Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Peculiar Children, #1) - Book Review

4/5 Stars

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very peculiar photographs...


Edition: Paperback
Pages: 349
Chapters: 11 (Plus a prologue.)
Publisher: Quirk Books

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Author's Website


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a fantastical adventure. Travelling from the modern life of America to a rural community in Wales, the story hits the right notes and livens up the young adult genre with tone-enhancing photographs peppering the pages.

The mix, for the most part, works well, with the written plot a tale of a young boy opening his eyes to a magical world, and the pictures providing an eerie feel to the supernatural atmosphere. Some of the pictures themselves will give me nightmares...

There are a few rough edges: The protagonist is a little bland and frustrating, tones can sometimes clash, and the pace can sometimes enter an infuriating wander.

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

Jacob Portman is a sixteen-year-old boy who already knows of the magical thanks to his enigmatic Grandpa, but whether or not he believes it is a different story.
But when Grandpa Portman is killed by a creature made of nightmares, Jacob struggles to reaffirm his reality.
In an attempt to stop the world spinning out of control, he travels to a small town in Wales, the town of his Grandpa's childhood.
A town that hides the truth behind the magic.
But with that truth comes danger.
A danger without mercy or soul...

Plot - 4/5 Stars

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, while harbouring a slow start, does a great job of building a mystery through Grandpa Portman and his wondrous tales of magic and adventure. Jacob worships him, but as a teen he has a healthy dose of skepticism. Luckily, the reader is under no such illusions. We begin the novel with belief, and as our main character tries to convince himself the supernatural doesn't exist, we're on the edge of our seats in anticipation for the big reveal.

Things are a little predictable, and sometimes that bubbling anticipation seems to go on and on as the story works to set its scenery and atmosphere, but once we get there, whoa. Mr Riggs doesn't give us a second to breath as he shocks our systems. 

Once the peculiar starts it doesn't stop. As dazed as our protagonist, we learn an abundance of juicy tidbits just ripe to capture your imagination. The world is interesting and its mechanics will have you begging for more.

The photographs interspersed throughout help elevate this feeling. While they contain some emotion of their own, they really help to amplify what the author writes: When the story wants to chill you to the bone, the pictures back it up; when it wants to serve you hope as the dish of the day, the snapshots help you smile. The balance isn't always right. Sometimes photographs will clash with where the story is, but overall it pays off.

And when everything is set, events really kick into action. As we up the gear for the race to the end, Mr Riggs hands us a heaving plate of delicious immediacy, tension and twists.

Of course, now I have to devour the next book to find out what happens...

Pace - 4/5 Stars

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children starts slow and steady. From there there're a few instances where the pace picks up, only to fall back into its meander. But, in saying that, once its engine is running, it runs. 

The first half is the slowest, but not in a hugely negative way. Events and motivations are set up and after the halfway mark your attention will be rapt.

Characters - 3.5/5 Stars

The author introduces us to a good, solid cast, but not a great one. There's variety and riveting magical prowess, but the characters' personalities suffer from being brought in a decent chunk through the novel, in a high volume. Some will please more than others, and there is tons of potential considering there are more entries to come.

My one truly fifty/fifty character is Jacob. For the most part he's kind of vacant, and if he stayed that way I could see that lack of substance as a void for the reader to fill with themselves. But there are so many frustrating moments that it's hard to place yourself in the protagonist's shoes. He has everything, and if you're poor (like me), it gets mighty mollifying when a rich kid complains that he's rich.

Then proceeds the lack of care in anything: He takes for granted a job in a company he might someday own; he's very dismissive of other people's experiences and feelings; and he's more interested in being special than he is about the family who've loved and cared for him all his life.

There are tons of examples of characters from other series who do those things, characters that I like, but I think Jacob's rather snooty attitude just brought those actions under a harsher light. Luckily, he's not all bad, and in many heroic ways he redeems himself, sometimes being the only one who can think realistically. 

I'm hoping that in future instalments we get fewer new additions so that individual characters get the fleshing out they need.

Writing - 4/5 Stars

Ransom Riggs does a phenomenal job of executing a fantastic idea. The way he manages to mix the imaginative with the visual and pull it all into a cohesive experience is insane. 

It has its ups and downs, but it's a solid story that brims with intrigue.

Overall - 4/5 Stars

I am all set for some more.

Next up in the series is Hollow City.

Next Instalment: Hollow City

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