Characters as 'Peculiar' as ever in second novel of fantasy series for young adults

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 23, 2014 

  • BOOK REVIEW

    'Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children'

    By Ransom Riggs

    Quirk Books, Philadelphia. 399 pp. $17.99.

Talented fantasy writer Ransom Riggs has finally produced Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children.

Aiming at the young adult market, Riggs has a talent for writing unusual characters. The plot is familiar — magical children escape from oppressors and protect their teacher and mentor — but he has a richness in his writing style that draws in readers and makes them wonder who will survive the adventure.

In the series' first book, Jacob Portman discovers he has special powers and is rescued by Miss Peregrine, an ymbryne (think "good witch"), and taken to her island, where he meets other special children who are called "peculiars."

Hollow City takes up as Miss Peregrine ends, with the children escaping destruction as the evil-in-charge "wights," who want to capture all the ymbryne, have attacked the island. They have trapped Miss Peregrine as a bird.

It is the children's goal to restore her to humanity — not to fight a war against the wights and the hollowgasts, one of which is described as "a humanoid thing made from tentacles and shadow."

As in the first book, Riggs uses period photos to illustrate his work. At points you wonder whether the plot twists come from the need to integrate the photo into the story or if the story took off from the strange photo. Some are bizarre — such as a girl with a hole in her stomach through which you see a pasture.

The "peculiars" are unusual, too. Hugh has an affinity for bees — including the ones in his stomach. Emily can super-heat her hands and burn. Bronwyn is super strong. There is even a touch of Lewis Carroll when the children meet talking animals.

Mix in time loops, history and "peculiars" from all times and places, and you have a heady mix to enjoy.

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