Friday, March 14, 2014

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Jacob Portman along with a motley crew of peculiars, children with special abilities, have left the island of Cairnholm, to seek safety on the mainland. Jacob is also a peculiar, being able to sense hollows or hollowgast which are monsters who are hunting the peculiars. Scattered among three lifeboats the peculiars include Emma Bloom who can make fire with her hands, Millard Nullings the invisible boy, Olive Abroholos Elephanta who is lighter than air, Bronwyn Bruntley an unusually strong girl, Horace Somnusson who has premonitory visions, Enoch O'Connor able to animate the dead, Hugh Apiston the boy with bees in his stomach, Claire Densmore the girl with two mouths and Fiona Frauenfeld who can make plants grows. Accompanying them is Alma LeFay Peregrine, a ymbryne or time manipulator and shapeshifter. Miss Peregrine is the protector of the peculiars but she has been injured and is in bird form. She can create time loops and manipulate time.

Out on the sea, the children suffer through a violent gale that causes them to lose most of their food and belongings and to land on an unknown shore. The children are being pursued by the wights in a submarine and they must be off the water by nightfall. Wights are hollowgasts who have matured after eating a sufficient number of peculiar souls. They can assume human form and can exist among humans.

On the island the children find a brief reprieve until the wights land and begin tracking them at nightfall. Mysteriously the children manage to avoid them and in the morning seek a way out of the forest. The night before the children read a story from the Tales of the Peculiar about a giant named Cuthbert who is turned to stone in the middle of a lake. Unbelievably they discover a lake with a rock formation that looks like a giant's head. Emma decides to wade out to the rock and climbs into the mouth of the formation, discovering a new time loop.

The new time loop turns out to be exceedingly dangerous however, when they encounter a hollowgast bent on eating them. After destroying it, the peculiars meet Miss Wren's menagerie which includes a talking bulldog who smokes a pipe and various other odd creatures.  The bulldog, Addison MacHenry, was brought to this loop by another ymbryne named Miss Wren who they learn has left for London to help her ymbryne sisters.  Miss Wren is the only remaining uncaptured ymbryne. Her spies, a flock of peculiar pigeons, have told her that the ymbrynes have been captured and are being held in punishment loops which were originally designed to hold wights. Now the wights and their hollows are guarding these loops.  With all of the ymbrynes captured, there will be no one to maintain the time loops and they will collapse.

The peculiars decide to reveal Miss Peregrine to Addison and explain to him that she is unable to revert back to human form.  Addison is certain Miss Peregrine has been poisoned so that she cannot change back. He tells the peculiars that they must find another ymbryne to help her change. The more time Miss Peregrine spends as a a bird, the less likely she will be able to return to human form. Addison tells Emma and Jacob that she has at most three more days before returning to human form will become impossible.

The Peculiars decide they must go to London to find Miss Wren and have her heal Miss Peregrine.Addison tries to dissuade them, telling them the loops are guarded by hollows. However, Emma and Jacob realize this is the only way they can save Miss Peregrine.

They return to the 1940 loop and take a road to a town named Coal.  However, the wights have resumed their pursuit of the children. When they encounter a gypsy caravan on the road, the peculiars take shelter among them. Upon arriving in Coal, the peculiars manage to purchase train tickets for London, but are intercepted by the wights who capture them. Hugh and his bees save the day and they reconnect with the train, arriving in London.

In 1940 London, turmoil reigns as the city is being bombed by the Germans. The peculiars now face a race against time to find help for their beloved Miss Peregrine. They must first locate Miss Wren's pigeons, who they hope will lead them to the ymbryne herself. But in devastated London, hunted by hollows, this proves to be more difficult than they ever imagined. Jacob, Emma and their fellow peculiars must deal with new peculiars, a deceit that destroys all their hope and a murderous plot that seeks to destroy peculiardom once and for all.

Hollow City is a strange story told in a unique way with a collection of photographs that reinforce the storyline. The strength of Rigg's second novel is that it further develops the main characters we met in the first novel, expanding on their peculiarities while revealing more about the world of the peculiars. It appears that Jacob's peculiar ability to detect hollows is either evolving or he is discovering more about what he is capable of. This ability provides a unique twist near the end of the novel just when it seems that all is lost. Jacob grows in confidence in his ability not only to detect and destroy hollowgast but also discovers he can manipulate them.

The other peculiar characters are presented in more detail through their interactions with the narrator, Jacob. Emma is a confident, caring young woman who is concerned for all the children and stands up to Enoch, who despite his sarcasm, can be insensitive. Horace struggles with his fear of the unknown while Hugh often feels neglected and useless.

Emma and Jacob's relationship deepens in this second novel, as their adventures together serve to draw them into falling in love. However Jacob's feelings for Emma are a source of conflict for him because he wants to stay with Emma in her time loop and yet he longs for a normal life back with his family in his own time. Emma too is conflicted. While she loves Jacob she knows he cannot stay with her. She wants Jacob to have a proper life and not one like what she has experienced for the past seventy years. She tells him that she is an old woman hiding in the body of a young girl and that she and the others would never choose the life they have over the life Jacob has a chance to live back in his own time.

Hollow City tends to drag somewhat through the middle, with most of the action happening in the last few chapters. Ransom Riggs manages to keep the reader engaged however through the clever use of strange photographs. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers wondering how Ransom Riggs will wrap up his story in the third novel. This novel is definitely not to be missed by fans of Miss Peregrine and Ransom Riggs!

You can enjoy the very original book trailer:

Book Details:
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Philadelphia: Quirk Books      2014
396 pp.

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