Hollow City,Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

Book II of the All Souls’ Trilogy

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About:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.

Book Review

I’ve now finished the second installment of Ransom Riggs All Souls’ Trilogy, Hollow City.

I really found the cover of this book fascinating. It makes you wonder about the little girl on the cover; is she real, was the photo a trick of some kind. Ransom Riggs was a genius to come up with this concept.

As I opened the book, finding that the story began where the first book left off was something I enjoyed very much.  With the story still fresh in my mind, the journey continued and the momentum of the story remained consistent.

The POV seemed to jump around a bit more in this book compared to the other one, with the characters moving from one year to another, one place to the next. I was able to keep up, but at times, I had to go back and re-read a paragraph and even once, an entire chapter.

With that said, I still can’t say I didn’t enjoy the story. It was just as entertaining as the first by way of plot, and sub-plots. Even the twists were exciting and very unexpected at times. The photos were a wonderful addition and fit right in with whatever was happening.

Setting seemed sketchy at times and could have used more development. I know as a YA fantasy, spending a lot of time on setting is often frowned upon. The rule of thumb dictates that too much world building in a story such as this tends to slow the pace of the story down, causing the reader to become bored or uninterested in the book. However, because the scene moved between time and space so quickly, without some further setting development to help anchor the reader to a particular place and help identify with the character’s surroundings better, I found the lack of setting confusing, losing me often and making me frustrated with the story.  This could have been avoided by the author with an additional paragraph here and there to help.

In this book, you get to know the characters better, their peculiarity was explained more and used in their journey throughout London. The instant introduction of certain wights that you never really heard about until the second book was hard to follow, especially since a few of them seemed very important to the story plot.  Miss Peregrine’s brother’s (spoiler) appearance and what he was, was an excellent plot twist but needed more backstory.

My biggest disappointment was the character Emma and where her character arc was developing by the end of the second book. I really didn’t like this character too much, I found her annoying.  I love strong female characters, but they have to possess softer sides too to be realistic, and the author did attempt to show her softer side, but always with tears. This bugged me, unfortunately, because compassion isn’t necessarily all about tears for women.  I suppose the author wanted Emma to be strong and bossy and argumentative and brash and bold, I could go on, because there was a need for a ‘leader-like’ character in the story besides the Protagonist?  Sadly, by this point the Protagonist seemed to diminish beside this strong secondary character and the focus  wrapped around her ‘saving the day’ with her peculiar power. Of course, the secondary character’s job in a story is help push the Protagonist toward their goals and a certain degree of strength of character is needed for this, especially in this particular type of story, but the effort to display this, in my opinion, fell short of the mark.

It was great to see the Protagonist finally develop a spine towards the end of the book, but, wow, it sure took a lot of effort to see it and I was exhausted by the character’s doubt and inability to make a decision up to that point. And then, there was Emma leading the way.

Nonetheless, I was still hooked on the story. I was determined to like it because it was unique. I really tried hard to like the plot of this book and did like it in most cases, but there were times I was turned off by the appearance and explanation of certain story concepts (talking animal peculiars? Ummm) the author suddenly introduced without warning.  One moment there was a squashed hollow, the next there was a dog with a pipe (spoiler) who could talk, and… well, I don’t want to spoil it for you.

My thoughts about a trilogy, if it’s to be a true trilogy, is that characters introduced and used throughout the first book, must either continue through the second book, or be introduced and then killed off in the first. Otherwise,  something in the second book, must be hinted at or vaguely introduced briefly in the first to connect the books and continue the pace and flow of the story without losing the reader.  For example, if being peculiar isn’t limited to humans but extends to animals too, even if not really introduced until the second book, there should be something about this mention in the first enough for the reader to connect the dots when it is suddenly thrust upon the reader in the second book.

On any good day, animals that talk and project human quirks and behaviors must be written very carefully in order to be believable, or you’re going to lose your audience regardless of how they fit in the story. At this point for me, the story genre dropped from YA entertainment to middle grade. Shoving them into a story concept as far along as halfway through the second book of a trilogy is too big a risk to take with your readers.

When I’m reading a book and something like that happens, I would normally not finish a story because it completely lost me at that point. The saving grace for this particular author, was how well the story telling was in key spots. Sure there was an annoying bossy girl and animals that talked, but the rest of the story, especially the Protagonist’s growing relationship with the hollows was expertly written and held my attention. I love how the Protagonist came into his own near the end of the book.  I was even rooting for the talking animal at that point too.

I can only hope at this point, now that I start to read the third and final segment of this series that the author starts to tie-in loose ends and finish the development of several of the characters’ arcs.  I hope I don’t see them simply killed off because they were getting too complicated because this would be disappointing. With the use of a circle of secondary characters, simply cutting them out of the story would not serve their purpose and role very well and could affect the development of the Protagonist’s character arc. The Protagonist’s goal(s) may not effectually be reached if the author fails to use the secondary characters properly. Emma is not the only one who is affecting the Protagonist in this story.  So we will see. My expectations for the third book is very high.

I suppose trying to imagine how a being in a child’s body but who has lived (spoiler) for many decades would feel ending the life of something or someone, is difficult at best. However, the author in this series tends to portray children meant to be felt sorry for because of who and what they are and how they’ve been treated by ‘normal’ people, as methodical machines without feelings. It’s a fine line that can make or break a story when creating children that sometimes appear ruthless and unemotional, and appearing incapable of caring about the life they’ve taken while using “god-like” powers. A lack of responsibility in using their ‘gifts’ isn’t address initially in the first book so much as it is in the second and I can’t help but wonder if this may make the children more inhuman to the reader and unlikable? Perhaps, this is the author’s goal in making the peculiar secondary characters so inhuman that you love the Protagonist’s regular humanity more.   I’m certain this could be debated forever.

I am pleased how the second book finished and immediately grabbed the third book to start reading if not simply out of curiosity to see how the author deals with some of the issues I’ve mentioned.  So far, I’ve encountered even more characters that are new, a few more setting changes and a bit of confusion about some of the characters. Emma is continuing to tick me off and the talking animal that seems to know all, is really annoying.

I’m already half-way through it and expect to provide a final book review of the third installment of this series shortly. At the same time, I will also give an overall series review and rate the third book individually, and then rate the series afterwards.

For now, I give this book:

3-5_StarRating-3

 

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