Jan 29, 2014



Over a year ago, I reviewed Ransom Rigg's first novel about his misfit kids, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I did it for no other reason other than I found it an enjoyable read with some real emotions built upon the fond recollection of childhood love and nostalgia, so I thought I would share it with you. Strictly by happenstance, I later crossed paths with Quirk Books, the Philly-based publishing outfit responsible for bringing Miss Peregrine to the world. As luck would have it, they offered me the chance to review its highly anticipated sequel, Hollow City, and I happily accepted.

Hollow City picks up precisely where the previous story ended: Jacob, Emma, Bronwyn, and the other peculiar children are now stranded in the middle of the ocean in a few rickety rowboats, their only earthly possessions remaining a couple suitcases of clothes, a doorknob, and a book of fantastical stories. With them trapped by miles of ocean, and Miss Peregrine trapped in the small body of a broken-feathered bird, things seem entirely hopeless. Jacob's peculiar power as one who can sense the presence of a wight, or a hollow, or any manner of dangerous mystical predators, is not yet at this point fully formed, so he feels more isolated than ever: a little more than human, but not quite peculiar, he doesn't feel as if he belongs anywhere anymore.

Hollow City will see our peculiar children undertake several dangerous locations, from forests, to train stations, to the streets of London. And all during this, each of the children, who are now more in the forefront of the action unlike their previous novel, thankfully have more to offer about themselves and a bit of their histories. There's something strangely sweet about these children and how they protect each other in times of danger. There's a wistful kind of feeling to these kids that, depending on the reader, will make the reader recall their own childhood chums. Granted, said chums likely did not have the ability to shoot bees from their mouths, but that didn't make their presence or loyalty any less treasured.

And while Riggs continues to expand upon each of his characters, he also adds a few completely unexpected new ones. Books of this type taking place in an environment where nearly anything can happen can sometimes go off the rails. If there are no rules, it becomes literary anarchy. But Riggs keeps everything grounded using a nice assemblage of both emotion and humor. So when a talking dog shows up with a hat and pipe, just go with it, because this is how it goes in Peculiar Lanf.

One thing you may notice about Hollow City is that, while it's just as impressively written and realized as the previous novel, there's something about the prose that seems a bit more...I'm not sure...poetic? Melancholy? Perhaps it's simply the nature of the story that has left that kind of impression on me, but the events that guide the book along its path seem a bit more..I hate to use an overused word...dark.

The relationship between Jacob and Emma continues to intensify, but also bring with it complications. Theirs is not a typical love story, and even the normal boring folks out in the real world can hardly ever get it right. Riggs continues to effortlessly explore their budding romance; love has gotten all of us into all kinds of trouble, and so Jacob not only has to wrestle with who he is, who his grandfather was, and what his future may or may not entail, he's doing it while slowly falling in love with Emma, and letting that love guide much of his determination to press forward with this strange journey that he has begun.

Also present and accounted for is Riggs' use of antiquated photographs to tell his story. I've not done proper research into the writing of Hollow City because I'm a lazy bum, so I'm not sure if the photographs included here were written into the story they have indirectly inspired, or if they were created after the fact to continue this theme of found photography. Of course it's entirely possible that old photographs of, say, two zeppelins above a mountainous landscape, existed long before the realization of the book, but it still has me wondering, anyway. If nothing else, remember: Internet has connected us with more stories of the fantastic and incredible than any other medium; perhaps at one time, way before ISPs were ever a thing, people collected proof of the abnormal the old-fashion way: by taking a photo. Perhaps, at one time, someone really did have a photo of a boy holding up his sister by her hand...as she's suspended in the air above him upside down. Frankly, I'd rather not know the photos' origins, and it doesn't matter either way, as the story is simply too well-constructed and engaging. I suppose if you find yourself wondering for too long which came first - the photo or the story - then you're simply not being grabbed by all Hollow City is offering you.

No comments:

Post a Comment