Sunday, November 22, 2015

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Library of Souls begins where the previous novel, Hollow City left off,  with Jacob Portman, Emma Bloom and the talking dog (yes that's right!) Addison MacHenry trapped by a hollowgast. However, Jacob has been able to neutralize the hollowgast with his newly discovered ability to control and speak to hollowgasts. He, Emma and Addison are able to escape out of the tunnel and into the subway station, hoping to track their fellow peculiars who have been captured by the wights. They decide to leave the station but discover a severely injured man in the train tunnel. That man is Sergei who tells Jacob he has the gift of speaking in the monster's tongue. Their plan to leave the station is thwarted by the appearance of two wights dressed as ambulance drivers. Attacked by the wights and the hollowgast, once again Jacob is able to control the hollowgast and make it kill one of the wights.

Escaping on a train, the three peculiars are followed by the hollowgast who latches onto the train. When they pull into the next station, Addison warns them that there are wights waiting for them. One of the wights boards the car behind the peculiars and he soon discovers them. Off the train, they are pursued by the wight and the hollowgast, through a crowd attending a ComicCon. Addison is certain the peculiars have passed this way. The wight is called off and Jacob, Emma and Addison work to find loop entrance. They discover that they are back in present day London. Addison, following the peculiars trail, leads them to a rotting, rat-infested jetty and indicates that they must take a boat to follow the scent. At the jetty they meet a creepy man named Sharon. They decide that it is likely their friends and the ymbrynes have been taken to the loop called Devil's Acre, a lawless slum. They negotiate passage to Devil's Acre with Sharon. They enter the loop and encounter a place resembling hell. "The foundations of every house were decomposing into mush. Crazy wooden footbridges, some no wider than a board, crisscrossed the canal like a cat's cradle, and its stinking banks were heaped with trash and crawling with spectral forms at work sifting through it. The only colors were shades of black, yellow, and green, the flag of filth and decay, but black most of all. Black stained every surface, smeared every face, and striped the air in columns that rose from chimneys all around us..."

Sharon guides his boat along the river called Fever Ditch and begins to look for a place to land. However, before he can accomplish this, they encounter ditch pirates who are curious about Sharon's now hidden cargo of the peculiars. Things get further complicated with the arrival of the hollowgast, which latches onto the bottom of Sharon's boat. In the struggle with the pirates, Jacob manages to order the hollowgast to sink the pirates boat. However, unable to get the hollowgast to release their boat, Jacob has Emma burn one of the tongues, causing the hollowgast to crash into a bridge.

Sharon lands the peculiars in Devil's Acre but discovers his boat is badly damaged. While he goes in search of someone to repair it, the peculiars are invited by a woman named Lorraine to visit her house of curiosities. Jacob, Emma and Addison discover that she has hundreds of peculiars imprisoned and drugged in the house. Determined to set them free, Emma confronts Lorraine who tells her that the wights often come and take her peculiars and return them damaged. She tells Emma that the wights bring in trucks of peculiars and that one just recently came through. Believing this to be their friends, Emma learns that the trucks go over a bridge at the end of Smoking Street.

Jacob, Emma and Addison decide to travel to Smoking Street and the wight's bridge. Smoke Street turns out to be a desolate area of Devil's Acre. The land is charred black and "Sulfurous smoke rose from deep cracks that fissured the pavement. Fire-stripped trees loomed like scarecrows over the ruins." The wight's bridge leads to their fortress, a high white tower. Crossing the bridge proves to be not only dangerous but deadly as Jacob, Emma and Addison are attacked by a hollowgast hidden in the bridge. This leads to a deadly fight in which all are injured but saved by Jacob's ability to control the hollowgast.

After their fight with the hollowgast, Emma and Jacob are attacked by the crazed people of Devil's Acre and just barely rescued by Sharon. Addison manages to cross the bridge hidden beneath a wights truck. They are taken to the house of Myron Bentham where they are healed by Mother Dust. Myron reveals that he knew Jacob's grandfather and that the Siberia Room they discovered in the house is a time-loop to Siberia. He also tells them that the house is a peculiarium where he collects and preserves peculiar artifacts. The house itself is a machine which he calls the Panloopticon which he created.

Bentham tells Jacob and Emma that his house is a collection of entrances to loops leading to areas where peculiars live. Bentham and his brother, Caul/Jack collected and created them with the intent to link all the peculiars together so as to organize them.

Legend states that when peculiars died they went to a special loop called Abaton that led to a repository holding their souls - a library of souls. The souls could be borrowed but when a peculiar died the soul had to be returned. Someone began breaking into the library and stealing the most powerful souls to use for evil purposes. The library guardians killed this person and recovered the stolen souls. This led to battles for control of Abaton and library of souls. The King of Abaton was killed during the war, ending the fighting, but the loop to the library had vanished. This led Perplexus Anomalous to hunt for the loop, creating many detailed maps as he did so. Bentham's brother soon forgot their goal of mapping became obsessed with discovering the lost loop to the library of souls. Bentham reveals is sister is Alma Peregrine. This revelation shocks Jacob and Emma who were told by Miss Peregrine that her brothers had become hollowgasts and then wights. In order to stop Caul from trying to gain control of the Panloopticon and to stop him from destroying the ymbrynes, Bentham made the hollowgasts, Bentham turned Caul into a hollowgast. He tricked Caul and his supporters into entering a loop that could be collapsed and closed. However, the hollowgasts escaped the collapsed loop to feed on peculiars, normals and animals. The peculiars stayed in their loops for safety. Eventually Caul returned to Bentham's house. "He'd consumed enough peculiars to fill his hollow soul and turn himself into something that resembled my brother...A wight is to the peculiar he once was as a thing copied many times is to its original. Detail is lost, and color..."

Jack continued to be obsessed about locating Abaton. He needed Bentham's machine and he also needed to capture all the ymbrynes because they were the ones who locked the loop before it was lost. Jack has spent years tracking and capturing all the ymbrynes, including Miss Peregrine. Bentham tells Jacob and Emma that Jack does not know that even if he finds Abaton and the Library of Souls he will not be able to simply see and touch the jars containing the souls. Bentham tells them "We share a common goal...To destroy my brother and his kind, and to save my sister and hers." Can Bentham, Jacob and Emma stop Jack from finding Abalon and the Library of Souls and save their fellow peculiars?


Library of Souls is the satisfying finale to the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series, tying up all the loose ends. While the entire series is fascinating and very original, the final novel was at times, tedious and drawn out partly because of the excessive details and descriptions throughout the story. This slowed down the middle of the novel, as Riggs sets up the grand finale - Jacob and Emma must save the thousands of peculiars who have been enslaved, protect the Library of Souls and destroy the evil wights bent on stealing the powers of those peculiars stored in the library.

Although Riggs used photographs throughout this series to enhance his story, their inclusion was probably least effective in this novel - although still intriguing. The basic storyline is fleshed out with detailed descriptions of settings and characters. These descriptions are particularly well written, giving the reader a strong sense of the Victorian-era slum that Devil's Acre is, and the hollowed sacredness of the Library of Souls.

The strength of this novel is its unusual characters and their strange abilities and Riggs portrayal of Jacob Portman's transformation into a heroic character.

Although the conclusion to Library of Souls was exciting, it seemed at times as though it was written with a screen adaptation in mind. Riggs ties up all the loose ends and realistically has Jacob's parents believing their son is mentally ill. The resolution to this problem and to Jacob and Emma's dilemma feels somewhat contrived, but in a world of unbelievable characters and situations, seems quite reasonable.

The first novel, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will be brought to the big screen in late 2016. I can think of no better director than Tim Burton to do this. Jacob and Emma will be portrayed by Asa Butterfield and Ella Purnell.

Book Details:

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
Philadelphia: Quirk Books          2015
458 pp.

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