Where Pride and Prejudice is witty and contains an elaborate plot and brilliant characters Emma's strength's lie in its critique of its character's actions. In that way while it is a very different story it is no weaker than Austen's more famous story. The writing, as is usual for a Jane Austen' novel, is rich and exquisite and the plot does not fail to disappoint either. The few flaws of the novel are perhaps in its pacing but that aside this is a very well developed novel and worthy of living on the shelving space of the classic.
The titular character, Emma Woodhouse, lives with her father and spends much of her time playing as a matchmaker. While she has no desire to marry at the story's opening she does intend to find her friend Harriet Smith a suitable husband. Although the reader soon observes that Emma in her matchmaking is no good friend but rather a selfish and vain woman who delights in seeing that everything is ordered according to her own desire and whim. And as a result Emma almost misses what was right in front of her all along.
What I find particularly interesting about the premise is how Austen portrays the apparent social need for a woman to be married. This is particularly interesting because of the fact that Austen herself defied convention in writing her novels. Women in her era were not meant to be so independent and they were certainly not encouraged to write stories. Although I believe her father may have encourage it but don't quote me on that yet I would have to do more research on Austen herself. But what I do observe is that while in Pride and Prejudice Austen creates a highly independent woman in Elizabeth Bennett in Emma she appears more to subtly comment on the role of women in her society. In particular the idea of how women were 'supposed' to marry in order to fulfil their purpose.
This is a highly interesting story although I believe the first half was stronger and certainly more enthralling. However Austen's prose is strong throughout the novel and certainly serves to create a wonderful set of characters and a setting. In many ways Austen's novel here is like an elaborate play with everything tying together neatly by the end.