Hollow City – Ransom Riggs

Remember that time two weeks ago when I re-read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? Well, this week, I finished the sequel, Hollow City.

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.”

This book has been almost three years in the making, so a lot of people were really impatient for it (I wouldn’t say I was impatient so much as curious). I’m glad I decided to re-read Miss Peregrine otherwise I would have been completely lost, since it picks up literally seconds after the last scene of the first book.

I don’t know how I felt about Hollow City. I had mixed feelings after re-reading Miss Peregrine, so I think I felt the same way with this one. There were certain elements that I really liked: the peculiar children were given more personality in this one (sidenote: I wanted to punch Enoch in the face almost every time he said something, but I think he’s supposed to be the most antagonistic of the group. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns evil later), the new characters were the right blend of creepy and fascinating (mini spoiler: the girl on the cover is named Sam!), and there’s a pipe-smoking talking dog. You can’t go wrong with a pipe-smoking talking dog!

Addison, the talking dog.

I felt like this time around the photos were integrated (almost) seamlessly: there were still a few instances of “oh, how convenient we found a photo of an old woman with a chicken behind her” and then the next page was a photo of an old woman with a chicken behind her, but there were many more photos that were just thrown in like an illustration.

Of course, with both books, there was the odd photo that didn’t seem to have a purpose apart from Ransom Riggs just wanting to show it off, but it’s probably more difficult to build a book around photos than most people believe, so it’s forgiveable.

As for the actual plot: there seemed to be a lot of  running around, but not a lot of action, if you know what I mean. Like, a lot of “hey, let’s go in here!” and then they meet someone new who may or may not join in their adventure, but nothing big happens until the end when they realize (without spoiling anything) that the bad guys are closer than they think.

Also the whole time-travel thing can be confusing because it’s not always clear where (when!) in time they are. So make sure you pay close attention (even though sometimes he doesn’t actually say where/when they are).

Finally, the Jacob-and-Emma relationship continues to be the creepiest part of the plot for me, and she does not help when she says stuff like “I’m an old woman trapped in a girl’s body”. Way to make it weird, Emma (it reminds me of  Jane Eyre when Mr. Rochester was all “I’m old enough to be your father”, and that made it more awkward than it already was).

It’s still worth a read; the actual writing is very good (maybe too good given how foolish Jacob seems to be). I guess it’s a slow-building series, where there’s a lot of set-up and the third book is going to BLOW MY MIND. I hope, anyway.

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