people of color, almost all of the characters are non-white. Even sexual diversity is touched upon. Thus, at the end of the day, you get a story that not only explores new worlds, but the diversity of our own world without being heavy handed about it. It’s a great way to do it.
For readers looking for a fun exploration novel with a lead female character, Emilie & the Sky World is a great book to check out. The story delves into issues we can all relate to while also diving into the unknown and forcing us to wonder what we might do in such a situation. By creating such grounded, believable characters, Martha Wells makes it easy to slip into the shoes of the characters and see the situations through their eyes. As such, it’s a book that delivers entertainment and escapism, adventure and self-reflection. I give it a five out of five metal bikinis.