Review: Hollow Earth by Carole & John Barrowman

Sunday, January 19, 2014

| | |

Hollow Earth by Carole and John Barrowman 

Release Date: October 30th, 2012 
Publisher: Aladdin 
Age Group: Middle Grade/Young Adult (could go either way) 
Pages: 381 
Source: Library 
Series: Hollow Earth (#1) 
Other Titles in the Series: Bone Quill (#2) 

Summary ( Imagination matters most in a world where art can keep monsters trapped—or set them free.

Lots of twins have a special connection, but twelve-year-old Matt and Emily Calder can do way more than finish each other’s sentences. Together, they are able to bring art to life and enter paintings at will. Their extraordinary abilities are highly sought after, particularly by a secret group who want to access the terrors called Hollow Earth. All the demons, devils, and evil creatures ever imagined are trapped for eternity in the world of Hollow Earth—trapped unless special powers release them.

The twins flee from London to a remote island off the west coast of Scotland in hopes of escaping their pursuers and gaining the protection of their grandfather, who has powers of his own. But the villains will stop at nothing to find Hollow Earth and harness the powers within. With so much at stake, nowhere is safe—and survival might be a fantasy.

My Review:

Let me tell you the story about how I came to read this book. It was on the Children’s  truck I was routing in at work and the first thing I noticed was the cover. It’s hard to ignore a giant stag crashing through a window. I next noticed that the kids were holding a book and STUFF was coming out of it. I knew right then that this book would be interesting so I read the inside cover and decided that I had to read it because the idea that two kids could bring art to life sounded amazing to me. I then wondered who had come up with this brilliant idea and proceeded to check the back flap to see the author’s bio because until that moment I had failed to look at even the author’s name. It was at that point that I started yelling “John Barrowman. John Barrowman?! AS IN CAPTAIN JACK HARKNESS OF DOCTOR WHO FAME, THAT JOHN BARROWMAN?! JOHN AND HIS SISTER WROTE A CHILDREN’S BOOK AND I AM JUST FINDING IT NOW?!”  Needless to say I got quite a lot of looks and several “why are you shaking your fist and yelling Barrowman?” and, of course, I decided to check the book out as soon as my shift ended.

            Hollow Earth was a breath of fresh air for me. I had been looking for a kid’s fantasy book that would excite me, leave me guessing, and stay in my head and heart forever. Hollow Earth is that book. I loved everything about it, from the characters, to the plot, and from the dialogue to the setting. The main characters are twins, Em and Matt, and their new friend Zach. All three of them have their own abilities and personalities, which makes them extremely enjoyable to read about. The dialogue as well as the prose of the rest of the novel is beautifully written and engaging. I love how seamlessly the Barrowmans wrote together and would love to know their process. I could clearly see how much their sibling relationship affected the characterization of the twins. Sometimes in twin novels the characters don’t really seem to be related let alone twins, but in Hollow Earth it was plain to see and I think the Barrowman relationship is the reason. The setting for most of the book is a tiny island off the coast of Scotland. Besides the main concept, this was my favorite part because it felt like I was there. I could see the island and hear the distinct dialect of the locals.

When embarking on writing a fantasy, especially for kids, it is important for the magic to be explained in a way that is both exciting and thorough so that it doesn’t either bog down the story or leave readers confused. The Barrowmans were able to do this in Hollow Earth by splitting the story between the main characters’ current timeline in which they themselves learn about the ideas of the Animare (people who can bring art to life) and flashbacks to the Middle Ages that tells the most important story of Animare history, one which affects the current story. The complex history behind the Animare and the Guardians that make sure they stay safe is extraordinary in its depth. It has everything it should including political strife and the historical background with the Middle Ages time line but also by making some of the world’s most famous artists into Animare themselves as a way to integrate us into their world.

I truly cannot praise Hollow Earth enough. I encourage you to find a copy and read it. You might be drawn in by John Barrowman’s name on the cover, but the premise and the well written prose will keep you on the edge of your seat until you beg for the sequel!