Review: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

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4 out of 5 strange stars

Hoe. Lee. Crap.

This is the 2nd book in the Miss Peregrine’s series. I gotta tell you, the first time I read this book  I was very frustrated and didn’t enjoy it. I think this was for two reasons: 1. I was in a slump. 2. I was reading this image heavy book on an ereader that SUCKED at displaying images with writing on them. Damn you, technology! I got the final book in the series, actually, I got all 3 in physical form and knew it had been too long to just pick up the final one without re-reading the first two books. (I’m like that.) I still had some of the same problems with it, but the ending. Oh my God. I forgot all about the ending. Do not read unless you have already read the first one.

So we all know that Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar children are peculiar. And they have kept themselves safe from the dangers of the outside world inside Loops – special places were time has stopped, created by ymbrines – women who can turn into birds and control time. They are the natural protectors of peculiar children. It used to be prejudice and persecution that endangered the peculiars, but now it’s wights and hollowgast. Twisted by a failed experiment, the hollowgast consume peculiar children and evolve into the wights – white-eyed human-like monsters. And they aren’t done experimenting. The first time, they intended to use the ymbrines to cause some king of time shift, or something, I wasn’t entirely sure, but they wanted to make themselves into immortal god-like creatures. They believe the peculiars used to rule the world and want to take back what they see as their rightful place – and don’t care if they have to kill all the innocent peculiars to do it.

In the last book, Miss Peregrine was almost snatched by the wights, but Jacob and her wards managed to save her. During her rescue, Miss Peregrine was injured, and unable to turn back into human form. An ymbrine in such a state has only a few days to be healed, or she’ll lose her humanity and be stuck as a bird. Nothing the peculiar children has known is safe any longer, and they have to leave their loop and head out in search of help. And thus begins the journey.

I really felt it went on too long, with one earth-shattering action scene after another, and maybe I got a little battle fatigue. I felt the same way about The Hobbit, and Alice in Wonderland. Adventures for adventures sake can get to be a little much. I want the plot to have direction. Also, in the first book, the images, that are such a huge part of the narrative, felt organic and like an incredible addition, a big plus, alongside the story. In this one, the images felt like afterthoughts, crammed into the story that was totally unnecessary. I don’t want to ruin anything, but that startling image on the cover doesn’t even matter much in the story. And that’s frustrating. It takes you out of the narrative and lessens the impact of what’s pivotal .It’s an emotional moment, not a plot moment, and I wish it had been woven in and been a bigger deal.

That said, the writing is still gripping; scary when it should be, exciting during action scenes, and slows down just enough for important character moments. Riggs writing was great in the first one, except for the action scenes, where I would get a little lost, but that did not happen this time. He’s also great at getting the most out of the creepy moments and his descriptions are really good. My only other craft complaint is there are too many characters and they don’t have enough to do, especially as we go along and add more. I think we could have done without a couple. I couldn’t keep them all straight and even lost track of one or two in my notes, as 2 boys have names that start with H. They even left a couple by the wayside, which as a writer myself, I know that’s a way of cutting your losses. You either kill ’em or put ’em where they can’t get in your way.

I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t like the book – I really like the book. The world is unique. The whole series is unique. I remember after the hype started to come down, as it always does, some people were saying it’s just Mid-Century X-Men. I felt that Riggs took the superpower and made it more human. The kids aren’t all-powerful titans. They do some cool things on occasion, but it’s really their smarts in using their powers at just the right time, or teamwork, or loyalty that saves the day. It’s got a lot of charm and I really like Jacob and Emma, the two main characters. There is a good mix of female and male characters. (There are more boys in the group from Miss Peregrine’s but we meet more really well written female characters as we go along.) Bronwyn is a girl with super-strength. Combined with that is a motherly and protective streak, so she’s like a hammer wrapped up in a teddybear. I love that combination. That you can be strong and loving, conform to gender roles, and not. The kids also fight amongst each other, and push and question each other about how the ends will justify the means, or not. And it’s subtle. You find yourself fighting along with them. I often would say “Oh, if they could just do THIS it would be so much easier”…. but if THIS means acting like your enemies, is it worth it?

This war also plays out against the backdrop of World War II (I am sure hollowgast sounding like holocaust is intentional). It’s got some of the same themes, what with a madman willing to create genocide to put who he sees as the superior race on top. So this has a lot of great things to even out what I didn’t like, and the ending is full of twists and turns! I strongly recommend this if you like fantasy but are looking for something a little different.

 

 

 

 

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