One of the books that helped me rekindle my love of reading was Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. Initially intrigued by the cover which had gone viral, I found both the premise and the concept fresh and exciting and coupled with Doogie Horner’s amazing book design, it was not only one of the best written but best designed books in its genre in many years.
Hollow City picks up where Miss Peregrine’s left off, with Jacob Portman and his peculiar friends barely escaping the island of Cairnholm, with Miss Peregrine incapacitated and constantly hunted by the wights and their grisly minions, the hollows.
Journeying across a Britain ravaged by World War II, the children stumble across news of a cure for Miss Peregrine, now trapped permanently in her bird form and with time running out for their protector, head for London, the Peculiar capital of the world.
With the introductions out of the way in book one, Riggs now has the time and scope to offer a much bigger story than he was previously, while also expanding on the characters and building on the mythology of the Peculiars. The pace has picked up significantly and while the original felt a little static at times, the opposite is the case here. There is rarely a lull as the children stumble their way in and out of danger in a much more linear fashion and although they have no idea of what will happen once they reach their goal, they continue to push forward faced with the truth that there is no going back. Tension is expertly created throughout, building to several life-threatening crescendos, its opus being a brilliantly devious twist at the conclusion.
It’s also a story about conflict, both internal and external with Jacob worried about the impact of his disappearance on his parents and his relationship with Emma, and the other peculiars torn between their sometimes misguided loyalties and doing the right thing when faced with adversity and the threat of death. What’s interesting about Riggs’ Peculiars is that they’re not treated as superheroes and they don’t act like them either. Each has distinct flaws and regardless of their age (some being hundreds of years old) at times they can still act like the petulant children they once were, largely due to being under the over-protective wing of Miss Peregrine for so long.
Once again the story is brilliantly enhanced by the eerie vintage photography, most real and collected by Riggs over the years (as was the case with book one.) The big difference here is that with Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, much of the story seemed driven and written around the photography. I don’t get that impression with Hollow City. It’s much more it’s own story and uses the images sparingly and to great effect in parts, while also building on the plot built around the ones used in book one and once again, this concept never feels gimmicky at any stage of the proceedings.
It’s a brilliant expansion of an inventive novel and although a darker and more grown-up affair which, to an old geezer like myself sometimes feels restricted by the Y.A. audience it’s aimed at, it’s a perfect companion to the original and one that will not only delight, excite and intrigue fans, but leave them with an uncomfortable (but hopefully curable!) case of the Heebie-jeebies.