Book series – love ‘em or hate ‘em? In the past two decades, readers have been bombarded with a myriad of book series by authors attempting to emulate the success of J.K. Rowling. Book series work best when the author stays true to his characters, like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Series go down the tubes when the author, for whatever reason, strays too far from the behaviors associated with beloved characters. The aberrant final novels of Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries really pissed off her fan base.

Ransom Riggs is going for the gold with his Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. There’s plenty to recommend these two books. Riggs incorporates antique photographs to populate his books with characters. The characters are based on the images he discovered while combing through piles of old pictures, some of which are just plain weird or grotesque. New characters turn up in this book along with their delightfully strange portrait photographs. Riggs doesn’t limit himself to humans, and why should he? His unbounded creativity is what makes these books worth reading.

However he came up with this idea of using antique photos, it’s just plain brilliant. The old photos add a spooky, otherworldly quality to these books that just lures the reader inside the covers.

Hollow City picks up where the first book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, left off. Jacob Portman and nine other peculiar children flee from the monsters that invaded their island sanctuary. The children row boats from their isolated island to the shores of England at the time of the Blitz, September 1940, at the beginning of World War II. They struggle to make their way through perils and enemy pursuit to London, where they intent to find another magical headmistress to help them hide in another time loop. One London bombing changes their fates. Various emergencies and alarums ensue in the fast-paced action. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but it’s another cliff-hanger.

The author does a good job of sticking to his developed characters like glue. Each of the main characters is further developed through self-discovery, demands of relationships, and the tests they face in their journey. There’s enough descriptive writing to evoke locations and scenery, but not enough to make the story drag. It’s an adventure novel, so most of the writing is dedicated to conversations and action sequences. The fact that these “children” are actually very old people preserved in the bodies of children adds to their strange exchanges and reactions to events. Jacob is the only truly young person in the group, but he’s taken on the mantle of the hero and has to zap the bad guys. His learning curve is pretty steep through this book, and he’s getting better at spotting and nailing them. Nobody wants to get eaten by a monster! Jacob’s strongly motivated to figure out his peculiar powers.

Since the series targets young adults, these books will appeal to anyone who likes bizarre flights into the realms of fantasy fiction. It’s unlike any other series out there. The unique photo concept that helps the author push through creative boundaries. Once you escape into this series, you’ll be trapped with the peculiars in their strange world – and be thankful.

Highly recommended for readers that appreciate a high weirdness quotient.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Ransom Riggs
Quirk Books, 2014
pp. 396, hardback, $17.99

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