Sunday, December 25, 2016

Hollow City

Hollow City
by Ransom Riggs
Recommended Ages: 13+

In this book, frequently decorated by eerie vintage photos, modern-day kid Jacob is on the run with a group of "peculiar" children who have been living in a one-day time loop in 1940 since, like, 1940. The ymbryne, a woman named Miss Peregrine who sometimes shape-shifts into the bird for which she is named, is stuck in her bird form and injured to boot. The children are trapped in World War II-era Britain, dodging bombs, narrowly escaping capture, and pursued by hungry, unimaginably hideous monsters called hollowgast (fact: they have multiple tongues, which they use to walk and grab things).

Time is running out before Miss Peregrine forgets her humanity altogether. Without her to create a time loop around them, the peculiar children will begin to rapidly age, eventually dying and crumbling into dust. Also, Jacob will be trapped, alone, in his grandfather's time, never able to return to his worried parents. To stop all this from happening, they have to get to London and find another ymbryne to help Miss Peregrine... But nearly all the ymbrynes have already been captured by an enemy that wants to devour their souls and use their powers to take over the world. The hollowgast are only the juvenile versions of these beings, known as wights, which can take human form - more or less.

The kids don't have much but each other to fight back against this evil, which has grown so strong that its triumph seems inevitable. On the other hand, peculiar as they are, Miss Peregrine's children have a lot going for them. They include Bronwyn, a girl of enormous strength; Olive, who is lighter than air; Enoch, who can re-animate the dead; Hugh, who lives in communion with a hive of bees; and besides them, invisible Millard, future-telling Horace, and fire-starting Emma, with whom Jacob has fallen in love. Along the way, they encounter other peculiars, including a talking dog, a girl who can survive having a hole bored through her middle, and a pair of blind, echo-locating brothers linked by a single mind.

Kids with powers like these would be unstoppable, if they didn't have to worry about falling bombs, ravening hollowgast, grabby wights, and the fatal danger of being caught too long outside a time loop. As they get closer to the object of their quest in this book, Jacob and his friends also descend into a darker, deeper layer of reality, where dangers lurk that they never knew to fear. And just when they think they have reached their goal, another terrifying chapter opens before them.

This is the second book in the "Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children" series, of which the first book, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, has already been made into a movie. The third book is The Library of Souls. Ransom Riggs has also written a non-fiction book about Sherlock Holmes, and another about strange old photographs, like the ones he uses as illustrations in this series of books. I have enjoyed both of the first two books in this series, although by taking the audio-book route to the first book, I missed out on the vintage photos. They both bear witness to an author with a full command of the ingredients for cooking up bizarre imagery, dread-filled suspense, and a world of magic that would be adorable and fun if it weren't so gosh-darned full of scary creatures and sickening evil. It's a dark, disturbing world of magic that nevertheless draws Jacob into it for reasons that seem to work for millions of readers, and in this second book, it grips them even tighter.

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