Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Series Review: The Hollow Earth Trilogy by Carole E. Barrowman and John Barrowman

Hollow Earth (Hollow Earth #1)

"'Are you like us?' Matt asked, turning away from Renard's gaze, 'Is that why Mum brought us here? Can you make your drawings real, too?'" - Carole E. Barrowman and John Barrowman, Hollow Earth, page 75

Hollow Earth introduces us to Matt and Em, twins with the ability to bring their drawings to life. Whilst the use of twin telepathy from the beginning with no introduction or explanation (I know lots of books and films use it, but I've never actually read anything that does before so it took a few lines before I realised that their telepathy was being treated as 'normal' because they were twins) annoyed me, I liked these two. Matt was your typical preteen boy- he was a bit rash sometimes which made him feel realistic. Em, on the other hand, was cautious and struggled to control her emotions. If she was scared, the world knew it. Again, this didn't make her weak or annoying, just real. The third member of their trio was Zach. Despite the fact that one of his abilities stank of plot convenience, he was an awesome addition to the cast.

I liked the novelty of their powers - the ability to summon things from drawings - and I was impressed by their flexibility. Matt was particuarly ingenuitive with his use of the Caladrius. 

Overall, I thought that this was a strong start to a series that 9-14 year olds will love.

Bone Quill (Hollow Earth #2)

"'Matt THINKS? This is so not a great plan, Em.'" - Carole E. Barrowman and John Barrowman, Bone Quill, page 73

Woah! If there was one thing that I was not expecting from this series, it was the ability that Matt and Em gained in this book.
That said, I found the first half disappointing. Despite the excellent adventure that Matt, Em and Zach had when they first used it, the new ability infuriated me a little bit (it seemed to come out of nowhere), and I ended up having to put it down for a few months due to exams and The Blood of Olympus.

When I picked it up again, everything got moving. How realistic the characters are struck me again in this one. Matt is rash. He doesn't always think before he acts. Instead of this being annoying, I actually found it heartbreaking, especially towards the end. No matter how hard he tried, he just kept making things worse, though this is partly because none of the adults ever gave him all of the information. The revelation at the end confirmed my worst fears. I know they say that they cannot bind a child, but it's impossible for me to do anything but worry about Matt. All I can think is, "They won't bind him...will they?" I feel terribly sorry for Em, seriously, this was a terrible book for her. Everything that happened seemed designed to destroy her. There wasn't nearly enough Zach in this book (I am totally biased because he's my favourite character, but still...). I loved the new additions of Solon and Carik, so I really hope that they team up with Matt in the next book. That doesn't mean that I don't want some focus to remain on Em and Zach though.

Above, I mentioned that the new ability infuriated me. It came out of nowhere, I mean, it's never happened to them before, so why now? By the end of the book, I realised that it was 100% necessary and, I'll be honest, this plotline has messed with my head in the same way that TimeRiders does, so I love it.

The end smelt suspiciously of plot convenience to me (I'm looking at you, Jeannie!), but I'm still really excited for the final book! Just don't bind Matt...please... 

The Book of Beasts (Hollow Earth #3)

"Someone nearby was out of time." - Carole E. Barrowman and John Barrowman, The Book of Beasts, page 9

The beginning was slow, the middle was AMAZING, and the ending was...anti-climatic.

Honestly, if the entire book had been like the middle, I would've given it five stars, no problem...but the way they dealt with the antagonist was just...well, it was so quick that I MISSED IT! It also ended remarkably abruptly and I was left wondering where the repurcussions were. I mean, Matt never tried to hide that the plot was all his fault, but I kind of expected a tense scene where the Council debated whether he should be bound or not. Obviously, I wasn't expecting him to be bound (this is a kids' book, after all), but I expected it to be considered.

*Takes a deep breath*

Aside from that, I did enjoy this book. I liked that Matt didn't try to blame anyone else (it's so refreshing when a character accepts responsibility for his/her actions). I also liked Carik and Solon - it was hilarious to see Matt try and explain 21st century concepts to them. I enjoyed seeing Em come into her own. Her brother might have been trapped in the middle ages, but there was NO WAY he was staying there. As for Zach, there was more of him in this book than there was in Bone Quill.

If you don't read this trilogy for any other reason, read it for the nostalgia - this book has walkie talkies. Walkie Talkies. I can't be the only one who remembers walkie talkies, right? Oh, and for the scene with the lightsaber. You do not want to miss the scene with the lightsaber.

Overall Thoughts

This series has an imaginative plot, well-drawn characters, and magical art skills. It's a strong middle grade trilogy. I'm quite suprised that it's not more popular than it is.

Have you read the Hollow Earth trilogy?