Hollow Earth: a review

Title: Hollow Earth
Author: John and Carole E. Barrowman
First published: 2012
Language: English
Pages: 326
Rating: 3,5/5

This book is about the twins Matthew and Emily Calder, who are 12 years old, and who can make their, and other people’s, art come alive. They live with their mother, Sandie, in London. A little while before they turn 13 they are attacked at their house by two people who want to use their powers for evil. They run away to Scotland to their grandfather, Sandie’s father-in-law, Renard. Renard is a Guardian. They are people connected to people like Matt, Em and Sandie, Animare, who look out for them and can calm them down. Matt and Em’s father, Malcolm, is also a Guardian, which make Matt and Em extraordinary, even for Animare. They stay with Renard, his students Mara (an Animare), and Simon (her Guardian), and Simon’s son Zach. The people who are after Matt and Em keep coming and they keep trying to get them. They want to find Malcolm again, and unlock the secret of Hollow Earth, a sort of purgatory for fables and strange creatures.

Matt Calder is 12, he has a twin sister, and he grows up with his mother. He is just on the brink of teenagedom, and he is angry, mutinous and annoyed with his mother. He wants his father, and he feels like his mother is lying to them. He is adventurous though, he is fun, and he’s strong. He grows slightly through the book, which is good, development is good, growth is good. He has a very strong moral, and he is very connected to Em, which is nice. I always like it when authors manage to write convincing relationships that aren’t necessarily romantic relationships.

Emily Calder is Matt’s twin sister and goes by Em. She is calmer than Matt, not as annoyed and not as angry. Her Guardian side is more developed than Matt’s and she’s better at understanding emotions and reading people than her brother. She is sweet and excitable, and I like her relationship with her mother and Matt, and Zach for that matter. I quite like the fact that her dreams sort of come to life, although it seems to be put in as an afterthought, and only to make the story more interesting.

Zach is Simon’s deaf son, he is a couple of years older than the twins. He is computer savvy and a Guardian, like his father. Zach is sweet and kind and he is willing to go along with Em and Matt’s schemes. He develops a really cute relationship with Em.

The adults are interesting. They are more than just random people in the background who act as drivers or banks. They have actual storylines and they are important to the story. Predictably the bad guy is a grown up, and they weren't as interesting as I wanted them to be. So that was a bit annoying. Anyway, Simon and Vaughn were interesting, and sort of well-rounded, so that's good.

What I thought
Gah. I don’t know what to say, well I do, I’m trying to not be mean. I like the concept; it’s interesting. The story moves along and there’s action. The characters are likeable, and good. Like the newspapers said, it was good use of mythological creatures that aren’t as known, so that was cool. The adults aren’t only there to be transport or banks, they’re actually important to the story.

The things I don’t like is that there is no actual world-building. Even though I’m done with the book I’m still not entirely sure how the animating power works, and what the limitations are. It seems to work whenever they need it, and in however way they like it to work, which annoyed me, they need to make limitations or there is no excitement. Also the pacing was completely weird, there was no tension, stuff just kept happening, and being resolved, and Oh God. I need some of it to be explained, no infodumping, but some information and explanation would be good.
Another thing that bugged me was that there was no clear narrator, and that the voice kept jumping back and forth from person to person, within the same chapter. And the chapters were tiny. It was really hard to keep track of who was actually telling the story. It just needed some editing, and a clear voice. It sounds like I’m nit-picking, and “for God’s sake it’s only a children’s book,” but it’s very annoying, and it makes it horrible and hard to keep up with the story. It also seems like an easy way out to me. You haven’t got to keep to one person, or to one schedule. It’s a bit like telling us instead of showing us. And showing is more interesting than telling. I realize it’s a children’s book, but you still need to write good books for kids, and not make it easy for them. OH GOD! Ranting? No.

I wanted it to be good, because John Barrowman. Also the premise sounds awesome, the cover is absolutely gorgeous, I wanted it to be good. And it just didn’t live up to expectations. And I don’t know whether or not I’d like to read the next one, I might, it just annoyed me. It has good points, and all, but I wanted it to be better, and I feel vaguely mean for saying it.