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Life, Law & Libros

Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells eARC (2.5 stars)

When I requested this title on NetGalley, I somehow completely overlooked that it was the second in a series. As the first book was not readily available and the publication date was fast approaching, I decided to read the book as was and review it based on its own merits. (Theoretically, books in a series, while enriched by their predecessors, should mostly stand well enough alone.) So, big disclaimer moment: I have NOT read the first book. This review is based on the second only.

This copy was provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells
Series: Emilie #2
Genres: YA, MG, Steampunk, Fantasy
Published on March 4, 2014
Published by Strange Chemistry
Final Rating: 2.5 stars

A Girl’s Own Adventure in the spirit of Jules Verne

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.

Emilie joins the expedition and finds herself deep in personal entanglements, with an angry uncle, an interfering brother, and an estranged mother to worry about as well as a lost family of explorers, the strange landscapes of the upper air, and the deadly menace that inhabits the sky world.

What I liked:
  • The "other life forms" are not at all humanoid or humans with pointy ears, and there are translation difficulties. You hear that Star Trek?
  • Emilie is an overall likable protagonist. She has young, impetuous moments, and smarter, calculated moments. She has emotional ups and downs, but it feels realistic instead of swinging from extremes.
  • The family themes/aspects. Emilie's family troubles are moved aside when more important matters arise, but the room for emotional growth and reconciliation was a nice touch.

What I didn't like:
  • I could mostly picture the world, and the descriptions are pretty good, but I wanted to know more about how the technology and the aether worked. Two possible culprits: Emilie doesn't know/care and/or the author explained most of it in the first book. Either way, I felt a bit in the dark.
  • The narration. Until a third of the way in, Emilie's perspective seems to play leap frog with a less personal, more removed third person perspective, and she fades into the background when too many other characters are present/speaking. After that first third, Emilie's voice and thoughts become more apparent.
  • Emilie's relationship speculation moment. We've just found out something major about the bad guy(s) and two pages later, Emilie is hoping that the doctor and his ex-wife didn't break up because he was still in love with Mr. So-and-so. I was like, wha? I know it was one paragraph, but it was jarring to me for several reasons: 1) I didn't read that in the doctor's dialogue. I was thinking, where did this come from? 2) It seemed out of place in a somewhat Victorian world, and 3) Emilie rarely wastes time speculating on other people's relationships. (She's usually too stuck in her own family drama, and romantic entanglements have even rarer appearances.) Why did she start now?

Final Thoughts:
On the one hand, I'd like to go back and read the first book and see if it fills in some of the information gaps. On the other, while the story was pretty well written and intriguing, I didn't get attached to any of the characters, which makes me a little apathetic about picking up another in this series. Still, if you like sky-ships or a Victorian sort-of steampunk with a dash of magic, you'll probably enjoy.


  1. Ooo, wow, you read this book without reading the first book - that is admirable! I'm glad that you weren't completely lost, but I'm sorry that you were missing the important groundwork in the story. I love historical fiction - especially during the Victorian era. Steampunk is really cool, especially Kady Cross's series. I probably won't be reading this series, but I'm glad I came across your review! Fantastic critique, Kel :)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    1. I am wondering how much of that background information appears in the first book...oh well. Like you said, at least I wasn't lost. (And it wasn't a horribly glaring omission. I was just curious for the full breakdown.)

      I've heard of Kady Cross, but I haven't tried any of her work yet. I'll have to track it down. You're very welcome for the review, and thank you for the book recommendation!