Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Hollow City Review

In 2011, I read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. In all honesty, I don't remember much about the book and I read it before I started this blog so I had to turn to the internet for the plot. Essentially, in the present time, Jacob Portman visits Wales to investigate his grandfather's mysterious past (after the old man's death). He ends up meeting the Peculiars, children with special powers, who are protected by a ymbryne (a witch of sorts) in a time loop (where one day happens over and over to act as a sort of haven for these children). He ends up back in 1940, where he learns that he is also a Peculiar, one who can see "hollows" or "hollowgasts". Again, I don't really remember all the details here but hollows hunt Peculiars and are controlled by Wights, creature who appear human but have white eyes. Jacob gets to know the other children and becomes attached to them to the extent that when he learns they are in trouble, he knows he can help. Apparently Peculiardom is threatened by these Wights who want to use the Peculiars in dreadful experiments. Jacob is able to save his friends from an encounter with a hollow but when they return to the time loop, they find that Miss Peregrine, their ymbryne has been kidnapped. The children attempt to rescue her, leading to a showdown in (or around, I can't quite remember) a submarine. At the end, they rescue Miss Peregrine, find she is stuck in bird form and they need another time loop or they will all start ageing forward and eventually die.

Thus begins The Hollow City. The children row their way from the island they lived on to the mainland, threatened by bad weather, rough seas and attacks from wights (in the form of soldiers). I think they are currently in the 1940's. Once they make it to shore, they are still chased until they manage to find another loop with the help of a set of Peculiar fairy tales that suddenly come in handy. They wind up in Miss Wren's loop and meet her strange menagerie, but Miss Wren has gone off to London to investigate the disappearances of her fellow ymbrynes and the attacks on other loops and Peculiars. Without another ymbryne to change Miss Peregrine back, she will become stuck forever as a bird and revert to an animal state. Most of the children decide to forge ahead to London, not knowing what they will find there. Along the way, they continue to be chased. They wind up with a band of gypsies for a bit, are captured by Wights in disguise as soldiers (it is the 1940s) and end up taking a first class train to London. There, they need to follow clues in the fairy tales to find Peculiar pigeons that will guide them to Miss Wren. Of course, London is being pummeled by the Blitz at the same time, making their journey even more dangerous. Along the way, they encounter other Peculiars, including some who survived an attack on one of the London loops. With their help, they are able to get into a strange loop, dominated by a carnival where Miss Wren has been hiding out and gathering Peculiars from around the world to build an army.

There, the children learn the extent of the Wights' plan. All Peculiars have a second soul, from which their power emanates. The Wights are removing the second soul (this part reminded me a lot of severing the link between children and daemons in The Golden Compass) and using it to feed hollows so they can gain access to the loops (any "normal" without a second soul who attempts to go through a loop will wind up insane). I don't quite understand what the Wights' endgame is. Maybe I missed something in there but I'm sure all will be revealed in the third book. The Hollow City was entertaining even if the whole book seemed to be kids on the run (sort of akin to Frodo and Sam in The Two Towers and The Return of the King). It dragged a bit in places and as I said earlier, I really wished I remembered the first book in the series better or that I had waited to read them until all three were out, but I'm interested in continuing. By the end of this book, Jacob has come to terms with and learned more about his power (he can tame hollows to some extent) and is on the run with Emma and a talking dog (Addison, I think) to try to free the rest of their friends and save the ymbrynes and Peculiardom.

The most intriguing idea behind these novels is that they are inspired by vintage found photographs that sprinkle the books themselves. I put a link to an article about the photos below. The cover of all the books and the images inside are all photos that the author started collecting at flea markets about three years before he started writing Miss Peregrine. He wasn't sure what to do with them, initially considering something like Edward Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies, but his editor suggested using them to write a novel. Eventually he worked with other found photography collectors to gather even more images. For the first novel, he looked at 100,000 photos, pulled out 300-400 that he wanted to use and narrowed that down to 44 that appeared in Miss Peregrine. The pictures are strange and sometimes disturbing but Riggs manages to weave the images into the story in a way that makes a lot of sense even if I sometimes didn't want to look at the pictures for too long. I'll definitely read the third book, especially to see the images, although I hope there isn't as long of a gap between novels this time around.

Found Photos Article 

Ransom Riggs' Website 

Buy on amazon and Barnes & Noble

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