Friday, February 14, 2014

Fiction Friday (25)

Welcome to Friday, the day when I review books that I've read recently. This week is a rare event as I'm reviewing a book that is still new, well, a month old. In the past year, I've read several newish novels that have grabbed me in a way few books do and have quickly become among my favorites. One of those books was Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. It was such a creative story, and so well executed, that it was certainly one of those books that when I was done, I thought why couldn't have I written that? Luckily the story didn't end with that novel and I was once again able to enter the land of Peculiardom and get lost in it's tales. Enjoy.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
(Quirk, 2014)

The long awaited sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was released a few weeks ago, and I did something that I rarely do, I went out and bought it the day it came out. The first book blew me away when I read it last year, and I just couldn't wait to read the second one. Hollow City picks up where the first one left off, with the Peculiar Children being tossed around at sea after fleeing their now destroyed home. From there, it's a nonstop adventure as they navigate Wales during the middle of World War II, trying to avoid the monstrous hollows who hunt them at every turn.

Essentially this novel is the story of a single journey of purpose as the children desperately try to save their injured ymbryne. With most of the Time Loops now raided by the wights, and nearly all of the ymbrynes captured, the children must hope against hope that they will find Miss Wren, the only other ymbryne who has not been captured. She is the only one with the power to save Miss Peregrine and the children will stop at nothing to find her.

Their journey takes them to a forgotten loop consisting of peculiar animals, a deadly run-in with a gypsy caravan and wight soldiers, a raided loop hidden in St. Paul's Cathedral, and finally to a frozen building located in an old vacation loop. The action is suspenseful and extremely well written, and it was nice to see the children using their powers in creative ways to meet the challenges facing them. And as with the first novel, their interactions were at the heart of the book. It's sometimes hard to carry such a large cast and still have each character stand out, but this book accomplishes that extremely well. It even introduces a wonderful selection of new peculiars with equally intriguing powers.

While I couldn't put this down at times, and read it very quickly, I have to confess that I didn't love it quite as much as the first one. It's not that the story wasn't compelling, because it was, my problem with it was simply that it felt like a book whose purpose was to bridge two other books, the one that came before and the one that is to come after. The characters went from point A to point B, and though a lot of exciting things happen along the way, it felt that very little was revealed about the peculiar world beyond what the reader already knew. One of the things I truly loved about the first one was the scope of imagination used to establish this strange new universe. However it should be said that now that you are in it, it is no less fascinating. And there is a brilliant unexpected twist toward the end that really pulls the whole book together. One of the great things about this plot twist is that it didn't just come out of nowhere. After it is revealed, it becomes clear that it was perfectly set up all along.

Another thing that maybe pulled this down a little for me was the relationship between Emma and Jacob, which beautifully blossomed in the first book and contained all the excitement of young love. It felt slightly stagnated this time around. It wasn't ignored, it did evolve and change, but for whatever reason, I didn't feel as though the characters were as invested in it this time around. That's sort of true of Jacob in general. A lot of his emotional reactions felt as though they didn't carry a honest punch. Conversely, I loved how Olive (the girl from the cover of the last book) became an important character, and an enjoyable one as well. And as I said before, the ending of this book is outstanding. Needless to say, I'll be eagerly waiting for next book. Oh, and the teaser picture of it on the last page is eerily perfect.

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