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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (Peculiar Children, #2) - Book Review

3.5/5 Stars

September 3, 1940.

The peculiar children flee an army of deadly monsters.

And only one person can help them -- but she's trapped in the body of a bird...

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Edition: Paperback
Pages: 396
Chapters: 13
Publisher: Quirk Books

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Amazon
                      Author's Website

Review

Hollow City proves to be a worthwhile sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, continuing its fresh trend of mixing vintage photographs with a supernaturally charged story. In a lot of areas I have to eat the criticisms I made in my review for the previous entry, but, sadly, new ones crop up in this adventure.

We have an enjoyable experience marred by some infuriating plot holes. Part of me doesn't think they're that big, but as they're holes that pepper the world's mechanics, it's sometimes hard to bridge the leaps in logic.

I might have to chew on my words again after I read the final novel, but part of me feels trying to fill these gaps might lead to further trouble...

SPOILER WARNING

Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

Trapped in 1940 during World War Two, Jacob Portman is living his best dream and most horrific nightmare.
Just as he finds a place he feels a part of, he and the other peculiar children are on the run from an army of monsters.
But they're not without a plan.
Intent on finding hope, they turn to Miss Peregrine, their powerful guardian.
Only, Miss Peregrine is trapped in her bird form, unable to do more than watch as her wards inch closer and closer to death...

Plot - 3/5 Stars

Hollow City starts off strong, picking up where Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children left us. As our cast makes their way to London, Riggs creates some vibrant events that excite and exhilarate. In some ways it feels rather forced together, almost random, but there's no denying that the plot is fun. The pictures throughout bolster the adrenaline-fueled race across a country torn apart by war, and, magically, a thrilling balance of eerie and hopeful is created.

The setting - Britain during World War Two - is an apt parallel to Riggs's plot: Terrifying forces hunting and killing those that are different. It's also a horrifying look at history. I always get this strange feeling whenever I read about real-life tragedies in fiction; it's like a hole inside that I'll never truly understand.

The first half of the novel is stellar, and while it might not move the overall plot forward much, it does a nice job of keeping the reader interested in what happens next. It's when we reach the latter half that those pesky plot holes begin to eat away at the reader's mind. They war with the fantastic action and twists that we're offered as the book closes.

These holes are tied to the series' mechanics, and they impact the fun. It's entirely possible they could be explained in the third book, Library of Souls, but, honestly, that doesn't help them here. Most infuriating is the story's lack of awareness of them, giving us no hint that an answer will be forthcoming.

Well, I hear you say, what are they?

First up are the mechanics concerning the series' time loops, days in history spelled to repeat themselves over and over. The hole comes in when the cast enters one of said loops at St. Paul's Cathedral. They stumble upon corpses of peculiars who have 'aged forward', and by that I mean they've left their loops and, away from the safety, have aged all the years the loop protected them from. The problem is, how? The plot makes a point of telling the reader that only when a peculiar has entered the present, not another loop, for a few days, will they age. The corpses our characters find are in a loop, therefore protected, so how did they age?

It's a small part of the story that punches the reader hard. It calls into question the defining aspects of loops and the impact they have on peculiars. I feel we need more concrete explanations here, because our cast is running around several different loops like there's no tomorrow.

The second mechanic put to the test is in the form of Caul, the twist near the end of the novel. He is a wight, one of the enemies of the story, and as we've been told, wights do not have abilities. And yet, Caul, a wight, can transform himself into a bird. Again, this might be covered in the next entry, but the characters and the plot don't acknowledge the sudden break of rules they've put down.

In ways, it's just too convenient; a way to move everything forward in a certain direction.

Pace - 4/5 Stars

Riggs creates a stellar structure: With a mix of action and exposition, he weaves a solid progression, ensuring a steady flow and an interesting adventure.

Characters - 4/5 Stars

It's with the cast that Riggs shines. In the previous instalment characters are a bit bland, and our main, Jacob, is downright frustrating. Well, Hollow City does a grand job of building the returning players while also introducing some colourful newcomers. 

Jacob becomes more of a reluctant hero, shedding his former persona of a whiny rich kid. The other peculiars also step forward and become more solid, giving the reader a more distinctive feel for their personalities. The adventure is better for all of it, giving the reader a potent, and more emotive, journey.

New characters are a mixed bunch, which I was afraid of. There are so many cast members coming from Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children that some new faces are overshadowed.

Writing - 4/5 Stars

Ransom writes a vivid world and story, and that's without the photographs; with them, there's a realistic pulse that throws the reader not only back in time, but also into a world full of magic and potential.

Overall - 3.5/5 Stars

A fine middle novel that bridges the gap between beginning and end.


Previous Instalment: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Next Instalment: Library of Souls


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