Review: Hollow Earth by John Barrowman & Carole E. Barrowman

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.

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I picked up Hollow Earth because I loved the cover. Upon closer inspection, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it features twins… to be more exact, magic wielding twins who can manipulate artwork. I wasn’t aware until after I’d read the novel (and absolutely adored it) that the half of the brother-sister author duo, John Barrowman, is well-known among Dr. Who and Torchwood fans from his role as Captain Jack Harkness. The remaining half of this writing team, Carole E. Barrowman, may also be familiar, as she has authored five other book with John before Hollow Earth

This book reminded me, in a very good way, of Lisa McMann’s The Unwanteds. Both books focus on creativity and art as a means to combat dark forces and feature twins. Though the two books do have these themes in common, the execution and characters in Hollow Earth are unique… I never felt myself confusing details or characters and I wasn’t left with the impression that I’d read the story before.

Hollow Earth is nearly 400 pages long, but is an extremely quick read. The action was non-stop and the details and explanations about the magical gift the twins share never bogged down the pace of the novel. 

The title of the novel refers to the place where the dark, evil creatures of the world are banished, a place that few can access. Among those that have the ability to open Hollow Earth are, of course, the twins, making them a target for those who would use their power for their own nefarious gain. The stakes are high for Matt and Emily Calder: they must learn how to control and use their powers for good before they’re forced to use them for evil.

I highly recommend Hollow Earth to both MG and YA readers. It’s a quick, satisfying read that left me anxious for book two, Bone Quill.

Aladdin, October 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780385741293, 381 pgs.

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